All Saints Sunday
4 November 2012
Grace Episcopal Church
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
What kind of saint do you want to be?
Hmmm . . . judging from your faces, not many of you have thought about that question a whole lot. Is it perhaps because you think about sainthood in a kind of vague, generic, UNATTRACTIVE way? Many of us have a kind of fuzzy, unspecific picture of what a saint is like . . . a saint is someone who is terribly pure, who prays all the time, and never loses his or her temper, who’s always doing stuff for other people; a saint is someone who probably never has had a drop of alcohol to drink and certainly never has had sex . . . even if they’re married. A saint is someone who’s really NICE . . . and boring . . . or else SCARY. Someone so different from the rest of us can be intimidating . . . frightening. Well, in any event, this vague picture of sainthood isn’t really very attractive.
Actually, if you look into it, there are all different kinds of saints . . . there are warriors, like Joan of Arc; teachers, like Ambrose of Milan; queens, like Margaret of Scotland; kings, like Louis of France; children, like Agnes of Rome; hermits, like Antony of Egypt; of course there are martyrs . . . tons of martyrs, like Catherine of Alexandria . . . and, of course, there are mystics galore. There are even saints who, officially, are called holy fools because they’re just crazy for God. One of my favorites of these – for his name alone – is John the Hairy. So, as you think about what kind of saint you might like to be, the sky’s the limit.
You don’t even have to be nice. St. Jerome, for example, the fellow who translated both the New and Old Testaments into Latin, was famous for being demanding and difficult . . . even offensive. Some of our Episcopal publications that we use for daily worship describe Jerome as a “militant champion of orthodoxy, an indefatigable worker, and a stylist of great gifts. Jerome was seldom pleasant but at least he was never dull.”
There’s no end to the possibilities of what kind of saint you might be . . . educated, uneducated, rich, poor . . . it doesn’t matter what your background or your place in society is. Anyone can be a saint . . . all it takes is a love of God and a willingness to try to follow God’s will at every turn in your life. You don’t, necessarily, have to give up everything you have – like St. Francis – to be a saint (remember all those kings and queens). But you may discover as you increase in holiness that all your “stuff” has less and less meaning to you. And you don’t have to worry too much about how you’re gonna GET to sainthood because God will lead the way and open the doors for you . . . all you have to do is follow.
That said, as you dream about what kind of saint you’d like to be . . . kind of like when you were a child and dreamt about what you might be when you grew up . . . I have to warn you that the choice may not be entirely up to you. It seems to me, as I look at the history of sainthood, that God calls forth the particular kind of saints that the world needs at a particular time. The French NEEDED Joan . . . the church in Milan NEEDED Ambrose . . . . So, while writing this, I spent a little bit of time wondering what kind of saints WE might need right now. Given the time of year, my immediate thought was that we need a politician saint . . . wouldn’t that be incredible? a political saint? . . . but then I thought that such a person might immediately become a martyr, so that might not work out so well. Maybe what we need now is a prophet. I’m of the opinion that the CHURCH certainly needs a prophet now.
Think about it some. I think it’s an interesting question: what kind of saint does our world, our country, our community, need right now? And how does that jive with the kind of saint you think you’d like to be? Lemme know what you think. I suspect that we might find a whole bunch of different ideas about what we need in the line of saints right now. And we’ll probably find a whole bunch of ideas about what kind of saints we might like to be. It could be an interesting conversation. But beware . . . the kind of saint you see a need for, might be just the kind of saint God is calling you to be. That’s how God often seems to work . . . mixing up our own desires with God’s desires for us. That’s one of the places that it can get kinda tricky to follow God’s lead. In fact, that can be a big challenge to sainthood: surrendering our will to God’s. But there, too . . . God will help you out if you allow it.
I guess what I’m getting at in all of this is that the saints were . . . are . . . and will be just as human as you and I. Some saints were terrible sinners at some point in their lives. Some saints lived such quiet lives that we don’t even know about them. Whatever kind of saints these people became . . . wherever God called them from . . . whatever God called them to . . . they were all people, human beings, like you and me. They were, they are, and they always will be just like us . . . just like you and me.
And that’s because, in the end, God’s desire for us is for each and every one of us to become a saint. In a way, we could describe the history of God’s interaction with humanity as the story of God urging, cajoling, demanding, loving us into sainthood. In fact, Christianity was once called “the way” . . . the way to what? The way to follow Jesus, the way to eternal life, the way to union with God . . . in other words the way to sainthood.
Today, as we honor all those who have come before, all those who are with us now, all those yet to come who have followed the way . . . followed Christ to sainthood . . . let us also remember that they were ordinary humans, just like us. Their extraordinary lives were not really their own doing . . . it was God at work. They simply loved God. Loved God and went wherever they were called, following and trusting in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, every step of the way.
When the mass ends today, if you listen closely enough, you may just be able to hear our Lord standing outside tour doors calling each of us out into the world – out into God’s world – to spread God’s message, to fulfill God’s plan, to follow the way to sainthood.
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