Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Saints Alive Revelation 21:1-6, Mark 12:28-34

First things First—the devastation from Hurricane Sandy in the United States and the Caribbean is substantial. If you are interested in helping check out Lutheran Disaster Response -- Hurricane Sandy
Remembering the Saints:  This weekend many congregations, ours included, celebrate All Saints.  We remember the saints; the believers who’ve gone before us with faith in Jesus Christ.  We’ll name the believers we’ve known close to home and give thanks for the countless many who’ve joined the church triumphant detailed by John in his vision in Revelation 21:1-6.

All the Saints? Saints are often held up has models of virtuous living.  In truth saints are human beings whose lives, at a blessed moment in time, were open channels for God into the world.  Some are well know like Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, and Paul; but other saints are much less renown—but they are no less saints of God.   

The Old Testament has heroic people to emulate too—Ruth and Esther—Sarah and Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets can all be held up as models for us.  But all saints is about more than just a few souls.

All Saints is a celebration of all who opened their lives to God.  Many wrongly assume there are sort-of saints, saved by grace through faith, and then there are the real holy acting SAINTS.  All Saints reminds us who, in the eyes of God, is in the great cloud of witnesses described in Hebrews 12:1-3.  Real saints aren’t perfect—they aren’t ever going to be confused with angels.

The saints are the ones who followed Christ enduring troubles seeking to live out the Good News in our mixed up world.  Oscar Wilde is credited for saying wisely, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has future.”  In Christ Jesus we celebrate all the Saints who have followed our Lord acting in love both toward God and our neighbors (Mark 12: 28-24). 

Who counts as a saint: Growing up in a cynical post-Watergate culture we learn fast that many leaders, and yes even saints who speak boldly on God’s behalf, have been touched by sin and have engaged in sin.  We celebrate the faith of the saints not their character.   We realize that they, like each of us, have complicated life stories; and that God can use them and us anyway.  Great saints of the 20th century—Martin Luther King Jr, Dorothy Day, Dietrich Bonheoffer, and many more are renown not because of their perfect character but because God used them, as imperfect as they were, to bring His Word and Kingdom closer to His people.  
All saints is a great day to take perspective on the church.  Abigail Van Buren wrote in April 1958, “The church is a hospital for sinners – not a museum for saints.”  The real church—the church in heaven and on earth—that celebrates the saving work of Lamb of God is made up of real people saved by grace through faith Ephesians 2:8-10.  Real saints of the past, and of our day, can be bold and faithful in one moment—yet struggle with sin and temptation, and fail in the next.  All Saints is time to remember who is in John’s Revelation 20:1-6 vision.  The ones who stood with the lamb of God as the New Jerusalem emerged were not perfect people on their own—they were sinners saved by the blood of the lamb.  Every tear had been wiped from their eye—they had been redeemed.

Remember all the saints who’ve gone before us.  Remember them and join with them as part of the great cloud of witnesses who look to Christ and live—loving both God and neighbors as themselves.  Pax, John.

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