Sermon for All Saints’ Day: All Saints: preached at the Eucharist, Sherborne Abbey, on Sunday, 31 October 2021 by The Reverend Robert Green. (Revelation Ch 21 v1 – 6a; John Ch 11 v32 – 44) 

Sr Clare Crockett was a very unlikely religious sister. She was born in Derry in 1982, and in her teens she was what one might describe as a “party girl” and an aspiring actress with real promise of success. Although raised as a Roman Catholic she was not practising and felt no connection with God, that is, until aged 17 she went on what she thought was a free youth holiday in Spain. In fact it was a Youth Pilgrimage, and although she continued her search for sunshine, booze and boys, she in fact found God. It happened during a Good Friday Liturgy which she begrudgingly attended. Shortly afterwards weeping, she said “He died for me. He loves me! Why hasn’t anyone told me this before?”

Despite this experience, she returned to pursuing her career, but found that she was “pursued” by God who said to her, “Why do you continue to hurt me? Then one evening with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other she told her friends she wanted to become a nun. Naturally they were astounded, and tried to dissuade her, but she realised she had found “a greater love”, and she entered the Servants of the Home of the Mother, with whom she served around the world until her untimely death in an earthquake in Ecuador in 2016. Earlier that very day she had remarked, “Why should I be afraid of death, if I’m going to go with the One I have longed to be with my whole life?” She is remembered by those who knew her as someone who gave herself completely to the Lord.

In our Gospel reading Jesus commands the dead Lazarus to come out of the tomb. Lazarus is dead no more, and while this is more of a resuscitation than a resurrection, for one day Lazarus will die again, it is nonetheless a miracle demonstrating that death has no power over Jesus. In the Reading from Revelation, which is often read at funerals, we heard the stirring words: “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”. This clearly points to a life with the Lord beyond death. Even if we are not perfect or take our time to come to know the Lord- as many of the saints have done- there is salvation on offer to all people, whatever their background, whatever their sin, and without limit, for Jesus’ victory over death is for all to share.

Sometimes we can become overawed by those we call saints, in that some seem to be much further on their spiritual path than we are, yet it all comes down to that awareness that Sr Clare had that Jesus died for her, as He died for each one of us. As followers of Jesus we are destined to join him in heaven for all eternity. None of us are perfect, but as we respond to the call, we can have the assurance that we will one day be with the Lord. Today’s great feast celebrates everyone who is in heaven, everyone of them a saint. It will include many of our own relatives and friends, all of whom persevered throughout the difficulties of this life in faith. Our calling is to become like them.

During this life we can choose to move either closer to God or further away. There are times when our faith may be sorely tried either through our own fault, or at the hand of others. The saints have gone through sometimes even worse trials, and they can show us the way. We join our prayers with one another and with all those already in heaven. Let the writer of the letter to the Hebrews have the final word;” With so many witnesses in a great cloud all around us, we too then should throw off everything that weighs us down, and the sin that clings so closely, and with perseverance keep running in the race that lies ahead of us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection”.