In the church calendar, it’s All Saints (Halloween).
From Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible, The Message
You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your tether. With less of you there is more of God. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for. You’re blessed when you get your inner world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. You’re blessed when you show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or spread lies about you to discredit me. It means that the truth is too close for comfort, and they are uncomfortable. Be glad when that happens, for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets have always been in that kind of trouble.
I’m not keen on saints. They’re too perfect. The nearest thing to saints I’ve come across are those who live with the most awful grinding problems day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, yet still manage to keep their heads above water, if only just, smiling and glad to be alive.
Being a saint is not about piety and being seen to do the right thing. It’s about persistence, perseverance, determination, self-knowledge. It’s about disturbing the comfortable and not being swayed from the cause of right. It’s about being real and authentic.
Prophet Micah says do justly, be merciful, walk with humility. Prophet Stanley says Micah is right, because one day you’ll be dead – and it could be very soon. Live life to the full: live justly, mercifully, humbly. Those who do that, who use their gifts and lives to make the world a better place, are saints in Prophet Stanley’s book.
If you want to be remembered as a saint, forget it. If you don’t care how you’re remembered other than as someone who did their best, then you might be in with a chance—if that matters, which it shouldn’t.
It’s trite to say that every saint has a past and every sinner a future, but its true. Prophet Stanley goes further and says that you’ve no chance of living life to the full unless you’ve cocked up in the past—cocked up often, and learnt from it. The words of an All Saints hymn “we feebly struggle, they in glory shine” are wrong, wrong, wrong. They shine, and we shall shine, because we have feebly struggled, and continue to feebly struggle.
We are creatures of this earth. From the earth we come and to the earth we return. We come into being as biology gathers up particles and atoms and molecules into what you see when you stand with no clothes on in front of the mirror. And when you pop your clogs you disintegrate as molecules and atoms and particles return to the cosmos for reuse.
Earth. Humus. Humility is the key. Feet planted firmly on the ground, living in the here and now, not in some la-la-land of your or someone else’s imagination, or of how things used to be when you were young and vicars knew how to be vicars.
Some might say it’s a kind of reincarnation. Certainly, nothing is wasted. But however you look at it, people come, people go, but particles, atoms, molecules remain. And, get this:
we are never not in the presence of particles, atoms, and molecules of those who’ve gone before us;
we are never not in the presence of particles, atoms, and molecules of those who will follow us:
we are never not in the presence of past and future.
One of my former churches was often visited mid-service by a vagrant. He tended to arrive “tired and emotional” during the sermon. I welcomed him from the pulpit and told him to sit down and shut up. After some chuntering he did. He enjoyed the wine. We chatted afterwards.
That man suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune more than I shall know, for he died recently. He coped with life as best he could without the insulation I enjoy that comes from stable relationships, employment, a roof to sleep under, and a pension. His addictions more often got the better of him than do mine of me. His courage was all the greater. He added colour and humanity to an somewhat narcotic and entitled “Potemkin” church community. I shall miss him.
Is there a saint in this story?