There is a theme developing this week. After three days of focusing on the names and titles that Jesus carries in Matthew’s account of his birth, today, I want to turn our attention to the most important preaching question: so what? All this etymology of names doesn’t really amount to a hill of beans if it doesn’t have an impact on our lives. Today, then, my focus turns to the title we carry as believers in Jesus, the Messiah, who is God with us.
It seems clear that the makers of the RCL would have the preacher see how Paul’s opening words to the Church in Rome tie everything together in a nice little bow. The Prophet Isaiah promised the coming of the Son, born of Mary, who came to save the world. That’s a nice tidy package, but the power really comes in what might be considered a throw away line, Paul’s salutation.
“To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints”
Those who follow Jesus as the Christ and Emmanuel carry the title of saints. In Greek, saint is hagios which means “set apart by God, holy one, consecrated.” To be saints, then, is first and foremost to acknowledge our total dependence upon God. Every good work, every possession, even our very breath comes from God. We are invited into sainthood, it is not earned. The very act of becoming a saint is the grace-filled gift of God. Secondarily to that is the work of holiness. By the power of the Spirit at work in our lives, we are called to live lives worthy of the Gospel; lives of faithful service to God and to each other; lives committed to the restoration of right relationship.
What is key in all of this, for me, is the realization that every disciple of Jesus is a saint. There might be those who are called to a deeper devotion, to a fuller sacrifice, or to a particularly powerful ministry. These we might call Saints with a capital S, much like Jesus is the capital letters Anointed One, but every follower of Jesus has a call to holiness, to sacrificial love, and to a ministry in and for the world in thanksgiving for the saving love of God in Jesus the Christ. What is your calling? How are you living out your sainthood?