From The Garden Bench - Saints
Words by David Hollows
The Ironman Triathlon involves the completion of 140 miles of swimming, biking and running. The 1997 competition in Hawaii is famous for one memorable event; two female competitors hobbled towards the finish line of the final stage of the competition. Totally exhausted both women persevered on wobbly legs until Sian Welch bumped into Wendy Ingraham and both dropped to the ground. Struggling to stand they both attempted to stumble to the finish line only to fall again. Ingraham began to crawl and the crowd applauded. Welch followed and the crowd cheered even louder. Ingraham crossed the finish line in fourth place but she turned and reached out to help Welch across the line. Welch finished in fifth place by taking hold of the outstretched arm of Ingraham. The crowd roared.
Heroes?– for even attempting the competition Saints?– Ingraham for the support she gave under duress when she could have put herself first.
How would you define a saint?
Would you think of the TV programme of the same name and Simon Templar? Are the super heroes of today; Superman, Batman, of the same calibre? How many of the saints in the church calendar could you name? In our communities could we exemplify people we know as a saint owing to their contribution to our society?
Photo by Lisandro Garcia via Unsplash
In the world of Church, Saints are not just characters from the Bible or Middle Age fables we see in stained glass windows. When we read Paul’s many letters in the New Testament he often writes to his contemporaries; the people he defines as saints. So Paul writes to the saints at Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Colossae and Thessalonica.
In his first letter to the members of the early church in Corinth in chapter 1 he outlines his understanding of the characteristics of sainthood; people who are holy in Christ Jesus, living in hope, consecrated, guiltless and irreproachable, full of grace and love.
In Psalm 116 verses 15 saints are faithful servants who serve God in gratitude for His deliverance, who call on His name and honour the words they speak before Him. Such actions represent deliberate choices to walk with God, accept the freedom He offers and develop a relationship with Him
At the end of his letter to the believers in Rome, Paul lists all the saints he knows in the church and names each one; some for a particular reason, others for acts for which there is no explanation. It is simply enough that Paul classifies all these people as saints.
For Paul all these people in the church at Rome are a living legacy to him as he can recall their goodness to him – happy memories For many people across the world, the best remembered saint will be Mother Theresa as they can recall her legacy of words and deeds. For members of the persecuted church in our world, their saints are those brothers and sisters in Jesus who gave them support at a particularly difficult time or non believes who God uses to provide;
Vietnam; the government gave ID cards to everyone in the village except the Christians. When food was delivered the soldiers looked for our ID cards. As we had no ID cards to show them, we did not receive food. We were so hungry but people came to us and brought us rice. It is amazing how God provides.
Saudi Arabia; When Rashid entered his prison cell for the first time, his cell mate, Tareq, stared at him. Rashid felt afraid. Tareq spoke; ‘In my dreams, a man was shown to me. It was your face. You have something to tell me.’ Rashid couldn’t believe that even in prison God was at work and he shared the Gospel with Tareq who accepted Jesus as his Saviour.
Indonesia; although Doctor Rebecca spent more than 2 years in prison for her faith, her time there was nothing but fruitful. Every day she put her trust in God and she was a huge blessing to those around her, helping to transform lives.
If you attend a church community, who do you remember the most? Why do you remember them? What was their impact upon your life and faith? In your local community where you live, who are the people you admire and why? What has been their legacy to you?
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You may or may not consider yourself to be a saint although others may recognise some of the qualities and characteristics of sainthood in you.
But what will be your legacy in your church community or your local community? In the life of your church, what impact would you like your life to have on others? Are you willing to give God the authority of your life so that He can use your faith to make a change for others? So now, it’s over to you.
You may find the following hymns useful; For all the saints (Mission Praise 148) Fill Thou my life (Mission Praise 146)
You may find the following prayers useful;
'You have called us, O God, to be your people. You have loved us and chosen us as your own. Clothe us with your compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Help us forgive one another as you have forgiven us and bind us all together in the perfect unity of your love.' - Colossians chapter 3 verses 12 to 14
Give me, Lord, a stout heart to bear my own burdens, a tender heart to bear the burdens of others and a believing heart to lay all my burdens on you, for you care for us. - Lesslie Newbigin
Come, Lord, that we may share the gifts of your presence with healing of the past; calm our memories with joy for the present. Give life to our existence and hope for our future with a sense of eternity. Give strength for our wills and power for our thoughts. Come with love for our hearts and give affection to our beings. Come, Lord, give yourself to us above all things and help us to give ourselves to you. - David Adam
Photo by Alexey Savchenko via Unsplash
Signing off; your local Lay-worker, David Hollows