Good morning, Friends! I want to let you all in on a big secret. You all are saints.
That doesn’t just mean that you’re good people – though most of you are. I’m saying that you’re saints. You are special people, who God has called to be the light of the world.
Whenever you read Paul’s letters in the Bible, he always addresses his letters to the saints.
- To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints
- To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
- To all the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus
- To all the saints in Philippi, with all the church leaders
This is how Paul greets people. This is how all his letters start. “You’re all saints!” Paul says. Let’s talk about what that means.
The Bible understands very well that we’re not perfect. In fact, the Bible kind of assumes it. We mess up. We forget what Jesus said. We don’t always listen to the Holy Spirit.
We get lazy about our prayers. We worry too much. We get way too busy, and we forget that the most important thing in our lives isn’t how rich or respected or successful we are, but how much we’re loving God and loving our neighbor.
But to remind us all about our calling today, I want to do something different. You are all saints. It says so, in the Bible. Let’s get you all looking a little more like saints today.
I’m going to pass out haloes to every one of you. Put ’em on. I know a halo doesn’t make a saint, but I want you to start thinking about you’re called to be.
[Distribute haloes to congregation]
How does that feel to you? Do you feel a little bit silly? That’s OK. Do you feel a little bit uncertain? That’s OK, too. Do you feel like your halo is too loose or too tight? That’s OK, you’ll grow into it.
The whole idea of a halo is that it’s an artist’s way of showing that we’re all supposed to shine. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. Don’t hide your light. Let it shine! Let your life shine through the good things you do, so that people will give glory to your Father in heaven.”
We’re all supposed to shine the best we can!
I’ve got a Scripture for us today. It’s from the book of Revelation, which is kind of a walk on the wild side for most of us. Revelation is full of angels and dragons and people on horseback and people wearing white robes, and crystal cities and golden streets.
But Revelation also has a lot of stuff about people like us, about people who Jesus has called to be saints. Here’s the vision today from Revelation.
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and they were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:
“Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
“They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”Revelation 7:9-17
Talking about saints seems like a pretty impractical topic. After all, didn’t the saints all live back in the Middle Ages?
And anyway, who’s interested in all of that superstitious stuff about doing miracles and rejecting the world and praying a lot and doing good deeds all the time?
There’s also the suspicion that when you talk about saints, you’re being judgmental. It kind of implies that there are two kinds of people in the world, the “saints” and the “ain’ts”.
Even though we respect excellence in our sports heroes, we worship the beauty and glamour of movie stars and celebrities, and even though we salute and bow down to all the powerful and wealthy people of the world, most of us feel uncomfortable with the idea that some people really are serious about living close to God.
Being a saint is something most of us consider beyond our reach. It’s out of the question. It’s kind of like wanting to have your picture in the Bible.
And yet, remember how Paul greets people. It’s as though Paul, expected that to be a saint would be the ambition of every ordinary Christian.
So, what do you have to do to be a saint? Well, you don’t have to be dead. In all those letters, Paul was writing to living people.
There are dead saints and there are living saints. Or, to put it another way, there are saints who are living, and there are saints who live on, because the light in them is so powerful.
Saints are people who eat, breathe, sleep, love, hurt and die just like everyone else.
Back in Bible times, they put their arms through the sleeves of their robes just like ordinary people. Today, saints put their pants on one leg at a time in everyday fashion.
Saints have their own personality quirks, fears and failings. This makes saints interesting people. From Francis of Assisi to George Fox, from Juliana of Norwich to Dorothea Dix, saints are interesting. They bring their own unique gifts to everything they do and say.
Some people say that saints perform miracles. Actually, God does miracles. Saints are people who expect miracles. They believe, and they hope, and they love, and they expect that God will do what Jesus promised.
Saints are people who open their lives to the love and power of God, and God may do some pretty impressive things through saints. But God is the one in charge of miracles.
If you’ve turned your life over to God, if prayer is part of your whole day, if you are constantly expecting God to do great things, then it shouldn’t be surprising when miracles happen. Maybe saints have learned to expect miracles, where the rest of us don’t.
Saints often have a reputation for being unworldly. They don’t care about things like money, or possessions, or positions of power. Actually, saints care a whole lot about these things. In their journals and autobiographies, saints record the struggles they faced in dealing with them.
Real saints love the world! They love everything which God has created. They love every person in whom God has breathed the breath of life.
In the words of Jesus, saints are “as wise as serpents, and as innocent as doves”. Saints often show uncommon discernment in dealing with the world.
The charge of “unworldliness” comes from the fact that saints have learned to care about only those things which God cares about, to ignore those things which God doesn’t give a rip about, and to hate and reject those things which God hates and rejects.
Saints are people who have made the decision to live to the full things which most of us only practice half-heartedly.
Again, in the words of Jesus, saints are people who are truly poor in spirit; whose hearts are broken by the things which the rest of the world rejoices in; who know themselves in humility; who hunger and thirst for righteousness; who are pure in heart; who are peacemakers.
Saints are often persecuted. They are the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. If that doesn’t sound familiar, go back and read Matthew chapter 5. If the Sermon on the Mount sounds strangely attractive, maybe God is calling you to become a saint.
We think of saints as people who get put up in stained-glass windows. Again, that’s discouraging, because nobody could be that wonderful.
What we need to remember is that saints are ordinary people who have decided to let God’s love shine through them. Living saints are radiant with the love of God.
Sainthood doesn’t mean perfection. Some of the greatest saints were also great sinners, like Mary Magdalene, who according to some tradition was a prostitute, or John Newton, who was captain of a slave vessel.
Sometimes the people who love the most are those who need God’s love the most.
Saints are people who have decided not to wait around for society to get better on its own. They are determined to do something about it.
There are famous saints, and there are anonymous saints. It’s not clear whether God draws any distinction between them. Probably God doesn’t.
Thomas Merton said that to be a saint is the only really worthwhile ambition there is. To be the special saint God created you to be is the most important task in life. To miss out on that is to miss out on the world’s greatest adventure. Don’t let fear, or pride, or shame, or anything else cheat you out of it.
All Christians are called to be saints. Saints are simply ordinary people who are called to do extraordinary things as they follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
You’re a saint! Wear that halo with pride!