The communion of saints
|...[t]herefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles... (Hebrews12:1)|
The writer to the Hebrews has been talking about all the heroes of the faith that had gone before the church. In chapters 11 and 12 he builds a picture of a stadium filled with spectators (those who have already run their race) and participants (those who are busy running now.)
This is the church, past and present. There are those who have gone before and those who are our brothers and sisters now. Church tradition has often talked about the church militant (those of us on the field) and the church triumphant (those have gone ahead and are the great cloud of witnesses.)
This means that the "communion of saints" has two important facets.
- We are one church, although we are spread out geographically and form part of different traditions, congregations and denominations, we are one church. We are part of this amazing community because we have the same Heavenly Father, the same Saviour and the same Spirit who lives in our hearts. We are one because of Him.
- Death doesn't terminate our connection with this one church. The writer to the Hebrews seems to hint that when we die we enter a space that is outside the limitations of time and history and that the full picture is clear for those who have passed into His presence.
I don't fully understand how eternity works (my brain can barely cope with this week!) and I don't believe we should make saints of or pray to those who have already passed on, but I am grateful that we are part of something big and permanent!
The power of the communion of saints is not in the individuals, but in the Lord whose love makes us all one.
PS: Nearly twenty years ago we went overseas with Brenda's folks. The sense of privilege and cost of the trip had us rushing around squeezing every last drop out of every moment. Sunday found us quite tired, but we decided to go to church. I stood in worship with tears of joy streaming down my face. What an incredible joy to be in a church on the other side of the world and feel like I'm home!!! This is the communion of saints.