Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Accidental Saints

This image represents the communion of saints. It seems to me that this may represent heaven, but doesn't it also look like a hopeful vision about life on earth?

Bob Ross was a painter. He had a TV show on PBS called "The Joy of Painting." His specialty was painting mountainous landscapes full of trees. Oftentimes, he would make a mistake and turn it into a tree, a bird, or another part of the landscapes. He called these mistakes "happy accidents."

Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran (ELCA) minister in Denver, the founding pastor of House of All Sinners and Saints. She is awesome, not just because of her cool haircut and beautiful tattoos. She preaches and teaches an amazing theology of sainthood. One of her books is called "Accidental Saints." If you can get passed her language (she is brutally and beautifully honest), it is a great book.

As we approach All Saints Sunday, I'd like to share some of what she says with you in the book and reflect with you about what makes someone a "saint." 

But first, let's start with scripture (always a good idea, right!?).    

The word for "saint" translated from the Greek is "ἅγιος" (hagios). It derives from the verb ἁγιάζω (hagiazo), which means "to set apart", "to sanctify", or "to make holy." The word is used 229 times in the New Testament! 

Second, let's look at how the Church thinks about saints in a traditional sense. Officially, Christians believe that all people who are "in Christ" are saints. All believers are saints. Cool, huh!? Whether living or in heaven, your faith in Christ makes you a saint. But what about Saint Augustine and all of them? What's different about them? Well, the Catholic Church "venerates" or "honors" or "canonizes" some saints over others over and above as exemplary followers of Christ. 

Protestants (like Methodists or Baptists or Presbyterians or... Lutherans!....) are all over the map about what it means to be a saint--but it comes down to believing in Christ and modelling Christ-like behavior and Scripture...and it doesn't matter if you are alive or in heaven. 

OK, back to Nadia. Her book is amazing. Here are some things she says:

“Never once did Jesus scan the room for the best example of  holy living and send that person out to tell others about him. He always sent stumblers and sinners. I find that comforting.” 

“Sometimes the fact that there is nothing about you that makes you the right person to do something is exactly what God is looking for.” 

“it has been my experience that what makes us the saints of  God is not our ability to be saintly but rather God’s ability to work through sinners.” 

― Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People

So, if you STILL don't think you're a saint...consider those people in your life, you WOULD consider one. Were they perfect? Were they the best Christian ever? Did they fall short? Did they get angry? Were they a sinner? Did they love God? Did they follow Jesus?...

Like a "happy accident" in one Bob Ross's paintings, saints are accidental. They are not perfect, but they are known and created by a God who loves them. You are part of God's picture. I think God tries or hopes really hard for a relationship with all of us. All 7 billion of us happy accidents. When we try back, we become saints. And by the way, God does not make mistakes ;)

*The church's one foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord;
we are his new creation by water and the Word;
from heaven he came and sought us that we might ever be
his living servant people, by his own death set free. 

Thank you, Jesus. May it be. Let it be. Amen.

*United Methodist Hymnal, 547.

In Christ, 


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