SERMON TITLE: “Who Is a Saint?”
SERMON TEXT: Ephesians 1:1-14
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: March 17, 2019, at First UMC
Since it’s St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it might be good to focus our attention today on the topic of saints. After all, what constitutes a saint, or “Who is a saint?”
A few years ago when I was on a flight back to Salt Lake City from someplace, I was reading a book called American Saint. The passenger in the seat next to me asked me about the book. It turned out that my seat mate was a high level leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and, seeing the title, he was expecting the book to be about Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, or one of those kind of “saints.” When I told him that the book American Saint was about Francis Asbury, the great early leader of American Methodism, he was surprised. Yes, it’s true. Even we Methodists have our saints—probably a lot more of them, and maybe a few less, than most people realize.
Take a story, for example, that goes back to the 1800s, when Methodist preachers traveled from church to church on horseback, and Methodism was growing by leaps and bounds across the country. On this one particular day, a certain bandit confronted one of those Methodist circuit riders and made him get off his horse. When the bandit started to rummage through the man’s saddlebags, the preacher protested,
“You wouldn’t rob a poor preacher, would you, sir?”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” said the bandit. “I didn’t realize you were a preacher. What kind of preacher are you?”
“I’m a Methodist,” was the reply.
“Well, of course, I won’t rob you then!” exclaimed the bandit. “After all, I’m a Methodist myself!”1
It’s pretty clear that just being associated with a certain church isn’t what guarantees sainthood. But what does? Who is a saint, anyhow?
In Roman Catholic tradition, saints are persons who have been officially recognized as having performed one or more miracles. In New Orleans, Saints are persons who play professional football. For our purposes, though, I’m going to say that saints are somewhere in between. My dictionary says that a saint is “1) a holy person, 2) a person who is exceptionally meek, charitable, or patient, 3) saints are those holy persons who have died and are believed to be with God, or 4)—in the New Testament—any Christian.”2
Did you hear that last definition? According to the New Testament, every Christian is a saint. So we can better understand that concept, let’s take a look at how “saint” is explained in Ephesians, chapter one.