October 31, 2016

The Rich Inheritance of the Saints

            It usually startles people to learn that the Bible describes followers of Jesus as saints.  That is a term we usually reserve for those whose lives shine more brightly than others, through whom we see the mercy and grace of God more clearly.  It seems that the Risen Christ thinks much more highly of us than we do of ourselves, and inspired Scripture uses this nomenclature.

            Primarily found in the epistles of Paul and Acts, the term saint comes from the Greek work hagios, which means “consecrated to God, holy or sacred.”  It is regularly used in the plural to suggest that communities form saints, and being a Christian is not a solitary enterprise.
            In Ephesians, Paul describes the riches of God’s glorious inheritance among the saints, the immeasurable greatness of divine power available to those who believe.  The same mighty power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work within his body, the church (Ephesians 1:19-23).  This inheritance will allow us to face all that life throws at us with confidence and hope.  And when death draws near, we cling to the hope that we will share in Christ’s resurrection.

Mother Mariam Thresia heals the Maharaja, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

            In more recent years, the celebration of All Saints Day has moved beyond the Roman Catholic Church, and many other traditions are claiming its liturgical significance.  We know that the history of Halloween, and All Hallows Day (All Saints), are bound together.  It is a time of remembering the dead and celebrating their contribution to our lives, and beyond.

Dancing Saints Icon (detail) at St Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, Photo ©David Sanger | San Francisco, California

            It is also an acknowledgement of the communion of saints, which is the belief that the whole Body of Christ, whether in heaven or on earth, remain in relationship.  Those who have died in Christ are not too far away, and holding them in memory and hope contributes to their inheritance.
            I especially give thanks for my teachers, especially those who taught the Bible and theology.  They offered wisdom and a way of engaging the rich heritage of Christian faith.  More important, they lived in ways that made the Gospel come to life.
            Saints help us see the pathway to follow.  Their faithful service and confidence encourages those who remain on the way.  As a cloud of witnesses, they remind us that it is possible to pursue holiness and not give up when hardship comes.

Golden Rule, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

            There are saints in Central’s history, generous persons who so believed in the mission of the seminary that they simply would not let the school die.  They gave their property, their inheritance, their energy, and their prayers for the sake of preparing persons to serve the church and the world.  We give thanks for them, even as our mission continues to depend upon the generosity of saints today.

            Molly T. Marshall

            Central prepares creative leaders for diverse ministry contexts.

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