Sunday, November 6, 2016
If you were to ask someone what they thought a saint is, how would they respond? Many would probably say someone holy. Someone who has done extraordinary things, someone considered special. Someone who has done nothing or very little wrong.
The most well-known saint, is Saint Patrick. On March 17 people around the world gather to celebrate St Patrick’s day. And we all know that they don’t gather at a church. But at a pub, some even drinking green beer. And most of them have no idea why or what they’re celebrating. The celebration is about St. Patrick converting most of Ireland to Christianity. Now maybe next St Patrick’s day we should all go to our local pub and join in the celebrations. That way we can tell them and others, isn’t it great that God used St. Patrick to convert the Irish to Christianity. That would be fun.
The popular view of saints is that saints are like St. Patrick. They’re perfect and have achieved remarkable things. Yet the bible reveals somewhat of a different understanding of what it means to be a saint.
The New Testament and the history of the church points out that Saints are essential for the Christian faith. God has chosen to work through saints. Think about it, without saints, there would only be Jesus… and no followers of Jesus.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Jesus isn’t essential for the Christian faith. Jesus is and should be the focus as well as the center of our faith. In fact, a good way to recognize when your life is off track is when Jesus is no longer the focus for everything you do, which means Jesus is no longer taking the credit for everything you do. Let’s face it, you don’t have to be a rock star, or a sports figure that says, I thank God for this award. So, I ask you, are you recognizing that Jesus is the focus and is He responsible for everything you achieve? When Jesus is both the focus and center, then, not only does it highlight you, but you’re taking notice of God. It reminds you that God is being seen through you.
And this is the way God has chosen to grow His church. For people to have been touched and affected by the love of God, through people like you.
People like you and me who haven’t just listened to God, but also been doers of His word. Like what we read in James 1:22, do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. A saint listens to God and does what God says.
And so, it’s no wonder that throughout the New Testament, from the book of Acts through Revelation we see followers of Jesus were referred to as saints on many occasions.
And not just special followers of Jesus. These were everyday Christians. Christians like you and me. And so, in God’s eyes you’re a saint. But then you’d probably say, hold on a moment, does that mean also the person sitting next to me? They can’t be called a saint!! You should know about their sins. And in the same breath you’d say, how can I be called a saint, I sin?
Well every person sitting here and standing here sins. In fact, every Christian has sinned and in God’s eyes all sins are equal. So, if you have ever cheated on your taxes, talked about someone in a bad way, swore at someone. God sees you as no better than the person who has committed adultery or committed murder.
But that’s the fact, because all sins separate us from God. And being perfect isn’t the criteria to be classified as a saint. Many of the people referred to as saints in the bible had problems, they sinned. And not just in small ways.
Instead let’s at Scripture to get God’s perspective on what a saint is. Romans 1:7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Being a saint has nothing to do with what you do. Let me say that another way, being a saint doesn’t start with what you do. But it starts with God saying I love you. And God saying I call you to live your life for me.
And when did you first experience this? For many it was at your Baptism! For others, it was when someone shared the love of God and Christ with you. And how do you experience it now? When you read your bible. When you worship. When you share God’s Word with others. When someone comes, and helps you. When you love others, without grumbling and without conditions. Being a saint relies on God and being open to His love.
So, what do we do about sin? Martin Luther after studying the scriptures recognized that every follower of Jesus is both a saint and a sinner, but there is one difference. Saints are forgiven. Which means that all Christians are sinners and saints at the same time. We’re sinners because of what we do and we’re saints because of what God is doing. Saints in other words recognize that they rely on Jesus death on the cross for the eternal future.
God not only makes us saints. But He continues to help us grow and live as saints. And God will help us distinguish when we’re being saints and when we’re not.
So, let’s look at a couple of passages that highlight what it means to be saints. Revelation 7:9-11, highlights that saints come to worship God with others, irrespective of who the others are. Saints come from all walks of life, all situations, all nations. And they worship not for the sake of worshipping God, but to acknowledge that their salvation can only come from God.
Our text for today, 1 John 3:1-3, saints are God’s children. Do you treat your children differently than other children? I do, I love my daughter. And that’s how God treats His saints, as someone who is His child.
However, we also see that the world or other people won’t necessarily see us as saints, as anything worthwhile, as anything special. And that’s why saints are encouraged to place their confidence not in the things or people of this world, but in Jesus, who guarantees to give us hope.
2 Corinthians 8:7, we also see that saints are encouraged to be generous cheerful givers of our time, money, material good and skills. To give without complaining. To give without demanding recognition. Without expecting others to give. When we do this, we are in fact sharing God’s love. So, who around you needs God’s love?
And finally let’s hear again Matthew 5:1-12 and hear what Jesus says saints are like: As I read this I would encourage you to think who has been like this in your life? And when have you been like this and when have you not? Read Matthew 5:3-11.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Each of us have benefited from saints. Because saints are people who point us to Jesus and what He has done for us. Those who have shared God’s love with you. They are a saint. And each of us are called to be saints. Saints who are influenced by God. Those who God has placed around you that needs His love.
My prayer is that we continue to be God’s saints. That we live as people who rely on Jesus. And that we share His love generously. As a priest once said to a small boy asking about what was in one of the church’s stain glass windows. He said it was a saint. And the boy replied ever so quickly, "so a saint is someone that the light shines through." May God’s light continue to shine through the saints you know on you, and may it also shine through you and more importantly through the lives of those who have been called home to be with all those who have been given the crown of life and through those who have been added to the great crowd of witnesses. As is our tradition we now add to the that list, the following names….