Today is All Saints Day/Sunday. So just what it mean to be a saint? To be a saint is to be literally holy. Are you holy? Do you feel holy? In other words, do you feel like a saint? No? So are you a saint?
In Roman Catholic tradition, a saint was one who had lived an exemplary life; a pure life. A saint – according to this tradition – has to have three miracles attributed to him or her. And the final criteria of sainthood, the saint has to be dead. So are you a saint?
The Epistle of 1st John – from which we draw our 2nd lesson – is a call to holiness; a call to live a life as pure and righteous as Jesus. Our text says that “everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.” And in the previous chapter we read, “Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.” So are you a saint? Based on what you have heard about what it literally means to be a saint, about what the tradition holds to be a saint, what we have just read about what it means to be a saint, are you a saint? No! Of course not! We’re not saints, we’re sinners! None of that applies to any of us. Are we pure? Are we dead? Are we miraculous? Are we saints? Actually, yes. Yes we are! So, how can we possibly be saints? Because God tells us we are.
Are we pure? Yes! In chapter 2 of 1st John we read, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” We are pure, not because we act pure, but because Jesus died that we might be pure. He is the propitiation – or atoning sacrifice – for our sins, and not just ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. Jesus blood has purified us of our sins, not just the sins of our past but for all our sins past present and future. We are purified. We are holy!
Are we dead? Yes! In chapter 6 of Romans Paul writes, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” And he says, “ you also must consider yourselves dead to sin.” In our baptism, we die to sin, we die to death. The sinful, fallen person who was born according to the flesh is drowned in the waters of baptism. We are dead!
So yes, we might be pure – though we remain sinners, we might be dead – and yet still be breathing and walking and talking, but miraculous? Don’t be silly. We couldn’t possibly be miraculous. Well actually yes we are. In fact the very fact that we might – through faith in Jesus propitiation on the cross – be pure and holy and yet remain fallen and sinful, is a miracle. The very fact that – though we remain sinful, fallen, and living flesh – through the waters of baptism we are put to death with Jesus Christ, is a miracle. That is two miracles and all we need to be declared a saint is three, all we need is just one more. And here it is. In Romans chapter 6 right after Paul tells us that through the waters of baptism we have died to sin, but then he goes on to proclaim that, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” And He goes onto say, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” Just as He put us to death with Him on the Cross, so He has raised us with Him in His resurrection. We have been – now through faith in Jesus Christ – raised from the dead. Miracle number three.
So rejoice, you are saints. You are pure and holy saints blessed with the gift of everlasting life. We may not look like it, but we are. We are holy and yet remain sinners; we are dead and raised from the dead; we are destined for the grave and destined for everlasting life. We are saints! In fact we are more than saints, we are the very children of God. We just don’t look like it. Our text says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”