Readings for today include John 1: 29-42
but quite honestly I've had enough of John the Baptist for a while. And we can look forward to hearing about Jesus calling disciples NEXT week - so (shock horror!) I'm ignoring the gospel. For those who want to, they can think about John's role as a fore-runner and how that relates to what I have to say about being called to be saints - but I'm focussing on
1 Corinthians 1: 1-9 and
Isaiah 49: 1-7
I just sat down and rattled off the first 2/3rds of the sermon - and now need to sit back and chew over my own question - how can we live up to our calling to be saints... (more to follow, I think...)
Called to be Saints
Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth certainly starts with a clarion call: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints…”
Called to be saints. What an expectation. I wonder how you feel about being the church of God that is in Whittlesford/Duxford – called to be saints.
You might immediately feel that you’re not good enough to be a saint. Saints are holy, special, prayerful, they do and say amazing things. Above all, you have to be really good to be a saint – don’t you?
Well – here’s some good news. No. You don’t have to be really good to be a saint. Actually you don’t even have to be really good to be a Christian. Over the Christmas break I’ve been dipping in and out of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s latest book, written with his daughter, Mpho. The book is called ‘Made for Goodness’ – but one of the first things he says is ‘stop being good’.
Tutu knows that all sorts of terrible things happen when people try to earn God’s love by being really good. Being called to be saints doesn’t mean trying our hardest to be good so that God will loves us – it means being people who recognize that God loves us even before we are born.
God loves us – we are his beloved, special, chosen people – all of us. But that isn’t all there is to being a Saint.
There’s the lovely story of a little girl who went with her Sunday School class to visit a large Parish church. The little girl was in awe of all the beautiful stained glass windows that she saw, as the sunlight came shining through them. At one point, she asked her teacher who the people were that she saw depicted in the windows. The teacher told her that those were saints. Later, when the little girl got home, she told her family about what she had seen. She said: "I learned who the saints are today. They're the people who let the light shine through them."
If we think of Desmond Tutu himself – I would say that he is a living Saint – the light of God’s goodness just shines from him. he is a saint and a wonderful witness to the love of God in the world.
So if we are called to be saints we are called to be people who know that we are loved by God and who let that love shine in us and through us and out of us.
The reading from Isaiah doesn’t use the word ‘saint’, but it talks about God’s servant – someone chosen by God, loved and called by God before they were born and cared for by God. But this servant of God has a job to do.
God says: "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."
Being a saint, being a servant of God, involves shining in the whole world so that everyone will know about God’s love.
We are called to be saints. How can we live up to our calling?