From St. Paul, writing to the Colossians:
“For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (3:3)
And from St. Paul writing to the Galatians:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (2:20)
Today is the feast day by which Christianity proves itself. All Saints’ Day. Christianity proves itself because it makes saints, and we celebrate them today. Christianity results in women and men whose lives have been changed, whose lives have been enriched, whose lives have been transformed into the image of their maker and their Savior. Transformed. And yet more than transformed, for the life of their Savior lives in them and they mystically live in Him. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”
If Christianity did not make saints, there would be no point to it. No point at all. It would be nothing more than a dozen or so empty beliefs which look like superstition. It might be thought to be oppressive and ignorant. It might even be reckoned something to get rid of for the common good. If Christianity did not make saints, all those things might well be right and proper.
But again, as I said, today – All Saints’ Day – Christianity proves itself, for Christianity makes saints. Those who follow Jesus, and acknowledge Him as Lord, and who receive Him mystically by water and bread and wine live by His life. And their lives make known His life, His love, His strength, His courage, His peace. They – saints – are His body. They – saints – are His risen body in the world, and they – saints, Christians – make a difference in the life of the world, for they bring Christ, really and truly and bodily, into the life of the world. They are his real presence in the life of the world. They know Christ, and they make him known. Today – All Saints’ Day – Christianity proves itself to be true.
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From the Gospel today, we heard this: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. . . . Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” ( Mt. 5:6, 10 )
There are all kinds of saints, just as there are all kinds of people, for sanctity does not destroy personality; rather it enhances it. The life of Christ within makes persons more themselves. They become who they really are.
There are all kinds of saints, just as there are manifold and various gifts bestowed upon men and women by God’s Holy Spirit. The Spirit grants what is needed to make Christ known in the world. Wisdom, knowledge, faith, love, healing, prophecy, discernment, hope, courage, and more are gifts of the Holy Spirit to women and men who – saints – make Christ known in the world.
This morning we remember in particular a young man who was converted to Christ in this church. Jonathan Myrick Daniels. On Easter Day in 1962 he had an overwhelming experience of the risen Christ which utterly changed his life. Before, he was wavering, confused, without a sense of purpose; afterwards he discovered, or rather, he was given a vocation.
We know very little, nothing really, about his involvement in the Advent before or after that Easter Day. But, as my cousin David Foote reminded me, we do know the one thing which was important: that day Christ invaded his life and changed it, transformed it, and the gift he received in his conversion was a hunger and thirst, a passion for righteousness and justice. This became the guiding principle of his life and it led to his death, defending a child from a hate-filled murderer. He stepped in front of her and took the bullet.
I’m not going to dwell on this today. I’ve made copies of a short biography of Jonathan Daniels. They’re at the back of the church. Take one and read it. It is the account of continual conversion. The Risen Christ was always with him. Shortly before his death he wrote something which sounds remarkably like St. Paul:
“… I began to know in my bones and sinews that I had been truly baptized into the Lord’s Death and Resurrection, and that in the only sense that really matters, I am already dead, and my life is hid with Christ in God.”