PASTORAL POINT – “In The Communion of Saints”
Mark 12:28-34 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
Now we walk by faith, not by sight, confessing the eternal joys of the life to
come while yet struggling in this sin filled world of death. One great struggle we
face as Christians in this life is that we think we should have all of this peace and
rest right now. No waiting. When we are Christians, God should bless and reward
us with a lack of problems. Christians shouldn’t get sick. Christians shouldn’t have trouble paying their bills. Christians shouldn’t have problems with their marriages or difficulties raising their children.
Since we’re celebrating All Saints Day (November 1), let’s be very clear
first of all about “saints.” A saint is a holy person. Those who are in Christ through Holy Baptism, fed by the Holy Supper and preached the Holy Word, by the Holy Spirit through the Holy Ministry. When we celebrate All Saints Day, we are recognizing that all of us are saints in God’s sight through Christ and especially those departed ones. As someone once said; “after all, it is not how we live that makes us saints, but how Christ lived for us, died for us and rose for us. Your Baptism into Christ makes you a saint, your eating and drinking the flesh and blood of Christ makes you a saint. Your being absolved of your sins makes you a saint. But saints, dear saints, are poor, mourning, harassed, hungering, struggling saints. In this life, the path of sainthood that is, of being a
Christian is one of hardship and sorrow that does not bring with it the instant gratification our world tries to buy and sell.”
The saints described by Christ are poor in spirit. That means they have nothing to bring before God to show how well off they are. They have a poverty of spirit, empty, nothing. Yet they have Christ, for “to such is the kingdom of God.” They
mourn over their sins. They are troubled and frightened by their lack of faith; they are grieved and sorrowful because they do not live to serve their neighbors in love. Such sin causes them to shed tears of repentance. But they are comforted. Not just dried tears, but the Comforter, the Holy Spirit comforts them by delivering to them Baptism and the Word of God and the body and blood of Jesus.
Saints are redeemed people through Christ. A saint is not just someone who understands God’s grace but one who has appropriated God’s grace through faith in Jesus and received forgiveness of sins, and is now redeemed and bought back as a child of God. Rodney Buchanan said: “A saint is one who has been marked by the Holy Spirit and given a guarantee of inheritance in the kingdom. A saint is somebody the light shines through. We are saints, not when we reach perfection, but when our lives have been set apart for God to be used exclusively for his purposes. Saints are not plaster images of people we venerate from the past. Saints are not perfect, sinless people. Saints are some of the people you are sitting next to right now,
people with faults, people who have sinned, but repented of that sin and have committed themselves to grow in their ability to live for God and love him. They are limited by their faults, but empowered by the Spirit of God whom they have invited to live within them.” (rodney-buchanan-profile-3883? ref=ContributorDetails)
Jesus told the story of two men who came to the temple to pray. Luke tells it this way: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14).
I agree with Dr. Buchanan when he said; “Maybe you can be a Christian and never set foot inside a church. I’m not sure, but I can tell you it is two-hundred times as hard. I will not have anyone to ask to pray for me. No one will know that I need them.” I will add that without other Christians, we will not know that anyone cares for us spiritually, and have little opportunity to feel and experience the love of the people of God. We will never sing praises to God as we stand beside other believers. We will never hear a testimony of what God has done for someone who lives in our community. We will never know the needs of our fellow Christians.
In the Communion of Saints, I bow my head with so many other people who silently talk to God and my prayers will never be alone. I will hear the pages of Bibles turn as the Scripture is read with others. I will always feel the Spirit of God move within together with others, and know that he is moving in the hearts of people near me in the same.