This Sunday is All Saints Sunday. What is a saint in our Reformed setting? Maybe we picture serene plaster statues of unattainable, otherworldly virtue. That’s not what we’re talking about. Maybe we picture goody-goody, near perfect people. That means we merely don’t know them. Remember Mother Theresa’s startling Time magazine confessions of doubt and despair in her journals after she was gone? She still remained a saint. Maybe we picture saints as those doing outstanding things for God, starting a mission, healing the sick, or living their lives with lepers.
Saints sometimes do outstanding, even superhuman things for God. But that does not define a saint. Sainthood means God has power to make sinners like you and me into children of God, just as God makes the cross a symbol of final victory over our darkest fears. We become saints through baptism, as we receive the gifts of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit. Through these gifts we become saints, coming to trust our lives to Christ, living with him in God’s promised reign. Whatever we do, stepping out to act as witnesses, sharing Christ’s love, those are saintly deeds.
Saints are those who’ve died and rest in Christ and those who live now for Christ. Who are the saints in your life? (See our Facebook page!) I see those who’ve died in faith, recently Cecile’s dad, but also mine. My dad was as far from perfect as I am. But a light continues to shine from my dad into me. I know more of God’s love because of Raymond Pace and Burton Rosenberger.
On Sunday, at the communion table, we’ll pause to read the names of those who have moved from the church militant to the church triumphant in recent times. A Deacon will toll the bell with each name. Then I will invite you to offer up names of saints who have touched your life, who have radiated the light of God into your life, whose witness still speaks to you. We first did this from-the-floor-style last year. Lifting up the names touched us as something holy and right.
Perhaps this All Saints Sunday, lifting up exemplary saints we have known, it can give us hope not just in our triumphs, but also especially in our struggles. Guess what? We have a great cloud of witnesses, a cloud of saints cheering us on, running this race of faith. You and I are not alone.
I love this quote from a rough but saintly hero of mine, a blue-collared son of a Texas brick-layer. God has turned him into the most formidable theologian of our time. Stanley Hauerwas writes, “Saints cannot exist without a community, as they require, like all of us, nurturance by a people who, while often unfaithful, preserve the habits necessary to learn the story of God.”
Now that’s what I call angels above flying close enough to the ground to do some earthly good! See you this Sunday. Oh and don’t forget to set your clocks back one hour on Saturday night.