I am amused by the opening of Paul’s First Letter to the church in Corinth: he greets them as ‘called to be saints’ before going on to lambast their varied sinfulness! He writes scathingly of their bad practice: their sexual and other relationships are far from ideal, their practice of sharing Communion is actually divisive, they take each other to court, they argue fiercely over the value of spiritual gifts – on this evidence they are even worse than the churches of our own day! And yet the gospel is entrusted to them and they are bidden to share it as boldly as Paul does himself. And so are we. ‘Called to be saints’, Paul says of the Corinthians; he might say the same about us!
November 1st is All Saints’ Day. As Christians we each have a faith which will be stronger at some times than others and our lives are sometimes really loving and sometimes far from it. The core purpose of the Christian church has always been getting the message across, the good news of God’s love in Christ. But, as American poet and wit Ralph Waldo Emerson once said of an opponent: ‘what you are shouts so loud I can’t hear what you say!’ Sadly we must admit that our message is often obscured by our behaviour. Because sceptics and cynics love to point out hypocrisy, we are often caught out, not in gross wrong-doing but in the small things which so easily damage our credibility and our confidence. We do fall short.
And yet… And yet… God offers us both reassurance and a challenge. We are called, called to be saints. Following Jesus is not about stained-glass perfection but about forgiveness, about coping. It’s a journey, a ‘way of life’ in every sense.