Dressing up the Saints

November 1st is All Saints Day, and so this Sunday in Children’s ministry, we had an All Saints Day party. I was delighted to meet two children today – we went from 3-5 kids which is pretty super exciting for me. I’m not into numbers, but this was an event specifically to bring in more people and it worked! I will spare you my rant on institutionalized church and my struggles with it, and what I am finding as I work for a church again (and I should say, none of these struggles are specific to any particular church, but rather church in general).

we talked about some of the great heroes of our faith and why we remember them. We talked about how they can encourage us and how we can live lives pleasing to God now whether we are young or old. A particularly beautiful moment was when we were deciphering the meaning of the prayer of St. francis – and one of the children excitedly claimed “this is so cool!”. How beautiful is that? we played games, decorated cupcakes and made costumes.

I dressed up as St. Francis – one of my personal heroes of the faith. On my way home, I was thinking a lot about how we dress up the saints… our pictures of them leave us with a sense of awe for their holiness and greatness. But these people were as utterly as human as I am. think of paul – who persecuted Christ, Peter who denied Christ, St. Augustine who lived quite the party life prior to conversion and all the other saints who committed abominable things! They are people – with strengths and weaknesses, beauty and ugliness, who built people up and tore people down.

The life of the Christian is far more messy than the stained glass windows and beautiful choral arrangements depict.

Also, there is a cost. When Christ said to pick up your cross and follow him, he wasn’t kidding. Today, in my robe, I was thinking about St. Francis and how he came from a rich family that had their own business and he was to carry out the tradition of the family. Instead he chose poverty and to live among the poor and devote his life to Christ and those whom Christ loves. Sounds lovely. But he was disowned by his family.

I remember during my early university years, a young girl from a country where Christians are persecuted started hanging out with me. I had the huge privilege of being with her as she prayed for Christ to become the saviour of her life. But I remember feeling the pain in my heart at what she would experience when she headed home. Would she be able to tell others of her new found joy?

I struggle as a Sunday school director to think of how to best teach Scripture. I mean, Sunday school lessons tidy up messy stories so nicely. we pick verses that we like and sound nice and teach them while leaving out the rest of the verses. Whenever people quote scripture at me and construct a theology on a handful of verses, I like to bring up that scripture also speaks of bashing babies’ heads against the rocks. Funny, in a year of reading through the lectionary, I’ve never come across that verse.

My faith was mocked growing up. I remember sharp words of my parents both before and after I left home that cut deep. I stood up for justice, truth and peace. I said that something was horribly wrong and could no longer happen. And when I wasn’t listened too, I brought another person into the picture to confront my parents. And when all else failed, I invoked the justice system. The cost has been great. I lost my family. I have a brother who I have never met and whose birthdate remains a complete mystery to me. I’ve missed 8 1/2 years of my siblings’ lives and I see pictures and online videos of them – and while I beam with pride over them, my heart breaks for I do not know them, and they do not know me. I have struggled with faith – for how could a good God allow such suffering? And how could he not answer an earnest young girl’s pleas for safety?

Sunday school never taught me the messiness of faith. The cleaned up stories in Genesis ignored the constant brokenness and dysfunctional families. My growing up never taught me that my greatest experience’s of God’s love and presence would be infused into the worst moments of my life. I heard about the glorified saints ignoring their sinfulness.

I am not sure how you teach a child about the messiness of faith.

Sometimes when I think about the life I think it is complete absurdity. I remember the most vivid experience of God’s presence with, around and in me – it was in a brutal cross examination that just moments before I had said I give up standing. I remember the most vivid experience of God’s love and that was when I took matters into my own hands and attempted an complete end to my suffering. I remember the most powerful moment of God working in the midst of all the mess when my grandfather greeted me with a warm hug at my grandmother’s funeral at which I was definitely not welcome and not included in the “family”.

Faith is absurd.

But there is strength in the absurd. This was a gift given to me a long time ago by good old Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). I devoured his books during my philosophy years and he spoke of living on the strength of the absurd, a notion that inspires much of my life and also the name of this blog. God’s ways are a complete mystery sometimes – absurd even. But there is strength – so much strength – in living the life of faith with all its absurdity.

I used to have a quote on the door of my apartment to remind myself daily of Kierkegaard’s words of wisdom: “Faith, then, must constantly cling firmly to the Teacher”

As I think about the saints – what they seem to have in common is this – they strive to constantly cling to their Teacher. Imperfect, incomplete and inconsistent, albeit – but they seem to have the understanding that their strength came from constantly clinging to their Teacher.

 

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  1. November 5, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Hey you! I’m finding myself in kid’s ministry over here — and found a super amazing children’s bible. It is actually redemptive and links every story to Christ. Maybe you’ve heard of it already! It’s called the Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name. http://www.amazon.com/The-Jesus-Storybook-Bible-Whispers/dp/0310708257/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1352156843&sr=8-1&keywords=jesus+storybook+bible

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