Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Marks of a Saint - Nov 7, 2010

Sermon on All Saints Sunday
Nov 7, 2010

The Marks of a Saint

Since opening the subject last week of covenant and of us as God’s Covenant People, I’ve spent the week pondering what it means to be “saints.” The Apostle Paul was the one who applied the term to the community of God’s people, as he wrote to the churches, almost as a kind of shorthand term to denote the community of God’s Chosen People.

In most of Paul’s personal and pastoral letters to the churches he refers to those whom he is writing to as “saints.” There is no waiting for a holy person to die, nor any review of their actions, of the miracles that occurred through their life and work – you are a “saint” by virtue of following Jesus! You are a saint TODAY.

So what are the marks of being a “saint?”

Well I think it worthy of note that in every case the word is plural. ONLY ONCE does the word occur in the singular in the whole New Testament, and then it is preceded by the word “every” – in Philippians 1. 61 times in the NT the people of the churches that were being addressed were referred to as “saints.” A community – a corps of fellowship that is called to live a life like unto that of its Leader, Jesus Christ.

Our NT reading this morning we have heard before and I’ve commented on before from Ephesians. As Paul addresses the Ephesian church, as with most of his churches, he addresses them as “saints.” And he adds a phrase: “who are faithful in Christ Jesus.”
To the church at Corinth he adds: “to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:” Think of it!!

You and I are part of this worldwide movement – not just of Anglicans but of all the followers of Jesus – and not just worldwide, but from time immemorial!! From the dawn of time, this has been God’s plan and provision. From before the creation of the world, God knows you and He knows me – and God chose you and He chose me, along with the billions and billions, throughout all time and across the world – “All those who in every place call upon the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!”

Paul goes even further, in our reading this morning, calling the saints “the riches of his (God’s) glorious inheritance.” If we put that together with the verses above, we get the sense that God has invested in us. And we are the pay off He will get at the end of it all. When the play is over, all the saints will be on stage to take the bow, with Him. As Paul prays, we do indeed need our eyes to be enlightened to see these truths!

Further on in Ephesians Paul fills in the picture a bit more: It is among the “saints,” that we “comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love in Christ Jesus.” It is among the “saints” that we are “equipped for the work of the ministry, for building up the Body of Christ.” It is among the “saints” that we are to experience freedoms from "sexual immorality, and all impurity or covetousness.” It is among the “saints” that we are to “make prayers and supplications, praying at all times in the Spirit, and keeping alert with all perseverance.”

As “saints” we are “qualified by God the Father, to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” We have been “transferred from the dominion of darkness, and made to share in the Kingdom of His dear Son.” As “saints” we partake of “a mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to us, his saints.” Paul continues, “to them (the saints = us) God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

You are a saint today, because of the mystery of Christ in you – He is your hope of Glory! You can live as a “saint” today, because your life is not yours – it belongs to Jesus. And as a result it belongs to that Company of Jesus – that Communio Sanctorum – that Holy Communion of the People of God, through all ages and in all places. But friends, that becomes specific as you live your life in Christ, rubbing shoulders with the other “saints” – here at REZ. If its not real here, its not real there!

The reality of this “mystery” is made concrete in the ways we live together, here, day-to-day – life-on-life. This is where the rubber hits the road, as the racers say. This “saint” thing isn’t just theory – its not just pie in the sky, by and by. It’s really real in the here and now – or its not real at all. Like Del Tackett asks in The Truth Project: “Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?” If so it will make a difference in the way that you live, in the way that you give, in the way that you for-give.

As we begin to look in the days to come at the first Communion of the Saints, as they lived out their lives together in Jerusalem in Acts 2 and following, we are going to note some things that begin to stand out:

Saints live together supernaturally! Their life flows from the Spirit of God in their lives and in their midst. There are four things that stand out about their ‘supernatural’ life together:

1. The presence of supernatural forgiveness. Nothing is harder in this world than “trying” to live without offense. It is impossible, in our selves. It must be an outflow of the cross and the Word of Jesus, “Father, Forgive!”

2. The presence of supernatural generosity. Only God can motivate people to live with open hands toward one another – to share all their lives and goods – to count nothing of their own, as their own, so that the claim can be made, ‘there was no needy person among them.’ Wow!!

3. The presence of supernatural healing. In this community, we see the real power of God, as Paul has prayed. The apostolic community was so filled with power, that even walking through the streets, the shadow of Peter healed those it fell on! Can you imagine? And finally,

4. The presence of supernatural evangelism. For them it wasn’t a program or a duty to train for, to get “up” for; to memorize scriptures for or a particular method. It was GOD! “And God added to their number daily, those who were being saved.”

Theirs was to live the life – the “saint” life – out in the open, in front of God and everybody! Ours is to live that same life, being TRANSFORMED in COMMUNITY for MINISTRY with JESUS. His is the ongoing presence in us and with us, and like those early followers, we want to become noted as the people who have been WITH HIM.

And so this morning, we make the commitment real, as real as we know how to make it, by committing our selves, our souls and bodies, our resources to Christ Jesus and this group of “saints” we call REZ. By making our offerings and asking God for his Supernatural Additive, for without it – without Him – this car ain’t going nowhere!

So we pray, come Holy Spirit. Come and make us into the saints you have purposed for us to be, in our day.

Come Holy Spirit and cause us, here at REZ, to be your people in deed and in truth.

Mark US with the marks of the Saints of God:
Your Supernatural forgiveness;
Your supernatural generosity;
Your supernatural healing power, and
Your supernatural evangelism.

Come, Holy Spirit!!


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