Becoming a Saint

By Kent French
November 2, 2017 - 12:56pm

"Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?" Revelation 7:13

This Sunday we are going to step aside from our Elements of Worship series to remember All Saints Day, celebrated this past Wednesday, November 1. We will also welcome once again the Boston University Trombone Choir. (If you haven't experienced them before, you should come!)

SPECIAL INVITATION: We invite you to bring photographs or memorabilia representing loved ones that you consider saints, whether personally familiar or generally well-known, living on Earth or only in light perpetual. We will bring these tokens of honor forward in our opening processional, "When the Saints Go Marching In."

A little religious history: All Saints Day was established in 609 by Pope Boniface IV and later fixed as November 1 by Pope Gregory III. It co-opted a pagan festival, the Feast of Lamures, which people observed as a day to placate the restless spirits of the dead. It continues as a holy day of obligation in the Roman Catholic Church. In Protestantism, we have more generally observed it as a way to remember those who have died, particularly those who have died in the past year.

As you and I go about our day-to-day lives, the idea of sainthood feels a bit removed, specialized, other-worldly. It is often much easier for us to eulogize people after they die, to magnify their good points, while minimizing their flaws, and picture them joined with the rest of the company of the saints in light. This is probably a good human tendency of positive hindsight. It leaves me to wonder, however: How does one become a saint? What does it mean to be a saint? Can we only become saints after we leave this Earthly life?

On Sunday, we will look at two of the assigned readings for All Saints Day, the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11) and visionary text of heaven from Revelation (7:9-17). I am particularly interested in the verses (13-14). In answer to the question, "Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?" the response is, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal." What is it about the ordeal of Earthly life that produce sainthood?

I invite you to think about these questions with me, while also thinking of the people who have brought sainthood into your life, people who have perhaps let the light perpetual of heaven shine more brightly into your days on Earth.