communion of saints

The communion of Saints –
that mystical collection of the living, dying and dearly departed,
that together, somehow,
are connected to and through Christ
to God in Glory.

Our hymns and our mental imagery together
paint a powerful picture of just what that communion looks like:
glowing, gowned and glorious
– united around the throne of God –
equality (finally) personified.
It is that image that springs to mind week after week
when, without hardly realizing what we are saying,
we profess our belief in “the holy, catholic church, the communion of the saints…”
On those occasions when we do think about it;
when that constantly changing and growing body of believers is invoked
at a funeral, for example,
we remember that we are,
beyond the walls of this church and the boundaries of our own lives,
a part of something very special –
and very much larger than any other  human endeavour.

Yes – in the end, the church is as much a human endeavour
as anything else we offer our time to –
– but what makes it different
is this movement of the Spirit of God
that  somehow binds  us all together in faith,
through the activities of Jesus
– through the witness of his disciples,
and by our continuing curiosity about ‘how it all works’.

So this communion
– the word in Latin means sharing in common –
this commonality of ours, which is constantly changing,
and doesn’t involve nearly enough sharing –
is, quite frankly, not very common at all.

What is common – what does bind us – the thing we all do share
is the blessing of God that does not consider how long we have served,
how well we believed, nor in what way we came to our faith.
Those long dead ‘saints’ are saints, not because they were perfect,
nor because they lived their lives closer to the time of Christ –
(so to be, somehow, closer to glory by default) –

no, they are saints because they too are (were) loved by God who,
believe it or not, loves each of us with the same enthusiasm,
the same abundance, and the same gracious generosity.
That is, I think, what Jesus so curiously illustrates in this perplexing parable.
That those hired early cry “foul”
reflects on their mis-understanding,
not on the fairness (or unfairness) of the master’s choice.
For it is the Master’s choice,
to make all in that mystical communion,
equal in the eyes of God.

It is certainly not fair
– and heaven help us if God ever adopts our notions of fairness –
and it is not easily understood.
It is, however, good and right and just, somehow,
that those of us who arrive at dusk are counted,
in God’s estimation,
every bit as valuable as them who worked from dawn.
As part of what Hebrews refers to as ‘That great cloud of witnesses’
we stand equal to those figures whom we count as giants in the faith.
The last are first again – and God’s glory is greatly magnified.


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