On All Saints Day, the church remembers beloved individuals who have died since the previous All Saints Day. We also honor the faithful martyrs and servants who died long before us.
In addition, All Saints Day invites us to recognize our connection to saints of ancient times, including St. Ignatius, St. Catherine or even Jesus’ disciples. Not only are we connected with past saints but also living saints like Nobel Peace Prize winners Archbishop Desmond Tutu and our Lutheran sister Leymah Gbowee.
Yet there is another component of this day Lutherans need to acknowledge: we, too, are saints. Wonderful, ordinary, unlikely saints—living saints.
This title might make some of us uncomfortable. After all, we consider saints perfect people or almost perfect people who have lived lives of unselfish servanthood marked by unwavering faith. When we think of saints, we typically think of people—like Mother Theresa or St. Augustine—who’ve achieved extraordinary, miraculous things.
But sainthood is also present in everyday, ordinary actions. There are saints who make sure our place of worship is clean (even when it’s not their job); saints who greet worshipers and make sure everyone has a bulletin; . . . saints who make sure the light bulbs get changed and the batteries in smoke detectors get replaced.
Even though you may not like to think of yourself as a saint, did you know Jesus thinks of you that way? Everyone enters sainthood through baptism; we are baptized into what Martin Luther calls “the priesthood of all believers.” Peter describes it this way: “You are … a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Peter 2:9). Saints are ordinary folks like you and me.
Perhaps you’re still not convinced. Certainly, sainthood is evident in huge, grand gestures. But sainthood is also present in everyday, ordinary actions. There are saints who make sure our place of worship is clean (even when it’s not their job); saints who greet worshipers and make sure everyone has a bulletin; saints who recycle, compost and care for God’s creation; saints who knit prayer shawls and comfort grieving families; saints who prepare and serve lunch for community meals; and saints who make sure the light bulbs get changed and the batteries in smoke detectors get replaced. I could go on—the list is practically endless.
Luther tells us these saints are the church—ordinary people called by Jesus Christ, who live out that calling today. As living saints, we are connected in eternity to past, present and future saints. The words of Great Thanksgiving we hear during communion describe our unity in Christ: “With all the choir of angels, with the church on earth and hosts of heaven, we praise your name and join their unending hymn.” We stand in a long line of faithful people.
The pressures of sainthood might seem overwhelming, but God’s grace is here for us as we live into our baptismal calling. The Spirit is at work as we endeavor to do what’s right even when it seems illogical. It empowers us to become a safe space for others in an unsafe world. Our faith equips us to speak loving words amid hate. When we let our faith shine, we bring a measure of peace to a violent society. But even when we get it wrong, God uses unlikely saints like us to usher in the reign of Christ. Grace finds a way.