Community with Saints
On most Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, you will find me with a group of other people gathered at Salinas Elementary at 5AM. We spend one hour together exercising. Our group is comprised of people from all walks of life – from education to the medical field to the military to (our trainer) a former arena football player. We are all at different fitness levels, and all of us had the thought at 4:30 that morning that we could just stay in bed. But we didn’t. Camp Gladiator is our happy hour. The workouts are not what keep us coming back even though they are amazing. It is the community we find there. We encourage each other, we challenge each other, and we hold each other accountable. We know what is going on in each other’s lives. We check in when we haven’t seen someone in a while. They were the first group of people to find out my mom had died – it was Monday morning and I wasn’t going to be there, so I let them know. Each one reached out to me individually and made sure I was eating, drinking water, and getting some movement in my day. They encouraged me, challenged me, and made sure I knew they were there for me when I came back. I could go workout at a gym or do videos at home. I would get a great workout with those options, but I wouldn’t have the community.
Where else can you find such an eclectic group of people with like minds? Church is one place like this. Throughout the week, groups of people from all walks of life gather to praise, pray, serve, and learn. Instead of growing muscles, their goal is to grow their faith. Although these things can be done alone, it’s the community of the church that keeps us on the path to deepening our relationship with God. The Church is the Body of Christ – we all work together (like hands, feet, legs, brains, hearts, and guts). We are meant to be in community with each other to be Christ to one another and others. We cannot do that alone.
And then there are the saints. Saints are believers who have left this earth to spend eternity in the presence of God. How do we have community with saints? There is a piece of artwork hanging at the front of the chapel of Concordia University in Irvine, California. It is a spiral of mirrors shaped like flames ascending to the ceiling. Actually – they could be ascending or descending, and the artist purposely did it that way. The flames represent the saints who have gone before us, and they are mirrors to reflect the light on us as well as our reflection to others. That artwork is a beautiful representation of what it is like to live in community with the saints, those who show us what it is like to live as a son or daughter of God. Even though they no longer live here on earth, they continue to reflect the light of God, to show us that Jesus is alive and working in our lives. Think about someone you love who loved Jesus and is now living with Him. How do you do life differently because of them? What lessons did they teach you about God? What truths do you share with others because of the life they lived? When we told Lukas that Bubby (my mom) died, he was quiet for a little while. I asked him what he was thinking and he said, “I’m sad, but happy. I’m sad because Bubby isn’t here anymore, but I’m happy because Bubby is in heaven – and Bubby LOVES heaven!” Her message to everyone was Jesus loves you and heaven is a wonderful place! Lukas heard that message, and he sees the reflection of the Light. I will not forget in the freshness of our grief when my brother, Will, said, “My boy will never know her.” His son, Liam, was only 7 months old when his Bubby died. I am confident that although he might not have physical memories of Bubby, he will know her because she left a legacy. I assured Will that we will always talk about Bubby, we will sing her songs to Liam (she had a song for EVERYTHING), and we will still have community with her because she loved Jesus and let everyone know. We can live that message, and we can continue to share that message.
The saints keep us coming back to Jesus. They are the encouragement that there is life beyond this earthly life. They are the light to the hope that we are forgiven – every saint was human; no saint was perfect here on earth. In the Apostle’s Creed, we say that we believe in the communion of saints. That is the community of saints. Much like my 5AM crew keeps me coming back to workout, the community of saints points us back to Jesus. During this season as we focus on community, remember the saints. Remember their lives, their stories, and how they reflected the light of Jesus. Remembering those things and continuing to reflect the Light is how we have community with the saints.