Yesterday, I began to ponder my sermon for All Saints’ Day by asking the question we’ve been struggling with at the real life Draughting Theology for weeks now, “What makes a saint anyway?” This morning, the question is still on my mind, especially after reading Evan Garner’s take on it, in which he suggests that the Beatitudes are the place to begin thinking about sainthood. “Saints are the poor in spirit, the mournful, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted, the reviled,” he writes, “God’s message to them turns their condition on its head: ‘Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.'”
This is all well and good, except I think that perhaps Evan misses one key point – saints don’t have to be dead. To be fair to my good friend and brilliant colleague, almost everyone forgets this because, as I said yesterday, we’ve been so conditioned by the Roman Catholic idea of captial “S” Sainthood. In the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, the Pauline letters include the word “saint” in its singular or plural form 41 times and every time it is used to describe Christians who are living and breathing with dual citizenship on earth and in the Kingdom of God.
Sainthood isn’t about the great reward waiting for us in heaven, it is about bringing heaven to earth right now. We don’t blink an eye when someone suggests that Desmond Tutu is a saint, so why do we have such a hard time thinking of ourselves that way? The Church would do well to remind her members of their sainthood early on. Paul doesn’t hesitate to call the Christians in Ephesus, Colossae, and Thessolonica saints and then call them to live into that reality. Here’s where those beatitudes come in, but instead of rejoicing in the great reward in heaven, we rejoice in knowing that we have brought heaven to earth, if only for a fleeting moment. We rejoice in knowing that we have responded to the call to work alongside our creator in making Creation a better, more sacred, place. We rejoice in knowing that we are saints, right here and right now.