O when the saints go marching in, I’m gonna be in that number!

Today is All Saints Day and I wrote the sermon yesterday having done some reading earlier in the week. The bible passages set are:

Revelation 7:9-end and Matthew 5:1-12

I didn’t feel able to write the sermon on Thursday (my usual day) and so Saturday it was. I enjoyed the preparation and, as part of it, I started a picture by just writing Saints down and seeing where I went. Next was the throne and my feeble attempt at a lamb which was covered up with copious amounts of white paint. Next to go on was the river of living water and the cross and blood. The bottom left corner had some writing on it originally – heroes or something similar. But I covered that up with browns and yellows. So this afternoon I am touching up and trying to improve the lamb plus put in a multitude in white in the bottom left. I am writing this while I wait for the first lot of white to dry.

All Saints Day

When I preached at the 9am the sermon was less than 15 minutes. I’m afraid I think it was longer at the 10.30am service but some of that was a surprise from the organ half way through (not a surprise to me as I asked him to play O when the saints go marching in when I gave him the nod). Great fun!

I have extracted and trimmed down the service video to just my sermon. Click here to watch.

I got very annoyed when trying to paint the palm leaves in the crowd. No matter how fine a paint brush I used it still made a thick line. In the end I gave up caring – they are leaves from a rare species of palm tree with strange shaped leaves only found in heaven that’s why they don’t look like any palm tree on earth! I used a green felt pen to add palm fronds – much better. So the multitude from every nation all have the same hair colour and style, but overall, from a distance, it looks fine. I think it is finished. It has done its job in helping me to pray and think through the readings for today.

The photo is taken from where I sit to pray in my art/prayer room.

My prayer table with All Saints picture In situ

The text of my sermon (as planned and so without the asides and emphasis as delivered).

Are you happy?  No???  probably not given the announcement last night …. Are you feeling Blessed?   maybe?

Beatitudes:  Blessed are they….. or Happy are they (Good News version)

  • Poor in spirit – know your need of God
  • mourn – not just the death of a loved one, but the loss of anything…. normal life interrupted by Covid
  • meek – humble – consider others before themselves
  • hunger & thirst for righteousness – seek first God’s kingdom, justice for the poor and outcast
  • merciful – a forgiving attitude and heart
  • peacemakers – make love, not war!
  • persecuted for doing right and insulted for being a Christian.

Sometimes when people become a Christian their families and friends have a go at them – our experience rather than persecution as in other countries. 

This week we heard of the death of Bobby Ball.  He hadn’t always been a Christian and when he converted some people found it difficult to take. (The following paragraphs are from his biography)

Before his conversion, Bobby was quite a wild and unpredictable person to work alongside. Despite all the new wealth, power and fame that Cannon & Ball had given him, Bob felt that something was missing from his life.   This is what he said that after talking to a chaplain for “what seemed like hours. Amidst the tears, I poured out all the hurt, fear and guilt that had loaded me down for so long. We prayed and I handed my life over to God.

It didn’t seem odd; in fact, it felt like something I should have done years earlier. I suddenly had a purpose for living,”

Discovering Christ changed Bob so dramatically that his partner, Tommy, was completely thrown. Despite still working together, the duo hadn’t been on speaking terms. But Bob went straight into Tommy’s dressing room the next day and told his buddy what had happened. “The panicked look on Tom’s face showed that he thought I had lost it,” said Bob.

Nevertheless, the change in Bob’s behaviour had been so dramatic, that Tommy was keen to know more, and seven years later, he also gave his life to Christ. Bob was over the moon commenting that a rainbow had been put over their lives.

Bobby Ball, may he rest in peace, is now actually worshipping God, he is one of those, too many to count, who are worshipping Jesus in the throne room of heaven.

After his conversion he did all he could to tell others about Jesus.  No doubt being ridiculed at times and even insulted.

But his changed behaviour and attitudes won Tommy over, in the end.  The Beatitudes aka The beautiful attitudes, are what we should be aiming for.

Did you notice I missed one out?  Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. 

The word Blessed actually means more than a nice feeling, or knowing you are loved.  The way that Jesus used the phrase repeatedly in that Sermon on the Mount was as a promise of blessing to those who respond to the invitation to come into the grace and care that God offers.

The more we put our trust in Jesus and the more we ask the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, the more we WILL display these attitudes.

But… being pure in heart is something, I believe, that only God can do. None of us on our own can actually manage to become pure, not 100% pure.

As John wrote in his letter:

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

And how do we purify themselves?  We have our robes washed in the blood of the lamb.

What a strange expression, on the face of it.  How can washing in blood make something white?  We’ve all had those laundry slip ups – white shirts and sheets tuned pink because something got in with the whites.

Of course, as you know, the white robes represent purity that comes from baptism.  Babies wear white Christening gowns, signify their purity AFTER the baptism.  The sin washed away thanks to Jesus’ blood on the cross.

I remember a training video for evangelism using an example of how NOT to engage with others – asking them ‘have you been washed in the blood of the lamb? ‘  Not likely to work.

Bobby Ball would often ask technicians working on his shows if they were Christian.  A much better approach – he wanted everyone to know the joy he knew at having Jesus at the centre of his life.

Jesus is the lamb upon the throne.  The perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins and the King of everything there is. 

We worship him as king – a victorious king whose victory was won, not like human battles where the ordinary soldiers give their lives and the generals are safe well behind the lines.  Jesus is the King who gave HIS life so that others would save theirs.

We get glimpses now of worship in heaven.  Jesus announced the KoG had come but we know it isn’t fully here.  There is still sin and disease in the world.  But there are times when we are aware of God’s love and we see love in action around us.  Glimpses of the Kingdom of God – the Kingdom of Heaven is very much concerned with here on earth.

We have hope in what is to come.  The book of Revelation gives us several images of what is to come.  There are echoes in the words with other places in scriptures:

The multitude in white robes has come out of a great tribulation. 

They worship God and

“the one seated on the throne will shelter them”   The word translated Shelter means“will spread his tent over them,” which is a way of saying taking up residence with someone, as well as providing protection or shelter.

It reminds me of the beginning of John’s gospel, referring to Jesus as the Word who became flesh and lived among us, John 1:14. 

I’m also reminded of the way that Jesus said he longed to gather the people like a mother hen protecting chicks under her wing.  And many of the psalms refer to being sheltered by God’s wings.

Jesus also spoke in terms of being the Good Shepherd who will care for us – leading us into green pastures as we read in Psalm 23

He also said he was the living water when speaking to a Samaritan woman at the well. 

13 Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’

When we come to Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit we have that water – we have eternal life – a quality of life now, not just when we die, that knows the peace of God when times are hard.  The Holy Spirit enables us to enter into the Grace of God’s blessings…. to be healed of all that harms us – all the wrong attitudes, the guilt and the shame….. and enables us to have those beautiful attitudes.

The Holy Spirit also enables us to receive comfort from God who will wipe away every tear from our eyes.  And this theme is echoed later in Revelation, in Chapter 21:

I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

Paul wrote to the church in Rome who were suffering greatly with encouragement.  He reminded them that the Holy Spirit enables them to cry Abba, Father, and that no matter what they were going through they should hang on to the hope in Jesus, who is praying for us.  Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord – not even Covid 19 and all the restrictions and difficulties it brings – not even death itself. 

Death is swallowed up in victory – where o death is your sting?

Finally, as Paul wrote in the famous chapter about Love (patient, kind etc).  Now we see dimly – then… when we join with all the saints who have gone before us – we will see God face to face and know him as he knows us.

Now these three remain:  faith, hope and love

faith in Jesus’ victory over death, evil and trusting in him

hope – in the promises of eternal life – a quality of life now as well as what is to come

love – love for each other, love for God and being loved by God… and of course the greatest  is Love.

Isn’t that a wonderful thing to celebrate?  Along with all the saints who have gone before us?  God loves us – God loves you – so much that he gave his son Jesus to die for you, that you can live for ever in his presence. 


  1. I somehow suspect that the Rapture will not happen in our lifetime…. but I may be wrong! It has to happen sometime, so why not soon? Each generation of Christians has read Revelation and thought The End was nigh! The important thing is that we live as though it could be today!


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