Excerpt from Ephesians 6:18-20
“Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.”
Reflection by Martin B. Copenhaver
Protestants need more saints. The Roman Catholics have over 10,000 canonized saints. By my count, we Protestants have as few as five.
Roman Catholics have many people of history they can point to as examples of faithfulness. To be sure, some of them are quirky (like Saint Neot, who did his daily devotions while neck deep in a well and, thus, became the patron saint of fish) and others whose qualifications for sainthood seem rather thin (like Simeon of Stylites, whose chief accomplishment seems to have been sitting on a pillar for decades at a time).
In any case, the sheer variety of saints in the Roman Catholic tradition stretches the imagination to encompass the multitude of ways one can serve God and manifest the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes, particularly when I listen to Protestant preachers, I suspect we have concluded there are only a small handful of people whose lives reflect God’s glory. Their names are invoked with numbing regularity. As far as I can tell, they are: Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Dietrich Bonheoffer. Of course, these individuals are great examples of faith. They are saints, to be sure. But when their names are invoked so often, and other examples drawn upon so seldom, it does not stretch the imagination, but rather constricts it. My hunch is that people have even ceased to hear what is said about these great individuals—either because they have heard it too often or because the heroism of their lives is so rare that none of the rest of us can hope to reflect anything like it in our own lives.
So let’s give these saints a bit of rest, for a time, and recognize some others, so that the gospel in all of its dimensions can be heard more fully again.
God, your creation is awash with variety, from the various kinds of flowers to the different kinds of saints. Great praise to you for this variety! Help us see a similar variety in the field of saints.
About the Author
Martin B. Copenhaver is Senior Pastor, Wellesley Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Wellesley, Massachusetts. He is the author, with Lillian Daniel, of This Odd and Wondrous Calling: the Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers.