What is a saint? Why celebrate saints? Who is a saint? These are the kinds of questions our class of Sunday School scholars pondered in preparation for the Feast of All Saints 2013. We began considering these questions a couple weeks in advance of the celebration so that we could participate fully in its festivities.
Our class took a field trip from our Sunday School room to the church proper. We gathered just immediately west of the rood screen, in front of the magnificently carved crucifix.
As leader of the class, I asked, “Do you know what a saint is?” If these young scholars could answer affirmatively and give a reasonable definition, my job would be much easier, I thought.
But they couldn’t.
So how could I explain what a saint is in terms they would understand? How could I engage them? This is important stuff! How could I connect with them?
“Do you know what a hero is?” I gently inquired.
Both Maria and Julia (aged five and seven respectively) answered: “Yes! That’s a person who does something good for someone else – like a firefighter rescuing a cat from a tree or a police officer catching bad guys who stole from an old lady.” Ah, now we had a connection!
Then I said that saints are “God heroes,” i.e., people who follow Jesus and do what is right.
Our class began walking through the church, looking at the statues and windows depicting “God heroes”: Mary and Joseph, Simeon, the Three Kings, Elijah, Moses, Luke, David, Matthew, and others. These people were God heroes because they did what God wanted them to do.
After we looked at the statues and windows, I directed the kids each to take a pew on the south side of the aisle (there is only one aisle in our church); I took a pew on the north side. We each leaned way back in our own pew to look at the ceiling. We agreed that it looked a lot like the inside of an upside-down pirate ship. We’d seen those on TV and in the movies.
To wrap up our field trip, I said that all the folks depicted in the windows and statutes in the church were saints because they did what God wanted them to do: They served aboard God’s ship! They listened to its Captain, told the truth, performed deeds of kindness, and reached out to those outside the ship’s safety. In the ship, they were safe from drowning in the stormy waters or from getting eaten by sharks.
I told them, “When we serve aboard God’s ship, we are saints too. We are God heroes just like the folks in the windows.”
So today, what’s our ship like—yours and mine? Is it a place to ride out life’s storms in safety, away from the sharks? Does its crew actively keep on the lookout for persons perishing in the turbulent waters around it? Does it provide a place of refuge for those in distress? Are we staying onboard the ship? Are we serving its Captain? Or are we busy doing something else?
“I sing a song of the saints of God.” On All Saints 2013, I rejoice in those who serve aboard the ship – for on more than one occasion, they have reached out to me and saved me from the deep waters that would swallow me up. TB2G!