|Both sides were her home territory.|
“And I mean to be one too.” We all love to sing that song on All Saints Day. It’s one of my favorites. But I wonder if we really mean it when we sing, “And I mean to be one too.” Seriously, do you really want to be a saint? Doesn’t it sound like a lot of hard work and not very much fun?
There was a time when talk about saints just didn’t connect with me. Pictures came to mind of musty dark monastic settings, strict regimens of religious order and behavior, great sacrifices even to the point of being killed. People like those grim looking folks we see in stained glass windows. I’ve always been very impressed with them, in awe in fact. But this saint stuff was all very distant from my life. What did they have to do with my everyday life of challenge, my everyday behaviors that fall so far short of perfection, my fear, my spiritual laziness, my sin, my ordinariness?
My old thinking was wrong. You see, if you are beginning to consider faith in Jesus, then you are on your way to becoming a saint. A saint is a person who believes in Jesus and has become part of his family. All Saints Day is about family. About the greatest and most wonderful family you and I can be a part of.
We call our family the communion of saints, and the Book of Common Prayer defines it this way: The communion of saints is the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise.
Notice how the whole family of God is defined as the living and the dead. For us death seems like such a final separation. But God doesn’t see it that way.
I used to live near the Rio Grande, on the border of Mexico. On one side of the river is
El Paso, Texas, on the other side was .
The Juarez, Mexico
and a high fence separate the two at the international boundary. You cannot go
back and forth unless you have special permission. They are two different
worlds, though right next to each other. We see death this way too. Rio Grande
I remember one day driving along the border, right near the big fence that separates the two countries, glancing over, trying to get a glimpse of the foreign country. And then I noticed a large bird flying overhead. She soared and sailed back and forth over the boundary – for her the international border was no barrier. Both sides were her home territory. I think this is the way God sees death. Not an end, just a different neighborhood, all part of his kingdom. As our Prayer Book says, at death life is only changed, not ended.
And so on All Saints day we remember the dead, not out of nostalgia, but because they continue to be saints in the whole family of God. That includes the apostles, Mother Teresa, and my mother and father.
Now when I look up at those folks in the stained glass windows, I don’t see people who are different from me. I see men and women who lived ordinary lives, but who did extraordinary things because of Jesus. I’ve got the ordinary part down pat, and I’m preparing for the extraordinary. Not because of anything special about me, but because of Jesus, who has loved me and welcomed me into his family.
Saints? I mean to be one too.