Monday, October 31, 2011

Are all saints scary?

On the eve of All Saints you might well ask, are all saints scary?

Saints certainly are full of awe – and many of them are full of flaws – but are they scary?

What might make us frightened of saints is not Halloween terrors but something more challenging. They remind us of something beyond fear, even beyond death. They remind us of God’s awesome might and absolute holiness. It is enough, if you think about it, to bring you to your knees. And it is enough to bring you to your feet. In darkest night, in coldest dawning, in brightest day, saints remain witness that love is stronger than death. Hope and faith and love, these three abide; and it is saints who testify to that truth.

Could we be saints?

Do we think of ourselves as saints or sinners? For surely, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) but is that the final answer?

We “are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Roman 3:24). But do we think of ourselves that way? When the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome he did not greet them as sinners. He addressed them as “God’s beloved … who are called to be saints”. And he said, “Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7) That’s more like it. But wait.

Did you see that? He said, “…who are called to be saints!” What are we getting into?

Who can possibly be a saint?

Nobody – and everyone.

Who are saints?

They are people called by God. The Torah, the Law of Moses, says: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2) Is that even possible?

Paul also calls the church the people "who are sanctified (made holy) in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, ... who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 1:2) Becoming holy is not our doing – it is God who gives the gift of grace.

What is a saint like?

Saints are people full of joy – through darkness and light they live under the mercy of God. “Their delight is in the law of the Lord and they meditate on his law day and night. They are like trees planted by the water that will bring forth their fruit in due season.” (Psalm 1:2-3)

What do they do?

Saints are people who show their faith in their lives. They are messengers of the good news, “approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel,” not to please other people or show off, but to please God who knows our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 1:1)

God calls for his people to be impartial and just in judgment, to speak healing words, and not to trade in rumors or speak ill of others. Saints do not hoard hatred in their hearts; they do not bear grudges or take comfort in revenge. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19: 18)

Saints are people who are given a gift – the gift of the joy of knowing God’s grace – and a task: to share the good news of God with the people around them and to take delight in the sharing. To show, in word and deed, here and now, in the place and at the time God has given us, the love and mercy and grace and peace that we know as God’s beloved.

Saints are people – well, as the song says, “just like you and me.”

Maybe it is a foolish thing to do, to try to be a saint; but to accept as a gift God’s love and mercy – that makes total sense. We are God’s beloved people, who are called to be saints.

Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know ourselves to be surrounded by their testimony to your power and mercy. Make us your holy people, called according to your purpose. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with us all. Amen.

For the Gospel Grapevine, parish newsletter of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, November 2011.


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