Several years ago when my family gathered to plan the liturgy to celebrate my Father’s life, the question arose concerning which hymns we would choose to express his life and his faith. Quickly, one hymn rose to the top of our list: “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.” My brothers and I have fond childhood memories of my Dad humming or singing these words of faith. We often confused the verses but we always ended with “…and there’s not any reason – no, not the least, why I shouldn’t be one too.”
Sometimes it is tempting to think of the Saints of God remembering those saints who have lived their lives in superlatives. When we read children’s books about Saints, we read just this: people who have lived lives that we simply admire and of which we stand in awe. Saint Barnabas was born a Cypriot Jew named Joseph. Barnabas engaged in missionary work to bring Gentiles to the Christian faith. The faith of Barnabas, the ministry of Barnabas are so rich and so widespread, bringing so many to God that this Disciple is remembered for the ages.
Saint Barnabas was truly a Saint. He is a Saint because, as the hymn tells us, “He loved the Lord so dear, so dear.“ That, of course, is the mark of the Saints of God. Barnabas and so many others are saints because they loved their Lord so dear, so dear. Saints do not always engage in superherculean feats. The saints of God live lives where God is first, where all things are done to proclaim and profess God’s majesty and glory. The saints of God are those who, when we look at them, we see God.
Now my favorite stanza of that entire hymn is: “They lived not only in ages past, there are hundreds of thousands still, the world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus’ will. …for the saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too.” This hymn, this celebration of the Saints of God, reminds me that you and I are God’s saints. You and I are beacons which draw others to see God at work in the world about us. In ways both great and small, in fact each and every moment of each and every day, we are called to live our lives pointing to God. In ways simply like offering a smile or a helping hand, in feeding God’s people who are hungry, in bearing witness to where we have seen God, in ways more grand, we have the opportunity to point beyond our selves and instead point to the Divine.
On Sunday in worship, we will read the names and celebrate the lives of those who have gone before us, those who have finished their race. Empowered by their witness, you and I will leave worship to go out into the world as God’s saints. You and I will pray, feed, clothe, teach, and, in a thousand other ways, live as people of God. We will be God’s beloved spreading God’s love and grace wherever we may be. You and I will proclaim that the Saints of God are Barnabas and James, Julian and Agnes. Most importantly, we will proclaim that the Saints of God “are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too.”
The Rev. Sarah Nelson