Faith Works 10-31-09
Not Too Many Saints On the Ballot
We've got an Election Day coming Tuesday, and many important choices on local representation and civic issues.
These are the votes that most directly make an impact on our daily lives (or drives), and call for discernment that considers people, personalities, and positions.
I'll admit to having a tendency to vote for candidates I've met, even when I don't entirely agree with them, policy-wise. That's not a terribly thoughtful standard in a time when I know that I don't spend as much time at home as I used to, or as my parents did, so who knows which candidates tried to knock on my door and got crickets?
Prayer and a seeking after more careful consideration is one spiritual fruit that an election can help produce. Not that election campaigning tends to promote that, but if you want to step back from the agitation and anxiety and frenzy that much political advertising can bring into our homes and heads, you have to intentionally cultivate a little more interior peacefulness to get there.
As you think about how and for whom you want to vote, see what it takes to set aside all the fears and aimless emotionalism, and ask for guiding signs that are rooted in calm, and confidence, and hope.
Trick-or-Treat is behind us, Time Change (Fall back, one hour!) is tomorrow, and it is also "All Saints Day" in some traditions, the root of Hallowe'en as the eve of "All Hallows" as ye olde English has it, as "gospel" is good news from the same linguistic source.
Saintliness is one quality you could look for in candidates, and the past "examples of heroic faith," which is one definition of what a saint is, can be a guide as well. To be perfectly candid, if not perfectly saintly myself, there aren't many saints to choose from in any party, and the candidates and office holders I know personally would likely agree without reservation. There's something about public life that isn't terribly conducive to sainthood, which is probably why Saint Paul said in Romans how important it is for us to pray for them!
Yet there's another definition of saint to consider, which simply encompasses all of us in the community of the baptized. Paul does talk about "the saints" in his letters in ways that make it clear he means the whole membership of the church, and in the Reformation, which led to so much backing away from talking about saints and sainthood, Martin Luther said "To forget that we are saints is to forget Christ and to forget our baptism."
So when Christians gather, there is a sense in which you are surrounded by saints, not just in that "great cloud of witnesses" mentioned in Hebrews, but next to you in the pew. They may appear no more saintly that the candidates you vote for on Tuesday, but today, they should point you towards God, which is the real function of a saint in any tradition.
Sunday afternoon, with All Saints' Day falling on most churches' day of worship, there's also a chance to get together with saints who can surprise you even more than the saint five rows over back in your own congregation. The Licking County Coalition of Care is holding their annual Gospel Celebration at the Midland Theatre, starting at 4:00 pm. Tickets are $20, with the proceeds going to maintain their work tying together the efforts of congregations all across the county to serve those who fall through the more official safety nets (which have more than a few holes in them these days). And they even invited me back to MC all the fun!
Choirs and ensembles from churches, academic institutions, and just gathered up from friends who love to sing and play, all will give us a couple of hours to spend with the saints. Where else would you want to be on the afternoon of All Saints' Day, anyhow?
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he's honored to help www.coalitionofcare.com again this year. Tell him about a saint you know at email@example.com or follow Knapsack @Twitter.com.