Today is All Saint's Day - a feast day that has been celebrated for hundreds of years within the church, particularly within the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches, but in many others as well.
But in our tradition - and in many of the traditions arising out of the Protestant Reformation - often not much is said about the Saints and All Saints Day. In fact, we make it a point in most cases to never speak of them or this day.
That neglect of the Saints in our tradition is a pity in a way because it can make the whole idea of “sainthood” and of “the communion of the saints”, inaccessible to us, far beyond us, mystical to us, or just downright weird to us-especially when you couple that neglect with the popular idea of what a saint is -namely someone who is only a little less than perfect, someone who has been a spiritual overachiever as it were. This is not the case.
The word 'Saint' comes from the Latin word 'sanctus' which means 'set apart', it is where we get the word 'sanctification' from.
In Greek it is the word ἅγιος (hahg-ee-oss) which is the word for holy.
A saint is a holy one. A set apart person.
In other words, any Christian is technically a saint. Whether you think of yourself as a good Christian or not, by the blood of Christ you are considered a saint.
The words 'Saint' and 'Christian' are synonymous.
So why has the church set apart or canonized specific men and women throughout history as "Saints" if it is just another word for Christ followers?
It is a designation of honor. A way of venerating (not worshiping) people who have been so sold out that we should consider them role models for our own spiritual walk. They are not any more special, any more saved, any more holier... But there is a sense in that they knew Christ, they experienced His Spirit, and they were so enamored by His presence more than most people of their day.
“In his holy flirtation with the world, God occasionally drops a handkerchief. These handkerchiefs are called saints.”
It is true that those that the universal church has declared - after much examination and debate, to be “saints” are in fact saints. But - when we get down to it - these wonderful people are simply bright examples of something that is very common - namely bright examples of a deep and abiding faith in Christ Jesus, a faith that has issued forth in action. They took to heart their identities as salt and light... and they preserved and flavored everything they touched. Their love for people, for the church, for truth and grace, cut through the darkest of dark.
They are men and women upon whom the fickle finger of public attention has descended, and while normally deserving of the attention they have and are receiving, so are many, many, more people. Men and women, both dead - and yet still alive.
And so, today is a day to celebrate the church. Both ancient and contemporary, liturgically and more freely. It is a day in which we recognize and remember all the people who have impacted our lives and our own faith journeys. It is a day in which while worshiping our God and our savior we THANK Him for the great people who have helped shape us into who we are today.
I would like to thank:
Thomas, Justin, Billy, Tim, Michael, Ben, and Jacob, my friends and brothers.
Marcy, Amy, and Jenna my true sisters in the faith.
I remember and thank all of you gracious and loving people from River Run Church, my professors at Ozark Christian College, my grandparents, parents, and my new friends at Christ’s Church of the Valley.
But in not even a little less of significance or importance I remember and thank those who have passed before me. St. Paul and St. John, St. Polycarp, St. Augustine, and St. John of the Cross who have all impacted me by their writing and their lives though currently we are separated by the fragile veil of time.
So this day, take a minute or so and think of those who are present with us who has helped you with your faith in troubled times, or those who may have led you to Christ. Think of those who may have gone on to be with Christ and think of those who are yet to come. Light a candle, visit their grave, give them a phone call or a text. Pray. Be blessed.
For today is one of the many days the Church celebrates its own Thanksgiving.
Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our causes.
Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our boundaries.
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