This fall, in the real life version of Draughting Theology we’re discussing the question “What makes a saint anyway?” This question is hard to distinguish from “What makes a Saint anyway?” and we find ourselves slipping back and forth between the two. Several of our members are former Roman Catholics, a few of whom attended parochial school. Most of our members are life long Protestants and Anglicans. Yet all of us have been impacted by the Roman model of sainthood what with the miracles and all that fun stuff. We try hard to avoid that narrow road, but it at least gets a mention every week.
With all that in mind, I’m beginning to prepare to preach All Saints’ Day this week and more than ever, I’m drawn to the Old Testament (Apocraphyl) passage from the old Book of Common Prayer Lectionary, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 44:1-10,13-14.
Let us now sing the praises of famous men [and women], our ancestors in their generations. The Lord apportioned to them great glory, his majesty from the beginning. There were those who ruled in their kingdoms, and made a name for themselves by their valor; those who gave counsel because they were intelligent; those who spoke in prophetic oracles;those who led the people by their counsels and by their knowledge of the people’s lore; they were wise in their words of instruction; those who composed musical tunes, or put verses in writing; rich men endowed with resources, living peacefully in their homes–all these were honored in their generations, and were the pride of their times. Some of them have left behind a name, so that others declare their praise. But of others there is no memory; they have perished as though they had never existed; they have become as though they had never been born, they and their children after them. But these also were godly [women and] men, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten; Their offspring will continue forever, and their glory will never be blotted out. Their bodies are buried in peace, but their name lives on generation after generation.
What makes a saint? Surely, there are those famous women and men who we remember with varying degrees of admiration. We recall with great fondness those who carry the title “Saint” like Francis, Paul, and Mary Magdalene. We honor with lesser feasts those lesser saints like Hilda of Whitby, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Phillips Brooks. And on one day of the year, we recall “all the saints who from their labors rest” like Mary whose funeral we celebrated here not too long ago. The one thing that each of these had in common is their commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Some were called to heroic sacrifice, some were called to bring the Church forward in wisdom, and some were called to sell homemade jelly with a smile and the love of God on their lips, but all were called by God to righteousness for the sake of the Gospel, which is, at the very least, a starting place on the pathway to sainthood.