“Saint” is a weighted term nowadays, evoking images of solemn-faced men in brown robes, halos present but not smiles. That’s not a representative picture, of course, but a sense of otherworldly and unobtainable holiness surrounds the imagery; being a saint may be worthy, but it sure as heck doesn’t look like fun.
That’s why I appreciate the Methodist tradition of seeing all believers as saints, not because of their own merits but because of the grace of God; referring to Bob who puts the chairs out every Sunday as a saint isn’t about bigging up Bob, who might have got a bit hungover the night before and who swore at a driver who cut him up at a roundabout – it’s about honouring and testifying to the idea of redemption that forms the heart of the Christian message.
And so, on All Saints Day I can remember more people than just St. Paul (who I never met and who I always imagine to look like Alan Rickman); I can remember my grandparents and the way in which they all contributed to the church in different ways. I can remember my dad, and the way he’d sing along to cassettes of male voice choirs in the car.
I can remember all the people I’ve known from various churches who’ve passed away, friends and relatives and teachers. And it’s funny, but I can’t remember any specific lessons, but I can remember passion and tears and smiles and being given a pound but told never to spend it on a Sunday.
I can remember CS Lewis and GK Chesterton, who I might one day quote in a sermon but who I’ve definitely quoted in conversations about superheroes.
I can remember Johnny Cash, who comes to mind whenever I think about grace or the end of the world.
I can remember those who spent and sacrificed themselves on behalf of others because of a higher calling than that of materialism or fame or power.
I can remember Martin Luther King’s dream.
I can remember Charles Wesley and John Newton and whoever it was who wrote Be Thou My Vision.
I can remember Mike Yaconelli, who expressed such overwhelming love for God and life.
There are more, of course there are, and that’s why we have a day to remember them and to thank God for all they did. You can keep the halos and the relics and the paintings. Give me real saints any day.