When we put the Gospel word spoken to Martha:
“Did I not tell you that if you believed,
you would see the glory of God?” with John’s vision preserved in the words:
“See, the home of God is with mortals.
He will dwell with them as their God.
They will be his people, and God himself will be with them;”
we see God’s intention for every human being, an intention expressed in a title: “Saint,” celebrated on a date on the Christian calendar: Nov. 1, “All Saints Day” which is today.
It is one event that the world has not diverted into a commercial enterprise as has happened with
Reformation Day, Halloween, Christmas, and Easter.
Maybe it is because we humans have too many smudges and scars and closets filled with dark secrets,
that have us disqualifying ourselves from being called a saint.
We think it’s a title reserved for people who have performed at least two documented miracles,
and lived a phenomenal life of service to others,
and maybe given up one’s life as a Christian martyr.
It is they who posthumously – who after they have died - get to be awarded the title: “Saint.”
“Not so!” said Jesus as He assured Martha she “would see the glory of God” – right there, before her very eyes,
as she witnessed her brother walk out of his graveyard tomb and then host a meal, and become a preview of that Easter morning when the crucified body of Jesus would emerge as the back-to-life Christ staying around long enough to convince His closest friends He was fully alive,
and vowing to be with them on both sides of death, brought glimpses of heaven to earth.
The Apostle Paul picked up on the promises of the Easter Jesus and
turned them into a proclamation, which he announced when writing to
the first gathering of Christ’s followers in places like Ephesus and Colossae, whom he addressed as “saints;”
and when writing to the church in Rome and Corinth, he adjusted the greeting to read: “called to be saints.”
Paul’s forward-looking address may have been because he had heard that many of the Christians in Corinth were destroying the table fellowship of Jesus.
The rich who were rich enough not to have to work, were coming early and eating up all the food so there was nothing but bones left for the servant members who have worked from sunrise to sunset and needed a sustaining meal.
When they were together they fiercely argued over the one to whom they were to pledge their allegiance – to Paul, or to Peter, or to Christ?
All of this was corrupting the Table of Holy Communion and desecrating the sharing of bread and cup.
As Paul chided them he also encouraged them with the
reminder: “called to be “saints;”
with nothing to quality them for that title.
Through Christ God was acting to show humans who they were created, to and intended to be by God’s unearnable, undeserved love,
The “glory” Jesus promised Mary she would see and John envisioned coming down to dwell, abide, settle in and stay among humans;
the glorification that would entitle earthly Christians to be called saints, who needed only two qualifications.
The first was “faith.”
When Bible translators were working to turn a tribe’s spoken
language into a written one, they felt defeated when they came
to the word “faith.”
It was then that an exhausted, almost breathless runner
rushed into the hut, blurted out his message and fell
onto the nearby cot. As he did he used a word to
exclaim his joy in having a place to drop his weary
body and find rest.
Hearing that word, the Bible translators said, “That’s it; that’s
the word we are looking for to express “faith.”
The first qualification needed to be called a “saint.”
To have the faith that literally lets us fall, drop, collapse onto
the cot of God’s grace.
The second qualification is the word: “reconciliation,” which in plain English means: “making friends;”
what Paul told the Corinthian Christians God was acting to do
though Christ, in His life, death, and resurrection –
proving that God thinks we humans are worth befriending,
and when we see that happening in Christ,
we will not only feel at home with God but also with
one another and with ourselves,
seeing, that although we are saints with tarnished, dented, broken halos, God welcomes us and God’s welcome gives us
the saintly capacity to accept ourselves and others.
The first Christians in Rome looked at the Empire’s massive statues of human figures to whom they gave a godlike status. Some were topped with what looked like a plate, to protect them from the droppings of birds perching on their heads,
and in the heat of summer and the cold of winter they were
wrapped in tapestry.
Plate-like halos and robes, reminders of the garb of those who know they will someday, on the other side of death, stand before God dressed in the rightness of Jesus Christ,
a garb bestowed in God’s friendship ceremony of Baptism
and affirmed by us in Confirmation, and every time we
“I am called to be a saint, who though wearing a
tarnished, dented, broken halo, am reconciled to God,
befriended by God, through Jesus Christ.”
The two saintly figures that stand before us as we worship in Trinity Church remind us:
St. Peter dressed in the drab garb of a fisherman, looking up to the Lord Who entrusted him, a saint with a loud mouth and impulsive outbursts, to hold the keys that mark him with the responsibility of caring for Christ’s followers;
and St. Paul, a murderer of Christians, turned missionary, who used a weapon of death as the sword of the Spirit that bestows God’s gift of sainthood as an unearned, underserved gift of God’s grace;
as a child said when looking at a stained glass figure like the ones before us, “a saint is a person through whom the light shines.”
Who we already are as well as those we name today. AMEN.