U R a St!
Alright, I’ll admit it. I’m not on Facebook. I took a little grief for that over the weekend, and figured I’d better come clean. I’m not on Twitter either. And I hardly ever text (although that’s changing as my kids get cell phones).
It’s not that I have anything against Facebook or Twitter and the rest. Honest. For me, it’s just the issue of time – finding the time to learn it, set it up, do it, maintain it, and all the rest. So there it is (huge sigh of relief).
But if I were on Facebook, Twitter, and had lightening-fast texting thumbs, the message I would post on my wall (does FB still have that?), Tweet, and text would be short and sweet: U R a St! (Although maybe I should spell out “saint” so that folks don’t think I’m saying they’re a “street.”)
Really, that’s what I want to say to you and all the other folks I know on this day, November 1, 2012, which is also All Saints’ Day. So let me say it again, long form: You are a saint!
Why do I want to share this simple message? Because I suspect that the Festival of All Saints has become one of the more misunderstood celebrations in the Church year. In fact, the secular cousin of the festival, Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, stands as a nearly unrecognizable vestige of the festival and demonstrates the insignificant and even ominous place to which it has been relegated.
I have a hunch that most of our problems with All Saints’ Day stem from its name. What – or rather who – is a saint?
Originally, the day was set aside to commemorate all those martyrs from the early persecutions whose names were never recorded and thus whose memory was in constant peril of being lost. Over time, this celebration was extended to remember all who have lived and died in the faith and now rest eternally and triumphantly from their labors. We continue this aspect of the celebration when we name aloud or light candles for those persons of our local congregations who have died in the last year and live now in the “nearer presence” of God.
During the Reformation, however, a new accent was added by reclaiming the New Testament emphasis that all those who have been baptized by God and declared righteous by grace are, in fact, living saints of God. In this regard, it is notable that the Apostle Paul addresses even the Christians in Corinth, those whom he has rebuked and castigated for many and various moral offenses, as saints.
Clearly, then, their sanctity – and our own – is not one of moral achievement, nor even a complete triumph of grace in their lives, but rests, rather, upon their having been called holy by God’s declaration in Baptism.
For this reason, we now celebrate All Saints not by contrasting the saints over there – those who have died and gone on to glory before us – with the would-be saints still over here. Rather we recognize and celebrate our union with those for whom Christ died in every time and every place, a union secured by Christ’s death and resurrection once and for all, established by our common baptism, nurtured by our life together, and brought to fulfillment in the age to come.
So there it is: You are a Saint! So feel free to glory in that knowledge all day and, indeed, every day. And if you want to post, text, tweet, link, like, or whatever else you can do to let as many people as possible know that God calls us all saints, power to you!