A sermon I preached on 1st Nov. (photo is part of the cover of a rather good book i commend)
SAINTS ARE really really special people – we have churches named after extra special saints – St Luke – wrote Holy Scripture – wow,
St Leonard – either he paid money to buy prisoners – or after his death he was accredited with the miraculous release of prisoners in the Crusades.
We have amazing models of Christians like St Pancras (window) – he was martyred at the age of 14. St Wilfrid who was a powerful evangelist and grew Christian communities all over Sussex. Wow.
So the idea that you, me, that we could be saints – that’s just plain ridiculous. Mother Teresa – yes. Billy Graham – why not. But me? You?
St Paul starts all his letters – to the Sanctified in Corinth, to God’s holy ones in Colossae, to Rome – to all who are called to be holy.
So Paul writes to these Churches, these Christians, and so many of his letters goes on to warn them to stay away from various mistakes and heresies and immorality and trouble that they are getting themselves into.
They are Not Saints.
At least not in the finished sense of the word. They are a work in progress.
But Paul does not say – “to those of you trying to be Saints”, “to those of you who really are a mess but you’re trying”, “to those of you who really ought to be Holier than you are”.
He calls them Saints. You me, us, we are saints. In Paul’s eyes, in God’s eyes. Not in our eyes. And not in the eyes of many others we know but that’s not the point.
You are a saint in God’s eyes.
This is a sermon about How to be a Saint – here we are at all souls day, all saints day – so How can you be Saint?
You know the phrase Cometh the Hour cometh the man? Have you heard another phrase Fake it until you make it?
Well here I am and apparently some of you, including the Bishop, think that I am the Vicar of Seaford. There are days when I don’t really feel that I am, and days when I have no idea what I am doing, days when I want to scream into a pillow. You get the idea. Anyway it turns out that it doesn’t matter what I feel, I am still the vicar of Seaford.
St Paul says You are a Saint. And with that label comes the call, the hope, the expectation, the faith – I believe in you, you can do this, you are a saint, with God’s help and the Holy Spirit and the whole Church in love and prayer, together we can be saints.
Again and again St Paul urges us to Be the people you are in Christ. Be who you already are in Christ.
It might help if you do not try to be a saint in the style of St Luke – I’m sure you write beautifully – but you’re not going to be writing holy scripture – so take your gifts and let them shine.
Don’t try to be a saint in the style of St Pancras – you don’t need to go and get martyred in order to be a saint.
You, we, need to find our own way of being who God has made me to be. Living the life that Christ calls us to.
So being a saint is not the same as being a celebrity, and its unlikely that there will be a statue made of you.
Being a saint is about lightening the loads of others, bringing others joy, serving others.
It was always part of the original plan, when God called Abraham he said I will make you a blessing to all nations.
That’s our calling. For you and me that mostly boils down to be a blessing to our neighbours, our church, our community, our family.
For some people that’s a bigger calling – further away geographically – or where you find yourself caring for a whole Residential Care home , or a School.
We are called to be answers to each others prayers.
Remember when I preached that we should be counting the blessings that God gives us – that’s good.
Please don’t do the opposite – please do not count the blessings that you give to others.
That will make you unbearably obnoxious, at best.
That’s why I preached a sermon about Six – about calling six people, praying for six people, if your income is stable can you increase your giving by 6% – we are called to be a blessing to others.
I remember when I was at university being asked if I was a Christian.
And it seemed to me at the time to be a bit of a cheek to ask and a bit of a cheek to answer. It seemed to me false to say No I wasn’t a Christian – because I’d always gone to church, I prayed, I read my bible, my confirmation mattered to me, I had confirmed my faith.
But it also seemed that if I was to say Yes I am a Christian that that sounded really arrogant – who do you think you are?!
So I wasn’t sure what to say. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to say Yes I am a Christian.
Am I allowed to say “Yes I know that God loves me?” Again that just sounded pompous and presumptuous.
The Alpha course helped me with this. So when we next do one you should think of coming along. Albeit virtually.
But I remember being challenged by someone who said How would you feel if you over heard your kids being asked this question – So is James your Dad? And does your Dad love you? And thinking how would it feel to me if they were to say – ‘Well I don’t really know’. I’d be appalled!
In the epistle reading from 1st John, again and again John wants us to know that we are Children of God, that we are friends of God, that we have this hope that runs through our veins because of His great love for us.
So, are you loved by God? Yes you are. And you’re allowed to say so! And No its not arrogant, its actually really humbling.
Are you a Christian – you’re allowed to say Yes! You’re even allowed to say ‘Well I am a Practicing Christian’.
I make mistakes all the time but that’s why I practice!
Today we celebrate All Saints Day 1st, tomorrow All Souls Day!
I tell you that you are a saint. That’s the label that the bible gives you. Now go be that saint.
With all the love that the Holy Spirit pours into your hearts, with the repeated regular practice of confession and forgiveness so that we don’t get too disheartened when we make mistakes.
Lets fake it until we make it. Lets pray as if we were desert fathers and desert mothers praying against all the evil schemes of the devil – and we can pray and God does hear us because we are His Saints.
No alas you are not a saint in the eyes of the media, the public, nor your friends and family! But that’s no bad thing.
But I am afraid to say that you, and I , we are saints in the eyes of the Lord. He sees us as His hands and feet, as His eyes and mouth.
And He does not leave us alone. But He does call us.
You are a saint, so be a saint, live the life of a saint, and that means be a blessing to others.
Bless the poor in Spirit, bless those who mourn, bless the meek, bless those who are trying to be at peace with themselves, be right with God, bless the hungry and thirsty and bless those who are seeking mercy and justice, who are striving for peace.
Be the Saint that God calls you to be. Amen.