October 16, 2022 – Lectionary 29

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All Saints C 2022 

Dove of Peace Lutheran Church
Pastor Stephen Springer
November 6, 2022

Ephesians 1:11-23 


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Dear Friends: 

In the summer of 1505, Martin Luther was studying law. He was going to become a lawyer. He was traveling overland between his home and his law school. A fifty mile journey on foot. And on the pathway a summer thunderstorm arose. And there was thunder. And lightning struck nearby. And Martin Luther prayed to Saint Anne. And told her that if she saved him, he would become a monk. And after the storm was gone, and Luther was still alive, he kept his promise. And became a monk. 


In the early 1950s, Danny Thomas was a struggling entertainer. And he wasn’t sure if he was going to succeed. And so he prayed to the patron saint of lost causes. And Danny Thomas promised the saint that if he became a success, he would build a shrine to that saint. Do you know who that saint was? Do you know what that shrine was? The first St. Jude hospital for children was opened in Memphis. 


Through the centuries, many Christians have prayed to the saints, asking them for help. Some, like Martin Luther and Danny Thomas, have even made a vow to a saint. Here in the borderlands, the original inhabitants still practice the tradition of milagros, which are little metallic objects that are placed in the shrines of various saints whenever that saint has answered a prayer. If you prayed to Saint Luke to heal a broken leg, then you might take a little silver ornament, crafted to look like a crutch, and hang that little ornament at the shrine of Saint Luke. And everyone who visits that church or shrine can see the dozens or hundreds of ornaments bearing witness to all of the miracles that Saint Luke has performed. Milagros. 


In religion and in anthropology, this is called the “cult of saints.” Traditionally, Protestantism takes a dismal view of the cult of saints. There are many good reasons, and perhaps a few bad reasons, why the Protestant Reformation took an axe to the cult of saints. One of the principal good reasons is that by the late middle ages, Jesus had become not a loving savior, but a vengeful judge. And so among common people, the saints were mediators, friendlier than Jesus, and more down-to-earth than Jesus. Mary, the mother of God, and the other saints, were sort of the backdoor entrance to heaven, while a wrathful Lord Jesus blocked the front door. It’s not the case that the Reformation hated Mary and the saints. But the Reformation was very determined to correct the image of the vengeful and wrathful Jesus. 


It’s striking– at least to me–  how the apostle Paul uses the word “saint.” Paul did not know the