Today we take a pause in hearing about our biblical heroes to remember those who are our personal heroes and loved ones who are no longer with us. All Saints day is celebrated on 1st November. We usually celebrate this day on the first Sunday in November, this year they are actually on the same day. All Saints Day is also known as All Hallows’ Day and usually begins on the evening before, All Hallows’ Eve. This is where Halloween comes from. All Saints Day is celebrated in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. We expand this celebration to include all those whom we have known and loved who have died. I encourage you to have a candle with you during worship this morning so that you can light it in remembrance of your saints.
Our readings this morning talk of the New Jerusalem, or New World that is promised for the people of God. Many times during the history of the church this promise of a new world, the coming of the kingdom of God has been looked to and prayed for. This has led to some of the great changes and reformations within the church. This has happened so that church continues to be relevant to the world in which it sits, as well as responding to the cultural shifts and revolutions that have taken place. Some 500 years ago (31 October 1517) the priest Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg Germany. This was the beginning of the great Reformation and the split from the Catholic Church. Some historians would say that around 500 years prior to that another reformation occurred with the expansion of Christianity far wider than just Rome. There are a number of scholars and theologians who are wondering just what the next reformation will be, we’ve done another 500 years. I can’t help but think that COVID-19 may actually be a catalyst in the next reformation.
A return to COVID-19 normal is not a return to what was happening this time last year. We cannot return to ‘church’ that we have done in the past. Things have changed and they have changed forever. Remember, change is never easy and takes a long time to get used to. But change is also necessary. The beauty of change is that we do not go through it alone. And that is where our saints come back into our story. Paul speaks of a great cloud of witnesses, the saints who surround us. We read this at the beginning of our series on biblical heroes – Hebrews 12:1-3. These saints, this cloud of witnesses, too have prayed for the New Jerusalem and they surround us, cheering us on, as we also pray and look for the New Jerusalem that is to come.