Sunday of All Saints, June 23, 2019
Hebrews 11:33-12:2; Matthew 10:32-33, 37-8; 19:27-30
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.
On this Sunday of All Saints, as we remember that we are all called to be saints, let us meditate for a few minutes on what it means for someone to be a saint.
What is a saint? There are so many ways that we could look at this question, but today I want to suggest this one to you: A saint is one who has come home.
This is probably not the way that most of us would immediately define the word saint. What comes to mind when we say that word? We look around at these hallowed walls and see them filled with the faces of saints. These are what saints are—holy people whom we look to, standing as pillars and monuments in memory and in many cases serving as authority who teach us what is good, what is true, what is beautiful.
But why are they that way? It is because they have come home.
Most of you know some of my story, and that story is often about being homeless. I have never been homeless in the sense of being houseless, thank God. But if you ask me where I’m from, what my home town is—well, I don’t have an answer. I was born in one town and have lived in fifteen. I began life in one home and have lived in twenty-three. At six and a half years in my current home, I have already broken my previous record for living in one place.
So when I think of what it means to seek and to find what it is my soul was meant for, I think of home. And that is part of why I wanted to talk today about sanctity—being a saint—in those terms.
Who is the saint? The saint is one who is like Jesus Christ, and we may also say that Christ is present in the saint. But the saint is also one to whom Christ is present, and also who is present to Christ.
So if we think about this mutual sense of presence, that Christ is present to the saint but also that the saint is present to Christ, we begin to have a sense of this homecoming. Our God made us for Himself—not in a selfish way, for God has no needs. Rather, He made us for mutuality with Him, for communion.
Communion is a word we often use in Christian theology, but I think its sense and our experience of it can be lost without this mutual participation with God and with each other. So what is this communion in the sense of coming home?
To be at home is to be loved, to have a place at the table, to be expected. To be at home is to have a voice, not a voice in competition or in the sense of enfranchisement but in the sense of being heard, of being known, of being listened to, of contributing to the conversation. Conversation at home should come freely and openly.
A saint is one who has come home because he has come to Christ and because Christ has come to him. And being present then each to the other, this freedom arises naturally.
Now, we may think: I do not have this freedom with Christ. Conversation with Him does not come easily for me. So, we are still on our way home or perhaps even if we are home we are still making ourselves at home. Our freedom with Christ and with each other is not yet in fullness.
So how does this freedom of conversation, of communion happen? If you know about hospitality, whether offering it or receiving it, you know how this is done. We gather together. We give thanks. We eat. We tell our stories. We tell The Story. And we look at one another and know that we are family, that we belong together, that here is the place where we become ourselves.
And in this place, as we share our stories with each other, as we share the meal together and see what is in each other’s eyes and hearts, we grow closer, and we grow to be like one another. In each, whatever is good, whatever is true, whatever is beautiful—it is that which we take up and put in our own souls. Christ has taken up in Himself our humanity, which He created as good, and in turn, we take up what is Christ’s. And as He has become like us, as we share this meal and this conversation with Him, we become like Him.
This is home.
And because a saint has come home to Christ’s kingdom, he also knows that this world as it now is is not his home. Here, as St. Paul says, “we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come” (Heb. 13:14). So a saint in this world is one who presses forward. Christ is his home, and this world is not.
So even while he is at home in Christ, he also knows that he is not yet where his heart can fully be at rest, because His communion with Christ is still not perfected. The saint’s progress in this world is a progress of pilgrimage, whose destination is Christ. But Christ is also his fellow-pilgrim on the way, so the saint is both at home and also on a journey home.
The journey is not easy, but the saint, having experienced home in part by his presence with Christ, wants to complete the journey to be with Christ in His home in full, to make Christ’s home fully his own home, as well.
And everywhere along the journey, when the saint sees a place or a moment that speaks to him of the home where he now lives but also has not yet arrived at, he stops and looks into the window, he peers through the door, he receives what is offered. The saint, as he goes through this life, sees Christ, and wherever he sees Christ, he runs again to meet Him. And he shows to others the place where he sees Christ. He therefore is both at home and not yet at home, both the welcomed son of the house and also the one welcoming others into the house.
He carries with him all the sorrows and the wounds and the travails of his pilgrimage, all his history, all his loss, all his pain, and finds that these travels will always be his own, always be part of his history, always be part of his pilgrimage. But drawing near to the end of his pilgrimage, in the light of that rising sun, they have become filled with light. They have become part of the stories that he tells around the table, part of the love that he shares with the Lord and Father of the house and all who fill it.
At the end of his earthly pilgrimage toward home, the saint arrives on the shores of this life and finds there a ship that will carry him across the water to his final destination, the final voyage that we all must take. The Shipwright and Captain Who has also made the pilgrimage with him now stands on the ship and beckons him to come aboard. Here now is the last journey, the journey through the veil of death itself, the journey to resurrection.
The saint has come home.
So often when we conceive of what our task is as Christians, and we hear that we are called to be saints, this not only sounds impossible but actually sounds distasteful. We think perhaps of trying really hard to be moral or performing superhuman acts of asceticism and prayer.
But let us see ourselves as on a journey toward home. Perhaps you have known home in this life—something good, something wholesome. Perhaps you have never known that. But all of us can long for that home that is to come, that home where the Father of the house is standing and waiting for us even while He is also making the journey with us. And then, at the end of this pilgrimage, we will board that ship that takes us to that place where we know and are known, that place of all the saints, that place where at last, we have come home.
To the One Who is our home, our Lord Jesus Christ, therefore be all glory, honor and worship, with His Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.