Looking around a church we might well look at statues or stained-glass windows with images of saints.
They might seem very removed from our lives; perhaps a definition of saints would be “people who are not like us”. They are either flat, one dimensional, or cold and unyielding stone.
In contrast, our lives are multidimensional and pliable but, surely, not saintly?
Is it possible to be saintly and in a mess?
Surely none of the saints had the same problems with their children, or their marriages, or their relationships or their jobs as we do.
I wonder if they had jobs, it’s hard to see how saints could have the time to be saints if they had jobs. Perhaps most importantly, to be a saint you have to be dead. So, it looks like we can say, with total conviction saints were not, and are not, people like us.
But, in reading the beatitudes properly we can see a real message of reality and hope.
“For theirs is… for they will…”
Jesus acknowledges the suffering that He sees around Him, sees today, but He also promises a future without that suffering.
The kingdom of heaven is found in the present and future experience and reality of peace, “shalom”: a right relationship with God and one another which may only be found in Christ. It is given, not earned. It is the property of the “poor in spirit”, not the confident in spirit.
“Poor in spirit” is an acknowledged need at the heart of our lives and not a description of our weaknesses. It expresses a reliance upon God rather than a satisfaction with ourselves.
The qualities described in the beatitudes with apparent approval challenge many of our presuppositions of the signs of God’s blessing.
Each beatitude commends those who presently suffer in weakness and promises their resolution will be at the hands of God.
And, this year certainly, we can say that we have all suffered.
But, on All Saint’s Day we can acknowledge a loving truth; that we are ALL saints.
The beatitudes describe as “blessed” the lives of those who struggle, and suffer, and know their weakness.
These are not the lives of stained glass, or plaster saints, but the lives of real people learning to rely on God in our everyday successes and failures, working together for that day when God’s purposes will finally be revealed.
Our hope is not that we will live our lives like some imaginary successful life lived by one or other saint from history, but that we will know ourselves accepted by God’s grace as members, now, of His family of saints; with our membership guaranteed not by what we have done for Him, but by what He has done for us.
We are challenged to live out the truth of our lives, that we are children of God, as a response to what Christ has done for us, knowing that our present experience will be one of struggle, but encouraged by the future hope of glory.