Alvey: Road blocks are a sign of Heaven

Published 9:24 pm Tuesday, October 31, 2017

By Jack Alvey | Alvey is the rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

On this All Saints’ Day, I am reminded of one of my favorite hymns, “I sing a song of the saints of God.” The song defines a saint as one “who loves to do Jesus will.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a saint in his own day, said it like this, “Being a Christian is less about avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.”

Simply put, saints of God, who are sinners themselves, are those who boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus both in word and deed.  They are those who inspire others to follow Jesus. Some saints are well known like Patrick or Francis. Some are only known by oral tradition or in local contexts. There are saints of God among us even today. As the hymn says, “There are hundreds of thousands still.”

I’ll never forget what one young woman, a saint in my own life, said on a youth mission trip when she was asked why she crawled under a house with snakes to clean up old trash. She replied, “Somebody had to do it. I was the smallest person so I figured that person had to be me.”

I know this story isn’t earth shattering but it made quite an impression on me as a young man. Her willingness to do what no one else could or would is the essence of the Christian witness.  She inspired me because of her willingness to do a job that no one else wanted to do.

Saints are the ones who venture into unchartered territory. They go where few are willing to go, walking in the way of the cross. Saints are not born out of committees. Rather, the actions of the saints are usually singular.

But even then, the actions of the saints are inspired by our Lord Jesus Christ, by the one who did what no one else would or could do, by the one who is unwavering in his commitment to bring about the good news of the kingdom even to the point of death.

Our Christian witness will inevitably put us at odds with society and culture whether it be a physical death or a death of status or standing in the community.  As you read the history of most of these saints, you discover that they were not popular in their day.  Many were killed, most were exiled from their communities or families, some were even excommunicated from the church.

In the end, the good news of the kingdom tells us that sin and death will not kill and destroy forever, they are only temporary road blocks that are removed in the fullness of time.

As Christians, we believe these road blocks mean we are getting somewhere.

These road blocks mean we are getting closer to the kingdom of heaven.

On All Saints’ Day, we celebrate the saints in light who have overcome these road blocks through the love of Christ in God and who point to the kingdom of heaven in our midst. And “there’s not any reason, no, not the least” that we can’t be witnesses to the kingdom too for Jesus has made the way.