Author’s note: this is continued reflection from the sermon preached on All Saints Sunday (November 3, 2019)
Over the centuries, Christians have come to hold many of their fellow Christians in high regard. Many led lives that were wondrous and astonishing. The New Testament and a multitude of other later stories tell of these bewildering lives. Readers are taken in by these tales of God’s faithful from centuries past: moments of miracles, martyrdom, conversion, and courage. The lives of these saints inspired others to devote themselves to the ways of these faithful people, and sometimes to an extreme degree.
Christians remember the stories of these people because they are so extraordinary. Who knows Jesus as the apostles did, or who has suffered torture or death for their faith? By comparison, our lives as God’s holy ones look ordinary.
Ordinary Saints (https://ordinary-saints.com/) is the title of a multimedia project I saw while at the Duke Initiatives in Theology and The Arts this past September. Among its shimmering icons of God’s holy people were parents, spouses, children, and friends. The people were young, old, or somewhere in between, and held various vocations. The poetry and music that went with the portraits told stories of love, lament, adventure, and absence. They were people who lived out what might appear to be ordinary lives, but the project challenged that. So often, we Christians suspect that God’s holy ones are someone else; they are not anyone we know nor could they possibly be ourselves. The project brought forth how God might see these ordinary people, showing them as God’s beloved. The art, music, and poetry worked to demonstrate God’s presence among all these ordinary people, revealing the image of God which they carry, and the Spirit of God which rests upon them. As the title says, these people are ordinary, but nonetheless saints.
God’s holy ones are the people we encounter in everyday life: family, friends, strangers, and even people we find unpleasant. They are plumbers, pastors, playwrights, and everything in between. They are you and me. Among all God’s faithful, whether or not they are ordinary, the extraordinary work of God is present. Stories of God’s work are written into each and every one our lives. God is the one who makes and calls us God’s saints.