1 John 3.1-3
+ Our confirmation class on Thursday nights have been, I have to say, a lot of fun. Well, this past week, in our Confirmation class, we talked about saints. Actually, we talked about saints’ relics. Relics are the bits and pieces of saints that are left behind them.
We talked about first-class relics. First class relics are actual pieces of saints. Like bones or pieces of bones. Second-class relics are things that came into contact with first class relics, like pieces of cloth or clothes the saint wore.
I was going to show the confirmation some of my first-class relics. Then, I forgot. But, I didn’t forget this morning. I actually brought a first class relic this morning.
This is a relic of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. She was an American. She was raised an Episcopalian, but later converted to the Roman Catholic Church after the death of her husband and joined a convent and later founded her religious order, the Sisters of Charity. If you saw the play or the film, Doubt, that religious of nuns was the Sister of Charity, founded by St. Elizabeth. She died in 1821.
And this is St. Elizabeth Anne Seton. Or a little piece of her, anyway. This is a little piece of her bone.
I also posted a photo of my first-class relics on Facebook this week. And I mentioned that because I forgot about the relics at confirmation, we ended talked about saints whose relics were incorruptible—saints who never decomposed. Well, a priest in the diocese asked, “Do you have an incorruptible saint on your property?”
I responded, “I am the incorruptible saint on our property.”
Well, today, in case you didn’t guess it, we are celebrating all the saints, corruptible or incorruptible. We are celebrating all those saints that we know of, like the Virgin Mary and our own St. Stephen and St. Elizabeth. We celebrate those saints because they are held up to us as examples of how to live this sometimes difficult life we live as Christians.
And, let’s face it, it is hard to be a Christian sometimes. It is hard, as we all know, to follow Jesus, and to do what Jesus tells us to do—to love. It is hard to be, as John says in our reading for today, the children of God, as Jesus himself is a Child of God. The saints have shown this fact to us. They have shown us how to be these very children of God.
We are also celebrating the saints we have personally known. We are celebrating the saints we have known who have come into our own lives—those people who have taught us about God and shown us that love does win out, again and again. The saints in our own lives are those who have done it, who have shown us that we can be successful in following Jesus, even if they weren’t always successful at times in their own lives.
My favorite saints—both those celebrated by the larger church and those I have known in my own personal life—are the ones who were not, by any means, perfect, who failed, who messed up occasionally. I like them because I’m like them. I too have messed up. I too have failed. I too have failed in following Jesus and loving others. See, I really am NOT the incorruptible saint at St. Stephen’s. I, like all us, am corruptible.
But what those saints show us is that it’s all right. When we fail, we just get up again, brush ourselves off and keep going. And what they show us more than anything else is that when we fail to love, we need to love even more and somehow, it is made right.
The other part of this morning that we are celebrating are the future saints in our midst. The future saints? Who could those possibly be? Well, we are. We are those future saints. Together, with the saints who have gone before us, we strive to follow Jesus, to love God and each other and to serve those we encounter. We are the future saints. That’s how we should see ourselves. That is why we celebrate the saints with the different commemorations we have of them at our Wednesday night Eucharists throughout the year. And that is why we celebrate them especially on Sundays like today.
We celebrate the saints because they lead the way for us. They show us how to live this sometimes difficult life as Christians. They show us in their successes and they show us in their failures.
And we celebrate the saints as well because we too are the saints. We are the future saints, who will one day be gathered around the altar of the Lamb, where we will partake of that glory without end.
You have heard me mention on countless occasions my very strong belief that the “veil” that separates us from those who have gone on before us is a very thin one. Even though it often seems like a very thick curtain at times. But there are moments when that veil is sort of lifted and we can see that very little actually separates us from those saints who have gone on. This morning, we are actually able to see that veil lifted. We will see it lifted in a few moments when we gather at the altar to celebrate the Eucharist.
What we do this morning is not an isolated act we do, here in St. Stephen’s Church in north Fargo on a cold morning in November of 2014. Every time we do this, we do it with every Christian on this earth who also celebrates these mysteries. And when we celebrate the Eucharist, all we are doing is joining, for this limited time, the worship that is going on in heaven for all eternity.
And in that moment, we know what our destiny is. Our destiny is sainthood. Our destiny is to be saints.
Today is about those saints who have gone before. But it is also about us, here and now. It is about their sainthood and our sainthood too. And that is something to be thankful and to celebrate.
So, let us—the future saints of God—truly celebrate today. Let us celebrate the saints who have gone on and who are still with us in various ways. And let us, who remain, strive on. Let us continue on in our journey toward sainthood strengthened and certain of our destiny.