“Just a moment” with The Very Reverend Rod MacDonald
The next few months have a number of 'saints days' of particular importance. The Anglican Church suggests we take notice of these using a Calendar as found in the Prayer Book 1662. Saints such as Mary, Luke, Francis, Matthew and Bartholomew. They are great examples of a godly and holy life .... of course. And therefore thoroughly scary! Especially as a young man growing up, wanting, wishing even praying to be more like them. And failing, often dismally! Paul was right, " that which I do not want (to do) I do, and the good which I want, I do not".
But the word 'saint' does NOT mean perfect, and the prayer book composers of both 17th and the 20th century knew that. So they didn't hesitate to name in the line-up St Matthew and St Augustine also, who had less than salubrious beginnings. Rather, the word 'saint' means more about being "responsive and faithful to God's call". The best known example of this is Mary, who while she lived an exemplary life as far as we know, was someone who simply heard, then responded to the call of God on her life. To be a mother. And do it well, including dealing with the grief of losing her son. Many mothers know the truth of 'having their heart pierced' in the process. As do faithful fathers, with Joseph being another saint. We know almost nothing about him other than he 'ran a carpenters' shop' - and of course, the call from God for him to be faithful to Mary (who, dear, dear, was pregnant before they were married ) What gossip did he endure? We know literally nothing else! But because of what we do know, 'saint' he was.
Some, you may have noted come with the title, “saint AND martyr". Martyr is another word based on the Greek original and which means 'witness'. This refers to the manner of their dying, often catastrophic, but always in the sense of 'they died for/because of their faith'. But in doing so, clearly witnessed to their convictions. Their beliefs and way of life made them targets or victims, and they refused to accommodate the demands and beliefs of their captors, or the society around them. The violence of many of their deaths (Sebastian is a good example) leads the church to change its liturgical colour ie the dominant colour of vestments in services from "white" for saints, to "red" for martyrs on the day that we remember them in particular. The use of a 'blood' colour is sadly unmistakeable.
Sadly unmistakeable also is the number of martyrs in our own contemporary history, especially the last century. One more noted group, The Martyrs of New Guinea, are especially remembered next Friday, September 2nd. While their actions, staying 'put' to minister medically and spiritually to their community in spite of the Japanese advance, is fading in conscious history, their witness is not. And the violence of their beheading on the beach will only serve to keep their great encouragement to other Christians in PNG alive. So we tell and re-tell the story here in the same way that it remains alive in PNG to this day, and the prayer book calendar helps us.
And what about the more recent martyrdom of several Melanesian Brothers, tortured to death while on a peace mission during the recent disturbances on the Solomons? And perhaps we should, as compassionate Christians, not forget the many, of various faiths and walks of life who have made the world a better and more just place, walking in the steps of Micah.
I am very thankful, that, as tough as life can be on some days, that God has only called me to be a “saint."