I know Martin Luther posted his Theses on All Hallow’s Eve because he knew everyone would be coming to Wittenberg Cathedral for Mass the next day, but I also appreciate how his timing came to transform All Saints’ Day for us. Originally a commemoration of the Saints who have gone on to Glory, November 1 is now a day for Lutherans to celebrate the joyous news that that we are all saints. The communion of saints, the body of Christ, is made up of our brothers and sisters in faith – all striving, all stumbling, all forgiven.
It is also a day for us to remember Dr. Luther’s teaching that we are “simultaneously sinner and saint.” (His Latin phrase, simul justus et peccator translates literally as “righteous and at the same time a sinner.”) The graphic above reads “saint” until you turn the page 180 degrees – and then it reads “sinner.” It was designed to illustrate this paradox, that even while we are children of God, saved by His grace alone and inspired to do great good, we retain the ability to fall from that grace and to do great harm.
Which side of our nature, then, should define us? Which does the world see most often? If God sees us as his saints, shouldn’t our neighbors see us in the same way? But do we show them the same face in our daily dealings that we show God in our daily prayers? Do we set aside anger and judgment and offer them love and peace? If we are truly children of grace, we burn with the desire for all to see God in us. It is therefore our responsibility to wrestle with that conflict at the center of our human condition, and emerge on the side of love, forgiveness, and truth each and every day.
On this day, in commemoration of those who went before us, who taught us to love the Lord and work for His Kingdom, let us pledge to follow in their footsteps. Let us commit ourselves to service and love, that we may show the world that, through His grace, we are more saint than sinner.
“Search me, God, and know my heart;test me and know my anxious thoughts.See if there is any offensive way in me,and lead me in the way everlasting.”Psalm 139:23-24