These thoughts started a conversation that was had at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, November 5, 2017. The discussion was based upon a reading from John 8:12, Ephesians 5:1-14, and the “Nunc Dimittis.”
I have developed a handout to accompany this teaching and, hopefully, further the discussion in your home or small group. You can download it here.
Today, in the life of the church, we celebrate All Saints’ Sunday. It is a conglomeration of two days: All Saints’ Day, celebrated on November 1, and All Souls’ Day, celebrated on November 2. In the Western Church, we’ve celebrated these days for about 1,000 years. As protestants, we combine them and use it is an opportunity for us, as a community of faith, to remember those who have been exemplars in the faith and to remember those who have died within our community. We set aside a day to remember those who “have seen…salvation” and now walk in God’s light.
It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If we want to truly honor the lives of the saints and the Christ they sought to follow, then perhaps the best thing we can do is imitate them—seek to see what they saw, and live as they lived. We are all called to live holy lives: to live like saints. What does it mean to live like a saint? Who are the examples you’re imitating?
What is a faithful disciples of Jesus Christ?
Who do you look to as exemplars of the faith? saints of God worthy of imitation? Why? What makes these people faithful followers of Christ?
Our faith is as strong as our examples.
Kenda Creasy Dean, in her book, Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church suggests that the reason young persons, in particular millennials, are dropping out of church is because we have not offered them a durable enough faith to weather the storms of adulthood. It’s not because they haven’t been taught faith: it’s that their faith is shallow. More to the point, Dean suggests that we haven’t modeled the faith of Jesus at all, but instead preached, what she and others call, Moral Therapeutic Deism. The primary tenets of this faith are:
- God exists. God created and ordered the world and watches over life on earth.
- God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other. All world religions teach this.
- The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about yourself.
- God is not involved in my life except when I need God to intervene in my life to solve a problem.
- God people go to heaven when they die.
At its core, this type of faith revolves around us. Its about us and our happiness. It’s not, as the historic faith of the church teaches, about the Triune God who works to reconcile a fallen Creation back to God.
Dean’s research suggests that those young persons who remain active in faith communities through college are those whose parents were/are active in faith and who had/have made deep, more than Sunday morning, connections with other adults who were active in the faith. Faith is learned through relationship. Our faith is as strong as our examples, the relationship we have with the faithful. Who are your examples?
And, just as importantly,
Who are you being an example to? What example are you setting?
May we all seek to live more saintly lives for the sake of Christ, the glory of God, and the transformation of the world.
Therefore, imitate God like dearly loved children. 2 Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. He was a sacrificial offering that smelled sweet to God.
3 Sexual immorality, and any kind of impurity or greed, shouldn’t even be mentioned among you, which is right for holy persons. 4 Obscene language, silly talk, or vulgar jokes aren’t acceptable for believers. Instead, there should be thanksgiving. 5 Because you know for sure that persons who are sexually immoral, impure, or greedy—which happens when things become gods—those persons won’t inherit the kingdom of Christ and God.
6 Nobody should deceive you with stupid ideas. God’s anger comes down on those who are disobedient because of this kind of thing. 7 So you shouldn’t have anything to do with them. 8 You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, so live your life as children of light. 9 Light produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, justice, and truth. 10 Therefore, test everything to see what’s pleasing to the Lord, 11 and don’t participate in the unfruitful actions of darkness.
Walk as a child of the light. Lead a holy, saintly life after the example of Christ so that others might do the same.
Other thoughts and questions:
- Some wise saint once said: be faithful, always, for you may be the only gospel someone ever sees and hears.
 “Liturgy Man: Where did All Saints Day come from, and why do we celebrate it as we do?” by Taylor Burton-Edwards, posted October 4, 2017 < https://blog.umcdiscipleship.org/liturgy-man-where-did-all-saints-day-come-from-and-why-do-we-celebrate-it-as-we-do/> Accessed November 5, 2017.