in 1984 I was in 7th grade health class taught by Coach Conner before I heard someone that was a Christian referred to as a saint. It wasn't linked to the health class, but a candid discussion we engaged in after coach saw how much of a Jesus freak I was. He talked about Jesus a LOT. I had not put it together that someone who was claimed by the Grace of Jesus Christ could be called a saint. I thought the title was reserved for people who were holier than others, old, and dead. Our brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church do reserve sainthood for folks who have lived lives of extraordinary dedication to God. But sainthood to Coach Conner, and now in my theology is linked to not being saintly in behavior, but by the salvation given by God through Jesus Christ.
Even though coach referred to Christians as saints in general, at the time I didn't buy it. It wasn't until 2007 when I started working with our worship committee to recognize the saints who had passed from this life to the next on the Sunday closest to November 1st that I began to shift in my use of the word.
For seven years at Northminster we have observed All Saints Day and given our equivalent of a mortality report during Sunday worship.
During the first five years of my service here it became a bit of a downer because the membership dwindled from 193 to 157. Most of those losses came through death. I began to wonder if the sole purpose of my pastorate here was engaging in the Christian practice of "dying well" ala the book Practicing Our Faith edited by Dorothy Bass.
Surely our church provides excellent care for folks facing the death of their family members and friends. Certainly at funerals we celebrate a service of witness to the Resurrection.
However it felt like witnessing to the Resurrection through funerals had become the norm. I recently prayed a self-serving prayer (imagine that). It was something like this: "Dear God, please help me and this church to have more baptisms than funerals for a change."
So far this year funerals have outnumbered baptisms 6 to 4 . That's not a ratio, it is the actual number of six funerals to four baptisms.
For further advanced statistical analysis our 4 baptisms this year is a 300% increase over last year's one baptism. I'm not good at math so that may not be correct.
As a result of these four infants baptized I say YAY GOD!
This Sunday when we worship with an All Saints Day theme we are having a baptism as part of worship as well. Remembering the death of self in Christ as it is linked to the death of this earthly vessel in which we reside brings into focus a generational tie not only of the people mentioned in worship, but to the followers of Jesus and The Way.
Viewing our salvatonl from either the beginning or the ending of this life can help us not look at numbers (except when writing a blog, then I'm finished thinking about it until statistical reports are due)
It reminds us of the rich heritage of being linked to God and one another. It reminds me of a line from one of our Presbyterian Creeds. "In life and in death we belong to God."
Help us Jesus to see who we are and whose we are. Help us live into the lives you are calling us to live as those saved by Grace through faith. Help us bear witness to your Grace. Amen.
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