With All-Saints day coming up this month, I started thinking about the whole concept of saints. Who is a saint? (other than a football team in New Orleans). We hear about saints all the time, like St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Julia Billiart, St. Irene, St. John, St. Mark, and the ever-popular St. Nicholas. To begin with, we need to know what a saint is. My favorite definition is a “holy one; someone who is set apart for God’s special purposes.” As a result, every follower of Jesus Christ is technically a saint. According to the Catholic Church, the term “Saint” (note capitalization) is used to denote a person who has gone through a rigorous formal canonization process of the Church. There are estimated to be up to 10,000 Saints in the Catholic church who are in heaven ready to receive prayers of intercession.
We are Lutherans. Do we have Saints or saints? Yes, we do. Lutherans believe the saints were good exemplars of faith and Christian living, but we don’t pray to them for intercession. We Lutherans believe a person doesn’t have to have made a global impact or performed miracles to be a saint. We use the term as in scripture as a class in general, not a unique class. The word “saint” appears both in the Old and New Testament to describe those who are pious, godly, and faithfully devoted to God’s service. In Lutheran theology, God through Christ makes people saints, not a church hierarchy and miracles. The number of saints depends on the sources you are reading. (My limited research did not yield a definitive answer to the question “How are saints chosen?”) We Lutherans honor saints by thanking God for them; for imitating their faith and virtues; and by learning from them. There you have it! All Saints’ Day in a nutshell!
But I am not done thinking about “saints.” November is the month of two other holidays, both secular, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving. I would argue that while all veterans may not have been Lutheran or Christian, they were/are saints and we thank God for giving them to us and teaching us courage and honor.
Then we have the other secular holiday of Thanksgiving. While I am not a big fan of the traditional story of the Pilgrims and Native Americans, I do accept the fact that setting a day aside to gorge ourselves in thanks for all we have is okay. But it is a day when the Trinity family becomes a group of saints by providing the annual Thanksgiving dinner for the community. Each person involved with the dinner, no matter how big or small, is a saint through their faithfulness to God’s service.
If we are all faithful followers of God, just “regular” or average” folk, then we need only look in the mirror to see a saint. Trinity is filled with saints who do God’s work with the projects such as the Johnson School Family Connection, clothes distribution, the food banks, collecting can and bread tabs. Trinity is a church filled with good exemplars of faith and Christian living. Truly a community of saints “reflecting the Radical Love of Christ.”