Lenten Devotional: March 15th
The communion of saints
One Christian theologian once defined a saint as a "figure from the Christian past whose life has been insufficiently researched." But I like what the great theologian Paul Tillich said, "that to be a saint is not to be a perfect person. A saint is not a saint because he or she is perfect, but because he or she is transparent. Through him or her, something bigger and better and more glorious shines."
And then I really like what Van Gogh once wrote to his brother Theo. He said, "When I paint the saints, I am trying to paint men and women so that we can see that they are surrounded by the eternal light. I am trying to let that light of God shine through them onto you. Through the radiance and vibration of color I am trying to do what the old painters did with halos."
That's what the saints do. It is those people who throughout the generations have let the light of God shine through them onto you. They are the ones who encourage us so that we might also be a light to the world, and I think it begins because they see the light of Christ in us.
I have told some of you the story about a candidate for ordained ministry being tested on his theology. He had to be examined by a committee to make sure that his theology fit within their tradition.
He was being examined by veteran ministers and lay leaders, and they were asking him all kinds of theological questions. There was one old minister in the group who has asked the same question for 35 years to every single ministerial candidate.
He says to the candidate, "Will you look out the window?" The candidate does. Then the old minister says, "tell me when you see a person out the window." The candidate responds, "I see one."
"Do you know that person," asks the old minister. "No, sir, I don't," the candidate replies.
"Good," says the old minister. "Would you describe that person theologically?"
The old minister had been asking that question for 35 years and said that he found the answers tended to fall in one of two categories. Either they said, "That person is a sinner in need of the saving power of God in Jesus Christ," or they said, "whether that person knows it or not, they are a child of God, embraced by the love of God, surrounded by the light of God."
The old minister commented, "I suppose both of those answers, technically speaking, are correct, but it has been my experience that the candidates who give the second answer make the better ministers because they see people not just as they are, but as they will be in the future of God."
I think that is how you get started being a saint. A saint sees someone in the light of Christ. They see people not just as they are, but as they will be in the future of God. Thank God for the saints in your life this morning and then challenge yourself.
Will you see with the eyes of a saint today?
Rev. Brent Barry, Pastor, NorthPark Presbyterian Church