Fr Bosco Peters presided and preached at our observance of All Saints this Sunday. We were also thrilled to welcome Leo and Ted into the Church in Baptism. Our Gosple reading was the Beatitudes as presented in Luke 6: 20–31.

Read on for the sermon and a video of the service.

Service Video


When you enter the wharenui of a marae, most would understand that you are entering into an ancestor. The wharenui is often, in fact, called the tipuna whare – the house of the ancestor or ancestors.

The tekoteko, the carved figure high up on the front of the wharenui would be the head; the maihi, the facing boards on the gable  represent the arms; the ridge pole is the backbone, and the rafters are the ribs. Then there are usually poupou, other carved ancestors – people who have gone before us.

It’s no different when you come into our church building. The shape of the building, as I reminded you at the start of this month when we celebrated this building’s 150th birthday, this building, as all traditional church buildings, is in the shape of a cross.

We are in a cross; we have entered our ancestor, Christ. And we are surrounded by images and names of those who have gone before us: saints, parishioners, bishops, angels even.

In the wharenui, in the tipuna whare, in this building, we are urged on by those who have gone before us. We are inspired by what they achieved.

“If I have seen further,” Isaac Newton wrote in a 1675 letter to fellow scientist Robert Hooke, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

So we gather this morning to celebrate the Feast of All Saints. ALL saints – not just the ones we can name and do name and celebrate. The past people on whose shoulders we stand.

We are gathering around a font to celebrate with water as people have for centuries. We are gathering around an altar table to celebrate with bread and wine as people have for 100,000 Sundays – you can imagine all these saints and tipuna and angels and previous parishioners and those we love but see no longer, all gathered around the one altar across 2,000 years – and the prayers we use go back millennia earlier.

On this celebrating of All Saints, we are looking back to our past as we head into a rapidly changing future

Standing on the shoulders of giants is what we need to do as individuals and as a community. Newton didn’t even make the image up – he came to his famous phrase on the shoulders of others. I’ve traced his quote back at least another 5 centuries to the 12th Century when John of Salisbury wrote to the philosopher Bernard of Chartres: “we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.”

So here we are – gathered inside the cross of Jesus, being encouraged by those who went before us, All Saints, and we listen to the teaching of Jesus – the Beatitudes we call them.

The culture of our world says: Do everything you can to be rich and powerful. Toughen up and harden yourself against all feelings of loss. The culture of our world says: Measure your success by how much of the time you are thinking only of yourself and your own happiness and wellbeing. Be independent and aggressive, hungry and thirsty for higher status in the social pecking order. Strike back quickly when others strike you, and guard your image so you’ll always be popular.

And Jesus this morning, Jesus this man for others, tells us the opposite:

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Jesus defines success by the poor and those in solidarity with them. Blessed are those who weep now, for you will be comforted. Wellbeing is with those who mourn, who feel grief and loss Blessed are you when people hate you, exclude you, revile you, defame you on account of the Son of Man. Really successful are those people who keep seeking Jesus’ kind of justice even when they’re misunderstood and misjudged, who refuse to back down or quiet down when you are slandered, mocked, misrepresented, threatened, and harmed.

Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. Turn the other cheek. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to grow in service. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then take the initiative and do that for them!

Jesus created a new kind of hero. He lived it; he died as this new kind of hero. Saints are people who listen to the teaching of this new kind of hero and give their lives to living this new type of heroism.

And so on this celebration of All Saints we gather around the font to welcome Leo and Ted into this community of saints.

And we all gather around this table to be nourished so that we too might grow to rank among those saints. One day, others, we hope, will be celebrating us, named and not named, and standing on our shoulders...

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