Why Celebrate the Saints? A Parent’s Perspective
- Thursday, October 23, 2008
Never intended for publication, nonetheless "I Sing a Song" was eventually included in the Anglican Hymnal. No one could have been more surprised than Mrs. Scott when it was eventually included in the Hymnbook for the Armed Forces. Her reaction:
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"I confess to a certain amount of glee in picturing a choir of Sergeant-Majors singing the words I wrote for my nurseryful of innocent babes."
Mrs. Scott was on to something. And those wondering about the reality or relevancy of the saints may benefit from a paradigm shift.
Yes, I'm speaking of Saints with a capital "S." You know, the ones that some churches have statues of - just as parks have statues of Generals Gone-to-Glory. The ones we're not supposed to worship. The ones that some would argue were part of the baby-thrown-out-with-the-bathwater by those churches nervous about making idols.
And here's what I've been thinking:
That God built something in us that made us need someone to look up to. Of course, we look up to Jesus - in worship and prayer. But He is divine and we are not. God also established in each of us a need for heroes and role models who started as everyday sinners like us.
We can see how that unmet need causes problems in contemporary Christianity. How many "stars" fill the evangelical firmament? Stars so prone to falling. How disappointing - even devastating - it has been to Christians when a swaggering preacher man is revealed to be living a double life, telling us all how to flee from sin while unable to escape it himself.
But what of the saints? They were never super stars. They lived quiet lives of devotion to God and service to others. Some were used by God to perform miracles - claims given due process by the Catholic Church but often scorned by denominations who nevertheless claim wonder-working power in their own churches or on TV.
Elisabeth Elliot has written: "Reading the biographies of men and women whose hearts were gladly given to God has lit the way for me. Seeing the obedience of just one simple Christian has more than once steered me clear of danger."
The stories of saints light the way for those of us still finding our way through the valley of the shadow. Their lives point us directly to the heart of God.
When our earthly heroes fall, Satan whispers to us that we cannot rise above our sin, that we are sure to fail as well. He can't say that about the Saints gone before us who have already been tested. They are still our brothers and sisters but they are in a place where they are no longer subject to temptation, can no longer fall. Meditating on and emulating their lives is not worship. It's smart.
When I see pictures and statues of saints and read their stories, I am reminded of the virtues, devotion and sacrifice that help me see the work I do through the eyes of God: unseen by others, menial and unimportant, yet ennobled when it is humbly offered to God. I am reminded of the courage possible under persecution when I offer my suffering to God.
Are the saints a distraction from the Word of God? Or does God use their lives to write His lessons more clearly in our hearts?
I'm thinking the latter. And I'm thinking that for the sake of children - who lack the ability to think abstractly - the way to teach spiritual virtues is through those whose lives exemplified them. And I'm thinking like Mrs. Scott, I don't want to miss this opportunity to write these virtues on my children's hearts.
Before Christian cartoons set about teaching virtues, God gave us real life examples of individuals who loved him beyond all human understanding.
Can a believer live a godly life without the saints? Of course. But why should we have to?
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