Yesterday, running around the parish in my cassock and surplice, preparing for Evening Prayer for the Feast of Ss. Simon and Jude, I had thIS thought–I am not alone. You see, I had this deep feeling that nobody would be there for Evening Prayer this week. There were too many things to distract– the Republican debate, the World Series, and other distractions and activities. I was a little down that I had prepared and nobody was going to be there. But that thought reminded me of what I was preparing to teach on this Sunday.
This week, I’m preaching on running the race to Sainthood at my friend’s parish, Holy Trinity, Flowery Branch. I’m using the imagery of Matthew 5 to connect with the heavenly imagery of Revelation 7 showing there is no disconnect between grace, good works, and worship. The main idea– we don’t run this race alone, even when we feel like it, there is a great cloud of witnesses that are cheering us on, saints known and unknown. That cheering, which probably brings to mind the idea of football game or track meet, is more like a prayer meeting. These cheers are prayers to God for us and on our behalf. So since we have the full host of heaven behind us, let us worship and serve with our full selves.
And yesterday, as I said evening prayer, in our chapel, alone, I knew that while I only heard my own voice, I was joined by a multitude of voices. Saints Jude and Simon were praying with me, my grandfather was praying with me, the whole host of heaven was praying with me. I was united in this thin space with the Saints and angels around the heavenly throne in praise of the Glorious Trinity– Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I didn’t feel alone, even though it looked like it physically.
I get it if you have problems with invocation of the Saints. There has been a lot of abuse within the Church of the Saints, using them as a substitute for Christ in our prayers for intercession. A lot of times, we look at Saints, and wonder why we even honor some as more special than others. I don’t have a great answer, other than, we remember some Saints because of the vivid work of grace we can see in their lives. They are worthy of honor, not because they were good people, but because in them, others may see how their lives can be changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s why I have icons in my house– not to worship a person who is no longer physically with us– but to use them as windows into how God’s work in their lives can be the same in my life. Jesus said, “He is not God of the dead, but of the living,” in response to the Sadducees’ questioning him about the resurrection. St. Paul says in Ephesians that we have been ‘made alive with Christ.’ These saints, known and unknown, are not dead, but alive in Christ, awaiting the Second Advent. With all that being said, I will proudly sing the Litany of the Saints on my ride to church on Sunday morning, and you may not, but in asking them to pray for “us,” I’ll make sure to include you in that anyway!