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Bible Study Guide for Sunday, November 6, 2022

November 6, 2022
  • Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
  • Psalm 149
  • Ephesians 1:11-23
  • Luke 6:20-31

Who are the saints? What is a saint? Why would anyone want to be a saint? The feast of All Saints often begs these sorts of questions. In our Protestant streak as Episcopalians, the title of "saint" raises some hackles, the unwelcome idea of a "spiritual elite" acting as middle management between us and our beloved savior Jesus. If "saint" feels like a loaded term, remember its humble origins: saint, from the Latin sanctus, simply means holy. Then what does it mean to be holy? Our readings today point us towards the holy and joyful vocation of sainthood.

Jesus naturally gives us the most concise summary. He offers blessings upon the downtrodden people who suffer and struggle through our world but do not lose their hope. To be holy, then, rests on perseverance in faith and hope. Perhaps this is one of the most challening and rewarding aspects of striving for holiness. The difficulty of holding on to faith through trials is one Jesus knows deeply - He faced many trials Himself in His time on earth. Jesus offers these blessings to His disciples as He knows their own trials will continue on earth long after He ascends to heaven.

But long-suffering isn't the only dimension of this picture of holiness. Jesus's blessings are on the people whose loving and generous actions build the kingdom of God among humankind - those whose generosity puts to shame even the cynical Romans oppressing His followers. To be holy, to follow in Jesus's footsteps, is also to help the needy. Hunger, poverty, rejection, and sorrow are not signs of failure, and holiness means avoiding complacency and easy comforts.

This still doesn't quite answer the question of why anyone would want to become a saint. So it's about holding on through suffering and helping people - to what end? Paul likely received similar questions about the purpose of following Jesus's teachings. One can only imagine the early Christians who lost heart in the violence of the Roman government.  Paul prays that


with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe[.]


In following Jesus's teachings, our present and our future are thus renewed and transformed by God. We have assurance of our future inheritance, and hope and power in the present moment. What response can be made except gratitude to God and joy in the blessings He has given us?

This gratitude and joy is one of the greatest elements of sainthood. It appears in our collect for the day: "that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you". It's easy to think of this grateful joy as some far-off heavenly state we "come to" after death. However, the psalm also reminds us to "let the praises of God be in [our] throat". Just like helping the needy, we also are called to hold on to joy and gratitude in our daily lives. Thus we begin our walk towards our own sainthood.

– Betsy Noecker


Who are the saints in your life?

What daily practices do you have to cultivate joy?

When your faith lags, how do you hold on?


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