Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Saints and Parables

Most of the stories that Jesus told, parables as they are more often termed, were just that, stories – stories put together to illustrate a point. And yet, though they were apparently not about actual people, they could well have been. They were surely about the sort of people that you might encounter every day. Was there a Samaritan who provided the model for what we now know as the parable of the good one? Probably not, but there could have been. Was there an actual farmer sowing seed who didn’t get it all to land in the right place? Actually there were probably loads of those. Was there a woman who was delighted to find a lost coin? A father whose wayward son finally returned home? A woman who baked bread? A tax-collector who so genuinely prayed? The stories are all about ordinary people – and the stories about ordinary people are used to describe the Kingdom of God. November 1st is All Saints Day. When we talk about saints, I guess our first thought tends to be about people who we regard as specially holy. Possibly some of those who appear in the pages of the Bible – Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Perhaps the Gospel writers – Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Or there are others amongst the early church leaders – Saint Augustine and Saint Ambrose, Saint Francis. Or, if we want to move more up to date, we will probably think about people like Martin Luther King, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Mother Teresa. And, of course, all these people offer us great examples of being a saint. But we are all called to be saints. Being a saint is nothing special – well, actually it is something very special. But it is not anything that we might do that is the special thing that makes us a saint. The special thing comes from God – and is there for all of us. The particular, and different, word that we sometimes use to describe God is holy. God is holy. And the wonderful thing is that we all have the chance to grab a piece of the action that we might call holiness – because God offers it to us. God is reaching out to us. In the days of Jesus’ earthly life, the Pharisees and others thought it very easy to get contaminated. If you were in contact with something that they would have described as ‘unclean’ then it was inevitable that the uncleanness would spread in to you. But Jesus turned the notion upside down. He could see that it was perfectly possible, indeed far more likely, that God’s goodness and love would transform the things that are wrong with us. And so sainthood is possible – even for us. Indeed, it is more than possible – we are called to it.

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