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Saint(s) Alive!

In last week’s e-Pistle and in Sunday’s sermon, one of three claims I made about God is that “God is not rational.”

Rather, I’m claiming, God is ir-rational, in the sense that God does not color inside the lines we try to draw for him -- lines of reason, logic, and what's practical or possible.

And God is ir-rational in the sense that God does not ration or hold back.

God is far more generous (in grace), extravagant (in welcome), and abundant (in love) than we can ever get our heads around.

Today, in anticipation of St. James’ Day on Sunday, I want to spell out one implication of this claim about God.

In one of the prayers in The Book of Common Prayer we pray: “Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer.”

People we refer to as “saints” are not just good examples. Saints are not just models of faith who are supposed to inspire us in our faith. As the former presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church says, “They are active in their love and prayer. They are companions in the Spirit. And they support and encourage us as we seek to be faithful in our own day.”

That’s not rational.

It really isn’t -- think about it:

We’re saying that saints (even though dead and buried) are active, today, in their love and prayer.

That somehow James (and John, and Teresa of Avila) accompany you and me.

That Peter (and Mary, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer) provide support and encouragement to us as we sit in traffic, worry about a loved one undergoing surgery, try to make wise decisions.

That violates logic, reason; what’s practical or possible.

But that doesn’t make it less true.

We have been held captive to a very narrow-minded world view that what makes something “true” is that it is “factual” -- it meets certain standards of logic, proof, and reason.

Some things are true, even if they are in no way factual.

To take an obvious example, look at Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan. Like his other parables, it is not, nor is it intended to be, factual. It falls into the realm of “once upon a time...”

And yet, because the story is told in response to Jesus’ summary of the Law, “Love God and love your neighbor,” and the follow up question, “Who is my neighbor?”, and because the story gets across the point that the people we are to love are those who make us go out of the way… the stranger… the unknown or unfamiliar, the alien, the inconvenient, the enemy, even!, it is very much a TRUE story.

And yet it “never actually happened” in the way that historians would say that the Civil War actually happened.

Truth does not depend on factuality.

So that’s why we can, with confidence, feel supported by a communion we cannot see, taste, touch or smell: the communion of saints. That’s why we can feel supported by a fellowship that is invisible, but real: the “fellowship of love and prayer.”

See you Sunday -- when we celebrate James, who is active in love and prayer, a companion in the Spirit, our supporter and encourager.


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