October 31 is a pretty important day, especially this year. Yes, you know what I mean. It’s Reformation Sunday, our annual recognition of the beginning of the movement that began Protestantism. It’s an important historical moment for anyone, but especially so if you’re part of that tradition.
And I mean no disrespect to it when I acknowledge that wasn’t your first thought when I mentioned October 31st. It’s Halloween. As much as I’d love to see some kids at the door trick-or-treating as Martin Luther or John Calvin, it’s not likely we’ll see much crossover there. But both deserve your attention and both have origin stories that are interesting and influential. Please learn more.
Thing is, they’re both part of an interesting little bundle of days on the church calendar and it’s the one that comes next to which I’d like to draw your attention for a minute. Both those days are the eve of All Saints Day or All Hallows (that’s what gives us “Halloween”), a day to remember and reconnect with saints.
Who those people are may depend on your faith tradition, but we’ve tended to think of them as the historic figures that we look to as great examples of The Faith. These are the people we most readily point to as people in whom we have seen the teachings of Jesus lived out, the Spirit alive, the light of God shining through. These are the superheroes of faith we can only aspire to be like.
And, unfortunately, that’s where we stop. Somehow those saints have become distant from us, and not just in the past. Somehow, they’ve become something we, with our faults and frailties could never be, something we put in stained glass or a statue on a pedestal. Somehow those saints have all become not just superheroes, but superhuman. And they’re not. They’re us.
Jesus didn’t choose twelve perfect examples of his teaching. He chose twelve ordinary, everyday people who learned and experienced something special and, despite their very real flaws, became not something different, but even more of themselves. And not just those twelve, but the many who have responded to the example of love and grace that reconnects us to God and to the creative, life-giving power of the spirit.
That’s where Jesus takes us, teaching us to be more of who we truly are, both the divine and human. Love God, love your neighbour as yourself, he says. The capacity to love and the desire for relationship, these are within us. Jesus calls us to live them out, to overcome the obstacles we place in our own way and the obstacles others put in theirs.
You may know people from history that are examples of that, whether they have St. in front of their name or not. The church has many examples and perhaps equally as many examples of the opposite, just like the world. You may know people in your life right now who are inspiring examples of good that are meaningful to you. You may be that to others.
The point is, look for the good. Look for the kindness, the generosity of spirit, the love and the grace. It’s not only in statues and stained glass. It may be hiding in plain sight.