Sunday, November 06, 2011

For All the Saints

We celebrated All Saints' Sunday today and a couple a lines from a very short sermon got me to thinking about the process of sanctification. Our guest preacher concluded his sermon by saying, "all saints are sinners and all sinners are saints." Perhaps he should have said "all saints were sinners" which might have kept me from wondering.

I understand that sanctification comes not through the works of the saints, but from a gift of a merciful and loving God. As baptised Christians, all of us can partake in the process of sanctification, but most of us fight it. I mean that we seem to take one step forward and two back, but even so, we are still being changed into something new. Will that something new be that which others recognize as saintly? Judging by the numbers of acknowledged saints (subtracting some of those in the Episcopal book of "Holy Men and Holy Women") and dividing that by the total number of baptised Christians who have come and gone over the centuries leaves each of us with an impossibly low probability of becoming that kind of saint. Perhaps the bulk of us can pray that God will keep helping us to see the need to die to sin, and He will see Christ growing in us and transforming us.

On this Sunday we recite a long list of the dearly departed. Names are submitted by the congregation and printed in the bulletin. I do not contribute to this list because I don't want to add any stumbling blocks to the impatient. My list this year includes ten names. If we average 100-120 people in attendance on Sunday, and each has ten people in mind, then the list to be read aloud would include 1000-1200 names. I will print my list here just by the first letter of their first names: L, O, M, D, L, E, MJ, M, J, and B.

That said, many of us have been blessed to be in the presence of some of those unacknowledged saints whose faith in Jesus was such that the evidence of their faith shone through and spread to others. All of these that I have known have also humbly acknowledged their sinfulness and were ever so thankful for everything that God has given them, both the good and the bad.

"They lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,
in church, by the sea, in the house next door;
they are saints of God, whether rich or poor,
and I mean to be one too."
("I Sing a Song of the Saints of God"-Lesbia Scott)


  1. I thought of you here yesterday. We had observed All St. on 11/1, and so used the Sunday propers for Pentecost season.

    Bishop Tarrant was with us and preached from Joshua... when he came to a key point, he had the people take out the pew Bibles (yes, we have 'em), turn to the appropriate passage, and led them through signficant verses omitted by the lectionary.

    His main point was that Joshua, before letting the people answer his question about renewing the Covenant with God, goes through a recitation of all that God had done for them. It was all about looking at God and choosing our path based on what God has done.

    Pretty good stuff!

  2. Sanctification is a process that ends with our death, I think. We each have our walk and need to determine how far down the path we want to let Christ lead us. Some of us follow farther than others. We know them on this earth by their fruits and remember them as "saints" of the congregation.


  3. Tim+,

    Kudos for Bishop Tarrant.

  4. Randall,

    I wonder if the concept of purgatory has at its root the notion that since it appears that, despite the process of sanctification, most of us still have some impurities in us at death, that maybe they are carried on and have to be purged from the soul before we can greet our creator.

    (I am not a big fan of purgatory)

    Sanctification has to be remembered as something that God makes happen and we either accept it or reject it, I don't think it is something that we can ignore and expect to happen just because we have been baptised.