Summary: The Lutheran approach to becoming a saint.
Revelation 7:9-17 – “HOW TO BECOME A SAINT” THE LUTHERAN APPROACH
Are you a “saint”? You probably would hesitate to call yourself a “saint.” I’m sure you don’t write the word “saint” in front of your name when you sign things. “I’m no saint,” you probably would say. “A saint is someone like Mother Theresa – you go and live in a third world country somewhere and dedicate your life to helping others – that’s a saint. The Apostle Peter or the Apostle Paul – those guys are saints – the real good people. But me? No way. I’m definitely not a saint.”
Today we are celebrating “All Saints Day.” In the early church, Christians used to set aside certain days throughout the year to remember certain leaders, and they called those leaders “saints.” At one time, it was a good thing – you learned about the lives of some of those Christians from the past – you looked at the example they left behind – remembering a saint, at one time, used to be a good thing.
But then, as would always happen in the early church, things got out of hand. There were too many saints to remember throughout the year. And so the church decided to set aside one day out of the year to remember all the saints, and they called that day “All Saints Day.” At that time in history, something else was getting out of hand too – they people were beginning to elevate the saints to positions that God never intended them to be. Instead of praying to Christ, people began praying to the saints. At that time in history, people were afraid of Christ, because he was portrayed by the church as a punishing judge. The saints seemed much kinder and gentler. And so the people began to ignore Christ and started putting their trust in the saints. No one would ever admit to worshiping a saint, but if you’re praying to someone and trusting in someone – that’s worship as the Bible defines it.
And so, to this day, a “saint” is thought of as one of those really good Christians from the past who still has special powers to help you through your problems. People today have different saints that they pray to in different circumstances. On the internet, you can find a saint for just about every situation. If you have trouble oversleeping, I found out that you are supposed to pray to St. Vitus. If you have trouble twitching (I notice that sometimes during the sermons), you’re supposed to pray to St. Bartholomew the Apostle. If you have some plants outside and you don’t want them to die when the frost comes, you’re supposed to pray to St. Urban. All kinds of saints for all kinds of circumstances – that’s the world in which we live.
And so it’s no wonder that today, you resist the idea of being called a “saint.” “I am definitely not a saint,” you would say. Today, I’m here to disagree with you – according to the Bible, you ARE a saint. You see, a Lutheran has a very unique approach to the word “saint.” If you are a Lutheran, then, you define the word “saint” in a different way than the rest of the confused world in which we live.
Today we are going to look at how a person becomes a “saint” in the eyes of God.
Let’s say that we have a committee here at church, called the “Saint Committee.” And their job is to determine if you should be called a “saint” or not. And so this committee goes into your house while you’re not home, and sets up hidden cameras. They set up microphones all over your house. They set up surveillance equipment at your work. They bug your phone so that they can listen to your conversations. They follow you around, take pictures of you, and take notes on everything you say and do.
Then, after gathering all this information, they meet as a committee, and the chairman says, “Well, what have you learned about so-and-so? (Remember, they’re talking about you.) Is that person a saint?” What do you think they would say, after observing your life so closely?
“He’s no saint,” one of them might say. “I’ve listened to his conversations. I’ve watched what he does. He’s not a saint! He’s a sinner!” Do you think that’s what the committee would say about you?
It is true, that we are sinners, and we have more than earned that title in our lives. If our all of our conversations were taped, and we were watched every day, we would be embarrassed by what other people would see in our lives. And yet, this is not how a person becomes a saint. If it were, then there would be no such thing as a saint. Everyone is sinful, and even the so-called “good” people have skeletons in their closet. No one deserves to be called a saint based on the sins they have committed in their lives.