Who are these Saints and why do they have a day?

Our church isn’t liturgical. I don’t think I knew that word until I was an adult. I thought the ‘church calendar’ was Christmas and Easter, including Good Friday, of course.

To me, Saints were either in the bible or more recent dead people who’d been in church their whole lives. Living saints? A few old folks may have been described in that way. Sinners? Oh yes, we were all sinners- with the tag line ‘saved by grace’.

Our denomination is a combination of Wesleyan and Armenian in practice and theology meaning we can get a little loosey-goosey with how our church services are conducted. Some will have everyone stand when scripture is read and others won’t. Some sit, stand, sit, stand as if it were a Catholic mass but most are more intentional about just sitting there.

Oh, and we clap our hands on fast songs. Yes, yes, we do. There may even be a few timbrels shaking too.

But we don’t follow a calendar that has words like Maundy and we don’t refer to Mary as our mother.

I was an adult before I saw Advent candles in one of our church or had an Ash Wednesday service. New expressions of worship were being brought to our nontraditional Sunday worship.

praise

waving SA flag

ARC chapel

One of my favorite reads of this year was Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People. Nadia Bolz-Weber, the author, is a pastor in the Lutheran church. She is an unusual mix of foul-mouthed visual edginess and liturgical orthodoxy.

In her book, she talks about celebrating All Saints Day in House for All Sinners and Saints, the church she pastors. She prefaces by saying Americans “tend to forget our ancestors” except the church where we proclaim the dead are still part of us.

The Bible provides a record of those who’ve gone on before us, who’ve charted the way. The book of Hebrews refers to our “great cloud of witnesses”, those saints who have lead the way and support us still. (Hebrews 12:1)

Our church doesn’t affix the title Saint to the names of the disciples or anyone. We might refer to the Apostle Paul but not Saint Paul or Matthew or Christopher (who I’ve heard is one of the saints in the Catholic church).

The only qualifications we’ve held for someone to hold this title is that they are old and a long-time church goer. There is no ceremony and no official title.

chapel

prayer

chapel dance

The past dozen years I’ve found myself in the company of people who have been labeled addict. Some have criminal records, others have done worse crimes but have never been found out. These are the men we ask to read scripture in our Sunday worship. Men who were thieves move up and down the aisles collecting the offering from others who have robbed.

We sit with them at lunch and hug them when needed, or just because it’s Tuesday.

These men are confusing my picture of saints.

Bolz-Weber says, “I want racist to stay in the “racist” box. When they start sneaking into the “saint” box, it makes me nervous. But that’s how it works……I am faced with the sticky ambiguities around saints who were bad and sinners who were good.”

“…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 sinner.”

I see these men work for their sobriety, for their recovery. But we don’t have to work for grace. Praise God for his mercy and grace that allows his love to flow through a sinner like me and make this sinner a saint for more than one day.

14 Comments

  1. Annie said:

    First, I love your new look!! Very cool. 😉

    And yes…. We want our sinners and saints to stay neatly in their boxes, but that’s not how it works, is it? Did you read Sarah Bessey’s post today? You two are on the same wavelength. (Great minds!)

    November 1, 2016
    Reply
    • Debby Hudson said:

      No, I haven’t read it yet but I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the positive feedback Annie. I’m still tinkering…as I am with most things 😉

      November 1, 2016
      Reply
  2. I take comfort from the times when Paul refers to the recipients of his letters as saints — when we know very well that they had their “issues.” Thanks for the nudge toward grace!

    November 1, 2016
    Reply
    • Debby Hudson said:

      Issues…..such a human thing, Michele 😉 I’m thankful for these nudges God gives me. I need them every day.

      November 2, 2016
      Reply
  3. JViola79 said:

    Debby, you have given much to think on today. I am grateful for the way our God shakes up our misconception of “saints”. At least this way I get to also be included 🙂 It is so easy to forget that we are a continuous work in progress, far from perfection yet perfected in and through Him. I am always glad to stop here and read your words! Blessings today!

    November 2, 2016
    Reply
    • Debby Hudson said:

      The Christian walk is definitely daily, isn’t it Joanne? Each day God is renewing us. What grace he gives!

      November 2, 2016
      Reply
  4. Susan said:

    I love the way you love these men. They are me: broken, glued back together, and saints of God. Yes, Lord.

    November 2, 2016
    Reply
    • Debby Hudson said:

      Oh, YES, Susan – me too! Broken, glued back together and saints of God 🙂

      November 2, 2016
      Reply
  5. Debby,
    You’ve offered us a little peek into your worship services to show us how all of our worship is an offering to God, even though it may look different than our own church traditions. I think it’s interesting when we pursue new ways of connecting with God because it opens our hearts to the idea that he isn’t always what we think! Such a good, thoughtful post! xo

    November 2, 2016
    Reply
    • Debby Hudson said:

      I’ve been rather sheltered when it comes to churches, Valerie, visiting few others. Yet, even within our own there are different styles and the older I get the more I appreciate the many expressions of worship. It’s encouraging and inspiring and as you said, connect us with God. Thanks for sharing your insight.

      November 2, 2016
      Reply
  6. Linda Stoll said:

    Praise God He invites us to come as we are to fall at His feet, to worship Him in the ways He’s created us to. Beautiful testimonies of grace in these pictures, in your words, Debby …

    November 2, 2016
    Reply
    • Debby Hudson said:

      Thanks Linda, I continue to be inspired by these “accidental” saints.

      November 2, 2016
      Reply
  7. These pictures make me smile! I am so thankful for undeserved grace.

    November 2, 2016
    Reply
    • Debby Hudson said:

      I hope they convey the Spirit that is felt being part of this ministry. Yes, I am thankful for that undeserved grace too, Sarah.

      November 2, 2016
      Reply

Leave a Reply