Passage: Luke 6:20-31
This week the Church celebrates All Saints Day. When we think of Saints our first thought is usually an historical character who was especially good or “holy”.
We’re going to have a quick quiz of your saintly knowledge. Who are these saints and what are they the patron saints of?
- St Francis of Assisi – Patron Saint of Ecology
- St Jude – One of the apostles and Patron Saint of Lost Causes
- St Drogo – Patron Saint of Coffee Shops
I don’t know about you but these are the sort of people I tend to think about when I hear the word “Saints.”
But the bible teaches that we all, if we are Christians – followers of Jesus, we are saints. We aren’t saints because we’re good and holy, we’re saints because Jesus is good and holy and because we are loved. Normal Christians are saints.
(ask someone) What’s your name? … Hello Saint N
Normal Christians are saints. But today’s powerful reading from Luke, is a reminder what it has meant through history and around the world to be a “normal” Christian.
“What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven.”
The Spectator isn’t a Christian magazine, But it had a an article recently called “The war on Christians” which talked about the persecution faced by Christians around the world. Let me tell you some numbers that send my mind into a spin
According to the International Society for Human Rights, 80% of religious discrimination around the world is directed at Christians. For them that’s what it means to be a saint – a normal Christian.
North Korea is probably the most dangerous country in the world to be a Christian. Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, 300,000 Christian saints in North Korea have disappeared and are presumed dead. For them that’s what it means to be a saint – a normal Christian.
Christians face discrimination in 139 nations – that’s almost three quarters of the countries in the world! For them that’s what it means to be a saint – a normal Christian.
On average 1 Christian is killed every hour for reasons related to their faith. One person will be murdered in that way while we meet today. For them that’s what it means to be a saint – a normal Christian.
It is one of the single biggest human rights issues in the world today and it almost never gets in the media.
Today is All Saints day. It’s also International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
It’s a day to give thanks for those amazing examples of faith who we call “saints” down the ages. A day to be moved and inspired by saints like Francis and Jude (and Drogo?) A day to remember that actually all Christians, ordinary Christians are chosen and called saints by God. And a day to remember that what we so often think of as an ordinary Christian is quite different to God’s eye view of his world.
Jesus spoke to those who were his followers about the normal Christian life. We read “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.”
We aren’t saints because we are good and holy but because Jesus is good and holy and we are loved. But at the same time it’s really healthy in our comfortable lives to be reminded that our family, the church around the world pays such a price to be the church.
That actually suffering and paying a high price to be a Christian are normal for our brothers and sisters in the family of the church today.
That we can pray for them and campaign for them.
That we can honour them and learn from them.
That inspired by them, and by the words of Jesus we can face our own challenges with courage. So that when we find it tough to live as Christians and speak out the truth we say “Lord Jesus in myself I’m not very holy, but thank you that you are and you love me and chose me and call me to be one of your saints today. Amen”
The Prayer Stations that followed this talk are: