Friday, October 30, 2015

All Saints Sunday - Year B                                                                  Psalm 24  

They shall receive a blessing from the LORD
and a just reward from the God of their salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

The standard lesson on “Saints” in the churches of my youth emphasized that when the Apostle Paul wrote to the “Saints” who in any particular city in the Roman Empire he was writing to ordinary Christians.  He called them "Saints" simply because they shared the life of faith in that place.  The subtext, especially for those who were born and raised in denominations which came to be during the Reformation, was that we should spend less time thinking about particular historic Saints (Francis, Peter, Lucy, Agnes, Thecla and Anthony) and more time thinking about the saint who is sitting next to you in church this Sunday or the saint that you, with a little spit-and-polish, could become yourself someday.

It’s a fair cop.  The fellowship of saints did grow, over time, into a top-heavy Executive Committee with named saints overseeing defined areas of human activity (patron saints of weaving, soldiering, music making) or showing particular favour on this or that country, region or city.  Are Englishmen aware that they share St George with Palestinian Christians, with Serbia, Portugal, Lebanon, Malta and Gozo, Ethiopia, half the cities of Greece, the international Scouting movement and the Armor Branch of the U.S. Army?

So the answer is clear:  You and I are the saints of God and called to be saints in our own allotment of time and space.  Saints are ordinary folks like us.

But I want to put in a plug for memory and for the witness, the sacrifice and the effort of those who came before us and upon whose foundations we build. We do not live in a vacuum and the church was not invented ten years ago.   I want to know, in my generation, that being a saint means I am a member of that same family of men and women who went about the lonely and risky work of offering their lives to God in the first century or the mid twentieth.   This they did in time of war or uncertainty.  They did it against a backdrop of moral decay or pestilence.  They did it for the sake of the truth, on behalf of outcast people and at the behest of the Holy Spirit who gave them words to speak and deeds to do which were commensurate with the needs of their generation.   The men and women, boys and girls of Christ Church, Clermont-Ferrand need the fellowship of the men and women, boys and girls who walked the very same path that today we are either actively walking or actively avoiding.    

The witness of those named saints serves to strengthen us in what we have begun.  It could well provoke us to reflect upon what we have neglected or not yet started.  

Which will it be?