Sunday, November 1, 2009

Who Are the Saints?

As I sat down to think about what the message should be today I began to think about “saints,” who they are and how did they get to be recognized as “saints.” Have you ever heard the expression, “He/she must be a saint?” What does that really mean? Does it mean they are holy? Does it mean that they are perfect and never do anything wrong? Does it mean they’ve never sinned or neglected to do their daily devotions and they prayed all the time, every day as Paul said that we should? Is that what it means to be a saint?
Today is a day on the church calendar known as All Saints Day. It’s a day when we remember all who have passed on in the last year. Now I know all of those who have passed on and I can tell you they were folks who made mistakes and they probably didn’t remember to pray without ceasing.
Saints are those folks who have been declared righteous by God. That’s what I found when I looked it up in my Study Bible. So how did they become righteous? I think the process began when they were first baptized and it continued as they were taught by Sunday school teachers and parents and grandparents about God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit-the Holy Trinity. You know, how God loves and cares for us so much that he has come to dwell among us. Then as they grew older and wiser they became more aware of how God was working in their lives and in the world.
So the next question is, “Are we saints or are we saints in the making?” I think that we are saints. Now that’s just what I think. Some of you may not think that way and that’s okay. I’ve been wrong so many times in my life that it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if I’m wrong again. But looking around at everyone gathered here this morning I know in my heart that you are all saints. Now you and I know that we aren’t perfect so perfection certainly isn’t a prerequisite for sainthood, but I believe that we are saints because we are doing the Lord’s work while we are here. We are doing the Lord’s work aren’t we?
Paul referred to “saints” in Romans 8:27 when he was telling them about how the Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t have the words to pray and he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. He’s talking about all those who have given their hearts to Him and are going about doing His work. And in 1 Corinthians 6:2 Paul talks about the saints being the ones we should go to when we have disputes that need someone to arbitrate them. He asks us, “Don’t you know that the saints will judge the world?” It doesn’t sound to me as if he’s talking about just those who have passed on. I think he’s talking about folks who are still here. It might have been that he was referring to people like you and me.
Today, though, we are remembering all those folks who have passed on in the last year. We are doing that because we believe what Jesus said in John 11, that He is the Resurrection and the Life. Along with Martha we believe that we don’t have to wait until we die to accept this. This gospel lesson from John 11 was read at Marj’s funeral service.
Every time we come together to worship God and celebrate the life of someone who has gone on ahead of us we do it with the confidence that what Jesus told us in the gospels is true. That he has prepared a place for all of us and he is coming back again. That’s why we don’t fear death because Jesus defeated death when he rose from the grave.
Remember the words Jesus asked Martha, “Do you believe this?” That’s the question we all have to wrestle with today, “Do we believe this?” Isaiah, the psalmist, and John all believed this. John believed in it so strongly that he could see a new heaven and a new earth and …”the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.” That’s not sometime in the future that’s now.
Do we live our lives as though God is with us? Do we believe this? We are all here today because we believe. We may waver sometimes but still we hold to the belief that death is not the end and someday we will join those saints in heaven.
So good friends, the answer to the original question is, yes, we are saints. We have made a commitment to God keep the commandments and to do the work Jesus has commissioned us to do. That is to make disciples of all nations and to baptize them in the name of the Holy Trinity. We believe that, “The great ends of the church are the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind; the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God; the maintenance of divine worship; the preservation of the truth; the promotion of social righteousness; and the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.” And so, yes, my friends, we are saints. Some of us are a little rough around the edges but God loves us anyway. It’s the way he created us.
So when someone questions you about who are the saints we can all say very surely that we are the saints.
Thanks be to God for those saints who taught us, corrected us, and loved us even when we weren’t so loveable. Amen.

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