Kenneth Sauer on Jan 3, 2014
One day a mom was walking through a beautiful church building with her 4-year-old daughter. As they walked, the young girl looked around. She stopped and was curious about the stained-glass windows that looked so beautiful with their bright colors. As she looked at the windows, she asked, "Who are all the people in the windows, mommy?"
"They are Saints," said the mother. "What are Saints mommy?" the kid asked. The mother was stuck. How was she going to explain who saints were to a four-year-old girl? As the girl was still looking up at the windows and the mother was still wondering how she would explain who saints are, the young girl suddenly shouted out, "I know who saints are, mommy. They are the people that the light shines through."
When you think of the word, “Saint,” who do you think of? Quite often we think of saints as those famous people of faith such as Saint Francis or Mother Teresa, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day, or Martin Luther King Jr. The Saints with a capital S. Who are your BIG go to Saints when the going gets tough?
In the Bible, a saint is simply a follower of Jesus Christ. They become saints by being born again by the Holy Spirit. They were called, they were holy, and they were extremely dedicated, but they were still real people, far from perfect. They were fishermen, farmers, tent makers, doctors, teachers, carpenters, former prostitutes, tax collectors, extortionists, outcastes, robbers, even Pharisees and the wealthy.
All the words in both Greek and Hebrew that are used in the Bible translated into the word "saint" all have the same definition. According to the Bible a saint is someone who is sacred, holy, pure, blameless, dedicated. The word "holy" means "set apart."......"set apart to serve God.” Day in and day out. We are all set apart to serve God, in each of our unique ways. With whatever gifts we have been given, with whatever resources available to us. In church and at our job sites. In our homes and out in the world.
A saint most likely will fall into sin, lose their temper, hurt another by word or deed, but a saint asks God for forgiveness, accepts that forgiveness and asks God for the strength to grow in love. A saint might not get it right, but she perseveres.
A saint is anyone who responds to the love of God. That means we are saints. We are all saints. There are 69 times when saints are referred to in the Bible. Interestingly, not a single person is ever called a saint. That’s because in the bible the word saint never occurs in the singular – it’s always plural.
That means the only saints are those who gather with other saints. We cannot be a saint on our own. We need others to help us on the way to be saints, and other Christians need us for them to be saints.
Remember Jesus’ words today in the beatitudes. "Happy are you who are poor, because God's kingdom is yours. Happy are you who hunger now...Happy are you who weep now...But how terrible for you who are rich, because you already received your comfort. How terrible for you who have plenty now, because you will be hungry." Jesus isn’t pointing out individual persons, he’s talking to us together. The “you” here is plural. Saints learn in the nitty gritty day in and day out of life the kingdom values guide us to be present to the needs of the world and to give generously, and act prophetically, even when it is difficult, inconvenient or hard. Saints learn to sacrifice from a place of compassion and love that grows inside us as we follow Jesus and obey his words.
I think most of us have known such people. If we had not, I doubt we would be here this morning. Most of us were given our first glimpse of Jesus through one of His saints. Maybe it was a mother or father. Maybe it was a neighbor, schoolteacher or friend. Maybe it was a pastor or a member of the church fellowship we were raised in or a Sunday School teacher. Whoever it was, there was something about them……something that separated them from the rest of the crowd……something special about them that intrigued us and caused us to want to have that something special as well. They were the people who would go the extra mile for us or anyone...…they were the people that we knew we could count on no matter what……they were the people who made us feel loved……who gave us just a glimpse of the Divine.
Who are your saints? Who made you feel love? Who inspires us to be your best? Through whom did you see the light of God shine? I will always remember a poor unnamed neighbor who pulled me into her house and gave me a hot drink on a cold wintery day. I will also always remember meeting Mother Theresa as a teenager, and was so moved by her testimony that I asked her, with childlike innocence, how do you become holy? I bet she didn’t expect that question from an adolescent. Even at 17 I was feeling the movement of the holy spirit. I will also always remember the beginning of her answer, which she took her time to answer – begin with prayer.
The funny thing is, the older I get, the further I feel away from “saintedness.” I think that’s pretty common – as we mature we realize through our failures and successes – that being set apart and following Jesus’ footsteps is only possible through the grace. Cracks appear in us, and that’s where God’s light shines through. It reminds me of the Japanese art of Kintsugi. Kintsugi is he process of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold — built on the idea that in embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art. That us – saints of God, with all our flaws and imperfections.
Think of all the ordinary people around us, obedient to the ordinary call of their lives. They are the first Bible that we really, really read. I read the bible last week in the hospital, I took in the image of Amanda Kelly-Pitt holding her precious sick son Noah. Seeing Amanda cradling a sick baby, I saw a saint there. All the aunts and grandparents who cooked for us. Smiled at us. Encouraged us. Those goofy college friends sharing scripture with me while I quoted Marx back at them - they were the Bible I was first exposed to right before I had my born-again experience in college. And because of this, they have also passed this fullness of life to me. And I pray I have passed some of that light onto others.
Who are the saints that have touched your life with the incredible love of Christ? Maybe they are still alive. Maybe they are members of this very congregation. Maybe they have passed on, and you will light a votive candle in their memory this morning. Like them, we are to let Christ’s light shine, like the light shining through the figures in the stained-glass windows.
Through the grace of God, we are all ‘becoming saints’--people dedicated to God, dedicated to each other. May the light of Christ may shine through the cracks and imperfections in us. May that light of our words and our actions in turn inspire others to become the saints of God. Amen.