Saints in the Making
Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; November 1, 2020
All Saints’ Day
1 John 3:1-3
Whenever we recite the Apostles Creed, we acknowledge our belief in “the communion of saints.” And during an All Saints’ worship service like this, we sings songs of the saints of God—“who are patient and brave and true, who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew.” In doing so, we express our belief in the communion of saints, and we express our hope in being part of that communion someday—along with the Apostles, Augustine, Martin Luther, Mother Teresa, and a host of others.
As I ponder the saints who have left their earthly dwelling, I cannot help but think of my Aunt Doris who died just a few weeks ago. She was like a mother to me—a woman of God, who loved the Lord, her family and friends, and her church. For me she embodied an authentic child of God—a saint in the making. No doubt, you have similar stories of loved ones who have shown you the way.
Thanks be to God—we are all part of God’s salvation story. Today’s Scripture reading reminds us that we are loved because we are nothing less than children of God. We are saints in the making. But some days we do not feel much like saints, do we? We fall down and we get up. We fall down and we get up. If that is how we it seems, though, we can take comfort in Robert Louis Stevenson’s definition of saints: The saints are the sinners who keep on going.
I love that! The saints are the sinners who keep on going. Saints are just ordinary people—like you and me. We are not saints because we are good. We are all sinners. Yet, because we are children of God, God fashions us into what we could never be on our own. In gratitude for God’s mercy, we keep on going. We keep on seeking the face of God. And fueled by God’s grace, we yearn to make a difference in this world that Jesus came to save.
Kathleen Norris is a Presbyterian author and spiritual leader. She enjoys going into schools where students have little access to the Arts. She encourages them to see writing as an important way to express themselves. One day, Norris asked a 5th grade class to write a poem using similes. To Norris’ surprise, one little boy wrote a strikingly good poem entitled, “My Very First Dad.”
I remember him/like God in my heart, I remember him in my heart
like the clouds overhead,
and strawberry ice cream and bananas
when I was a little kid. But the most I remember
is his love
as big as Texas
when I was born.
While Norris was impressed with the poem, the little boy’s teacher was stunned. You see, the boy was not a good student. But it was more than that. In talking to the teacher, Norris learned that while the boy was born in Texas, he never even knew his father. The man had skipped town the day he was born. Yet, “I remember him like God in my heart,” the little boy wrote. It makes me wonder—with no real father to remember—was it God’s love that he felt—as big as Texas?
See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
Because some have departed from the community of faith, spreading a distorted message, the author of 1st John writes a letter, a homily of sorts. In it, he clarifies the gospel message that a believer’s life must be marked by love and he encourages them to stay the course and keep believing in the Son of God and in the saving value of his death.
The world (those who live apart from God) does not know what we know! And what is it that we know? We know God’s steadfast love. We know we are children of God even NOW. We may live in a particular culture, nation, or family—but our true identity is in none of those places—our true identity is as children of God and holiness is our goal.
Which leads us to something else we know: We know someday we will be like him. We have not arrived yet! We are not finished. To grow in our faith, like a runner practicing for a race, we make certain habits or practices a part of our disciplined life. We make worshiping God a priority. We spend time meditating on God’s Holy Word—not just on Sunday—but throughout the week. We help people in need, and we pray. Oh, how we pray!
Later in his letter, John reveals his reason for writing, “I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have the promise of being called children of God now, and the promise of an eternal future in his presence. All Saint’s Day is a joyous occasion to remember the saintly ones who have entered their eternal resting place. It is also an invitation to renew our commitment to holy living. Those who have crossed from this world into the next have left us with a wonderful inheritance. And, as one writer puts it, “through their love and compassion, their instruction and correction, their laughter and tears, their honesty and humility, their sacrifice and dedication, and most of all, their faith, they are still speaking. What a great legacy to claim for ourselves and to share with the world!”
We are children of God, now. We are saints in the making! In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
*Cover Art by Ira Thomas; used by permission