*The following artile was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, November 6th 2021
Remembering “saints” who have died and reflecting on how we live as beloved and broken people, now.
As I write this, it is All Saints Day in much of Christianity, and celebrated locally in many churches, either on November 1 or on the following Sunday as All Saints Sunday. In the community where I co-serve, people are invited to gather for worship and name those who have died in the congregation over the past year and anyone else they wish to remember, and to light a candle for each one. It is moving to see the over 100 candles burning as we leave the worship space and each person they represent, and what they mean to us, and how they remain with us. And by faith, all they mean to God, blessed and broken, and their remaining with God forever.
The term “saints,” may evoke images of extraordinary people who have lived exceptionally “good” lives for us to emulate. But we understand saints to be before us and among us. And as Martin Luther said and demonstrated, we remember them as simultaneously just - saints, and sinners.
This is a central theological/spiritual paradox for Lutheran Christians. It identifies being made in right relationship with God and one another and all creation entirely by God’s gracious acting through Jesus – saints, and simultaneously being broken people in a broken world, failing and falling from all God intended us to be in relationship to one another, all creation and God – sinners.
But the words “saint and sinner” can be fraught with difficult experiences and meanings, especially for those who have been and are oppressed by Christianity. For Indigenous peoples, being treated as sinners by the church, including by those it held up as saints, is a traumatic legacy for which we must confess our sin, be held accountable, and seek right relationships as all God’s people together.
And so I wonder if the words, “beloved and broken” better speak this important truth. And as more than just theological talk, if they inform how we see one another and better live together as beloved and broken people, in this beloved and broken world.
What would change in us and among us, if first we saw one another, all people, in all our diversity, as I trust God sees us, as beloved? This is especially challenging when someone holds views so different from my own. And it is not about minimizing or ignoring anything that is hateful or harmful, or my not being held accountable for this brokenness in me with my neighbour. But, in increasingly polarized times when people are either right or wrong, in or out, good or evil, saint or sinner, often changing in the instant of a social media post, doesn’t seeing everyone as beloved, challenge my responsibility to interact, to empathize, to realize what might be possible together, as beloved all! And! broken all! Including part of broken systems and structures, that oppress some and privilege others. And broken in myself and living in a creation that is increasingly broken by our human actions and failure to see and treat this planet and its climate as beloved.
Beloved and broken, as human beings, individually and collectively, as part of creation. Is this the truth of who we are? And in seeing that truth in one another, a new beginning, for every person, for humanity collectively, for this beloved planet that is our only home?
I see you beloved of God. As I hope you see me, beloved and broken, and that as a place of gracious new beginning together. Blessed All Beloved and Broken Day, in all our relations.