Monday, November 1, 2010
All Saints Musings
Saints may be declared by the Church but saints are made by God. Here on earth a hierarchy of saints may be evident and there are those who stand out from the crowd, so to speak. Even Lutherans acknowledge the Biblical saints as something set apart if not set above others whom God would call His own and declare righteous in Christ. Certainly the Church and Christians need heros, heroic figures in whom the grace of God was clearly at work and who faithfully endured struggle beyond measure. I do not argue that point and in fact believe that the Church suffers today from a lack of knowledge of the stories of the saints of old and so we are weaker and more prone to question ourselves and God because of this lack. It is just that this process of canonization means that the focus seems to be more on the individual than on God.
We have a practice in the All Saints liturgy (this year Nov. 7) in which we stop for silence and then allow the people in the parish to name before the Lord those "saints" whom they hold dearest and through whom they learned the faith. It is by nature a very emotional moment. I speak aloud those who have received Christian burial since the last All Saints and then come the often halting, emotion filled names from the congregation. For some it is the first time they have spoken aloud within the Church the names of loved ones whose recent death is still an open wound of grief. For others the years have passed but the loss remains deep and painful. For others the wounds have given way to a joyful thanksgiving for God having given to them these individual to know and love and who now rest from their labors in the peace of Christ.
So, I am glad that Lutherans never invented any mechanism to make or declare saints. Better to let that to God, I think. We each recognize those saints whose own lives intersected with ours and in whom we saw the light and felt the love of Christ. At the All Saints liturgy this year, I will join those who speak out loud the names of the saints through whom God worked in our own lives... with faltering voice and emotional heart... Bob Knapp... For such a great cloud of witnesses, what can we say but Te Deum Laudamus!!