Children of Saints
On this day called All Saints Sunday, I have a very basic question for you:
What is a saint?
Common answers might include:
- A good person
- Someone who helps others
- My wife! (one of our church members said!)
Those are all great. And each has some truth to it (especially the last one!) Here is an answer that will help as it broadens your thinking about what a saint is:
A saint is anyone who follows Jesus!
That’s right! All of us who follow Jesus are saints! In fact, some Bible translations use the word church where others use the word saint. Still others use the word faithful instead of saint. The point is this: Saints are those persons who are set apart for Christ.
So then, why do we have a day for saints? Isn’t that kinda narcissistic?
Well, this traditional Christian festival (All Saints Day) comes from a conviction that there is a spiritual connection between all saints, including both those in Heaven and on Earth. So it is a time of remembering that we are connected, that we are one, that we are not alone.
I say to folks experiencing grieving the loss of a loved one something like this:
Though separated physically, you are never far from your loved one. He or she is right here (heart) and right here (mind) and right here (soul). The lessons you learned from this person will always be with you. You will find yourself talking to him or her because he or she is always with you in spirit. This is the connection which all saints day honors.
But let me say a little more about how we tend to think about saints. We lift up persons as saints because they remind us and teach us how to live. When we think of saints, we typically think of the attributes of a person that show us how to follow Christ. And that makes sense since we are saints because of our faith.
I think one of the best places that reminds us of the call to be a saint – that is, what it means to live the life of a saint – is what we call the beatitudes. The beginning of Jesus longest sermon in scripture. Let’s look at the Beatitudes in both Matthew and Luke.
Matthew 51:12 says:
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Luke 6:20-31 adds to these Beatitude what we might call Woe-itudes – sorry, I made up a word! Luke also adds some further instructions to clarify how we should live:
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.
“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
We spend our entire lives figuring out exactly how to practice these beatitudes, these teaching of Jesus. I will not say much more about them today. I lift the Beatitudes to you as – in the words of Clarence Jordan – a stairway into the kingdom of God. A path, stepping stones if you will of learning to follow Christ. Follow Christ through these very practical steps and you surely are living the life of a saint. For it is in these ways that you will be remember when you pass on Gods kingdom.
I do want to say something about one of these as it pertains to the first of our Hood MCC saints who passed this year back in February:
Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be children of God.
In the new stained glass window placed in this room just two weeks ago in memory of Lib and Wayne Justesen, is depicted a sense of Jesus feeding communion to children. During the service to remember and celebrate the life of Ms Lib I shared with you a saying that Ms Lib would use often with her children and family:
Suffering comes to us so that we will be compassionate to others.
Ms Lib’s life was a testimony to these words and she experienced her share of trials, hardship and loss. And in the midst of that darkness that could have overwhelmed any of us, Ms Lib saw something that we should all see. She saw the experiences of others through her own suffering. And this cultivated empathy within her, empathy which led to compassion. Folks, this is peacemaking. When we can use our own trials to love others more deeply we are making peace, we are following Christ, stepping into God’s kingdom, we are becoming children of God.
And that is part of what this window is about. It’s about becoming children. It’s about approaching Christ. It’s about receiving Christ’s life and death and resurrection into our hearts symbolized in the sharing of communion. And it’s about remembering that we do this with others as a part of a long heritage of saints.
One of the children in the window scene is Ms Lib. The artist used a picture of Ms Lib from when she was about 8-10 years old. And this reminds us that we are all children of God and we are children of saints. This window is a reminder of our child-like-ness. A reminder that, as scripture says, we are children of God, that we should come to God as children, that Christ is our brother, that we are family, and that communion is open to everyone.
The window also pictures the chalice which is the symbol of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) – the body of churches of which we are a part. The chalice symbolizes of the central place of communion in worship. And so it is fitting that we finally have this scene and the chalice represented through the artistry within our sanctuary.
We pray that this window will tell the story of Communion, its centrality to our faith and our worship of God, and the open nature of communion in our church for many, many years to come. And we give thanks that this window and the story it tells comes through the gift of the family of one of our dear saints, Ms Lib Justesen.