O.K. Betty. You asked for it…
My dictionary defines “Saint” in the following terms:
1. A person officially recognized esp. by canonization, as being entitled to public veneration and capable of interceding for people on earth.
2. A person who has died and gone to heaven.
3. A member of any various religious groups, esp. a Latter-Day Saint.
4. An extremely virtuous person.
Then I pulled out my Thesaurus. It had these words listed: angelic, godly, holy, righteous, upright, upstanding, virtuous, worthy, devout, God-fearing, pious, sainted, etc…
O.K. So Christians are some of these things. I am not Catholic, so I don’t really understand the whole sainthood thing although I am familiar with a few like St. Nicholas, St. Patrick, St. Valentine, and St. Francis. I know that some call Mary and the apostles saints. There are many men and women honored with that title, but I’ve never met one of them.
Enter the denomination I grew up in. As I mentioned in my last post, we have a big thick book that lists all of our “sister” churches, or as we like to put it, the churches in the brotherhood. It is titled, “Where The Saints Meet”. I have always thought that title smacked of indignation for any other “brotherhood” of believers. This title unnerves me. Since when do we have the right to think we are the remnant of true believers, and everyone else is just a bit left of center, or even way off the path. I have been a recovering legalist for several years now, and though I still get twinges of “but I know I’m right and the scripture REALLY says this”, I am disappointed that I was taught to think that way. I was actually chastised as a teen for visiting youth group with friends from school. Our church didn’t even have one! Instead of some of the adults in my life being grateful for me being friends with other Christian teens, it seemed they were worried that I was socializing with kids that were being led astray and would end up in hell. Do other denominations feel that way? Some of the above mentioned people would be upset by my even saying we are a denomination. (rolling my eyes)
I have really struggled with my feelings about my denomination and at times I’ve wanted to flee, and have. Then I was made aware of some “unusual” churches in our brotherhood. Churches that changed their name on their sign so they would attract those that are turned off by the reputation we have gained as know-it-alls and exclusionists. Churches that welcome unwed pregnant women. Churches that gave vast amounts of money to support not only their own ministries within the body, but ministries in their communities started by other churches and organizations. A church that placed ashtray cans outside of their doors so the street kids who attended would get the message that they are welcome and wanted. Churches that had ministers and elders that had experienced the horrors of divorce firsthand. A church that had a minister come forward to admit an affair, and instead of showing him the door, they are surrounding him and loving him and his wife. (The outcome is not yet decided.)I even attended a church that instead of splitting like I hear about all the time, they merged with another church because they knew they had a lot to gain by building those relationships and becoming one. I attended one of these unusual churches last Sunday…you can read about it in a few days in my next post.
Where the saints meet? I believe that’s heaven. No matter how holy, righteous, God-fearing, and virtuous we become, we are still sinners. Everyone of us. I don’t want to be a part of a group that calls themselves saints when I know I won’t be able to live up to the title. I guess I’ll continue to worship at the places where the sinners meet. It’s where I belong and where I’ll stay until God has perfected me or He comes to take me home.