The ‘End’ of Christian Discipleship

” … the hope to which he has called you … ” (Eph. 1:18).

The Book of Common Prayer provides two different sets of lessons for All Saints’ Day, and the Revised Common Lectionary provides one; all three differ from one another. This observation alone shows the breadth and richness to be found in the meaning of this luxuriant feast.

The BCP lessons tell of great, godly people of previous ages (the readings from Ecclesiasticus); the invincibility of the godly in the world (Psalm 149); the preservation of the faithful in times of persecution (Revelation); the genuine, godly, “three-dimensionality” of the determined followers of Jesus (Ephesians); and the virtue and blessedness shown, grown, and manifested in the faithful as they endure

the trials of daily life (Matthew and Luke). All four lessons of the RCL present the theme of the faithful passing through death and conquering it by the gift and grace of God, and entering into glory and joy.

In all these lessons, we are drawn across the line from thinking just of “me and Jesus.” Far from being sole voices, we belong to an infinite orchestra of song, a choir of uncountable millions bursting with the praise and joy of Jesus — a kingdom, as Scripture tells us, of “myriads upon myriads” of saints and angels in that kingdom of which the Virgin Mary is Queen, acknowledged in our hymnal as “higher than the cherubim, more glorious than the seraphim,” who leads their praises.

Surely, one of the great sadnesses in Christian discipleship is the misguided and nonsensical conviction that to honor the saints is somehow to love Jesus less. No one could possibly truly love the saints for themselves without growing into the fathomless depths of love for the One for whom all the saints lived.

The Virgin herself summarized all Christian discipleship in the simple words, “Let it be to me according to your word,” and, “Whatever he tells you to do, do it.” The first sharing between two of the first people who knew that the age of the Messiah was at hand was a rhapsody of joy in which Mary sang to Elizabeth, “all generations shall call me blessed.” It was a jubilation over the concrete fulfillment of the holy promise of God to his people and all the world. The words and lives of the saints show in measureless variety the indissoluble romance of humanity with God, where love is beyond measure, an

infinite and eternal ocean of joy.

Look it Up

What is necessary, as described in Eph. 1:18, if one is to know what the hope is to which God has called us?

Think About It

What is the connection between those whom the New Testament refers to as “the saints” and those whom the Church came to refer to as “the Saints”? Are all Christians called eventually to be numbered among “the Saints,” or is there a lesser standard for ordinary believers?

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