A layman’s progress

Monthly reflections from Terry Hawes, lay preacher at St John’s

November 2020

All Saints Day occurred on Sunday Nov 1.  It’s the day when the church honours its saints, living & passed, known & unknown.  Many famous saints are known to us e.g. St George, St Andrew, St David, St Patrick.

Those of us who worship often state that we believe in the communion of saints; this communion being the unity between those presently on earth & those who passed before,  But although the church formally declares some to be saints, e.g. Mary Magdalene relatively recently, there are many among us who are not known or declared to be so – how can that be? 

The answer lies in who/what constitutes a saint.  The word derives from the Latin “sanctus”, meaning holy.  John Ch 11 v 40 says that if we believe, then we will see the glory of God, & it seems reasonable to think that only the holy will see God.  So all who believe are holy, according to John.  I don’t generally feel very holy – I guess most of you would feel the same.  Fortunately for us it is God who declares us to be justified, i.e. being made right with Him; it’s not our decision otherwise there would be precious few able to be recognised as such, given our failings here on earth.

Matthew, recounting the words of Jesus in Ch 5 v 1 – 12 provides a blueprint of the way to holiness, identifying humility, compassion, love, gentleness & peace.  If we were to meet a saint, we would hope to feel those qualities emanating from them, & hopefully we might be inspired to emulate them.  If feeling inadequate at the thought, we would do well to recall the words of Paul, reminding us that none are perfect, that all fall short, & we should take this as encouragement not censure, because God accepts us warts & all.  That’s not to say it’s therefore acceptable to be content with our inadequacies, but neither should we be consumed by them.  Our journey to heaven starts here on earth with a resolution to do better for God.  So when you ponder on who the saints might be, include yourself in their company, purely because God wants it to be so – the baptised believers are His saints.  If you haven’t been baptised then you can be, that’s your choice.  Baptism, along with confirmation, is an outward declaration of an inner state; a state which determines to clothe ourselves in the qualities outlined earlier, & which make up a life pointing towards God.  When we are doing that we are pleasing to God who sees all that we have been, all that we are, & all that we shall be through His intentions.  Our little stumbling efforts towards Him are what makes us saints, like children stumbling towards adulthood.  While thinking of that, of how children are in a hurry to grow up & be tall, let’s remember how we miss their childhood as they grow, how we loved them for being small, & not be too hard on ourselves when we fall over & scrape our spiritual knees, because God loves His children like we love ours.  We know they’ll grow up just as God knows that we will.

So please keep taking your own small steps, knowing that God takes all that you do, all that you are, all that you will be, & adds it to all the things He has made.  And remember that He made you to love you, He loves the good that you do, & that you are a saint purely because you believe in Him & He wants you to be so.