This week’s sermon started out with an interactive question & answer session between Rev. Amanda and 3 of our worship participants.
Amanda: Who are the saints?
Jonathan: I was a saint. I came to the Americas searching and longing to create that holy community on the hill, a beacon of light to all peoples.
Amanda: But who are the saints today?
Leon: I am a saint. I am a saint of the present. I come to this church searching to spread the compassion, care and support of Christ to all who are in need.
Amanda: Who will be the saints of tomorrow?
Claudia: I am a future saint of the church. I seek to create a place that all can call home; places where all people feel welcomed and needed.
Traditionally, we’ve been taught that saints were individuals like the Apostles, or Popes or Saint Theresa. We see saints as individuals who have dedicated themselves to the incredible work of God. But less often do we hear about the Congregationalist view of saints. In early Congregationalism, all members were called saints. That’s right we are all saints in the church. Being a saint isn’t about being perfect in our faiths. It isn’t about never making mistakes or always being present. But I would venture to say that neither is being a saint about church membership either.
So what does it mean to be a saint in the modern day church? This is a question that I have pondered. It can be a little daunting to be called a saint or to think about trying to live up to that title every day. There are a lot of people who don’t even want to be called a saint. We might think that to take the title of Saint means to be taking on an enormous responsibility. Perhaps, this is a title that we are not particularly comfortable with. Our dictionary tells us that there are four different understandings of this term: certain persons leading an exceptionally holy life and who are then canonized by the Church. But the last definition is a way that certain religious groups refer to themselves. We are all saints of this church and of this community.
This does not mean we are tooting our own horn. This does not mean that we have done anything particularly extraordinary. This does not mean that we think too highly of ourselves. This is just a term used to speak to those who are striving and working together to create a community of support, love and care. People coming together to offer each other support and to work for the betterment of our world and the lives of all people.
When I discerned that I was called to go to seminary and become a minister, I was still in high school. Many of my classmates didn’t understand what this meant. I was asked all sorts of curious questions. Some asked me if this meant that I was going to become a nun. I replied No. Others asked if I would be a priest. I replied no. Some people didn’t even ask questions but I heard them talking behind my back that I thought I was holier than thou and would tease me by calling me “Saint Amanda”.
I was very humble in coming to my call. I didn’t understand it enough to explain it to other people my age. I feared it as much as I valued it. I didn’t want the extra attention and I certainly didn’t think I was any different from my friends and classmates. I didn’t even have a clear understanding of my own faith background and the people that I came from. I was just a child who had found a home in the church, a child who had found a sense of belonging and discovered God’s purpose for my life and nothing more. But as much as I denied it to my friends, I was striving to become a saint. I was a member of my church. Like many of them, I attended church, belonged to a youth group and worked to do good things in my community. We were all striving to become saints of one community or another.
When you think of the Saints you expect there to be sagely advice and an understanding and connection with God that is unattainable to the average person. When we strive to live good lives and to live by Jesus’ teachings then we are striving to be amongst the saints of today; those individuals that future generations will look towards for advice and guidance in their lives.
Our scriptures for this morning said, “But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you”. This is a pretty tall order. I read these passages and think to myself “Jeesh, can I live up to these expectations?” Sometimes I doubt myself when confronted by particularly harmful and hurtful words and actions. But I remembered that it is not in the ease of the success with which we live into Jesus’ teachings that determines if we will be remembered as saints of the church.
But rather it is that we struggled and worked towards understanding and trying to live by these teachings. It is about how we handle those times when we fail and it is about whether or not we continue trying even when we know we are not always successful. The Sermon on the Plain from Luke’s gospel this morning tells that we are blessed when we attempt to live by his teachings and try to be good people.
So our challenge this week is to remember that we too are working to be saints of the church just by our dedication to the ways of Jesus. We are challenged to not let our reverence of the saint deter us from trying to live into the teachings we hear on Sundays and the scriptures we study at home. We are challenged to not let our fears of failure or inadequacies deter us from continuing to work towards a better life. Christ’s way is a challenging way of life and it is in our imperfection that we learn about just how deeply God cares for us.
 Luke 6: 27-28, RSV.
(based on Luke 6: 20-31)