I was invited to speak at the Ozark area Chamber of Commerce membership banquet at the Ozark Civic Center. The Ozark newspaper reported that “The guest speak is St. John Ed Mathison, Senior Pastor of Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church in Montgomery.”
Wow! That’s some typographical error. I got several copies of the paper, and shared it with my friends. They really laughed! My wife was the most amused!
I had a small electric hot plate on my desk where you could set your coffee cup and it would stay warm. My father-in-law gave it to me. I had ordered several copies of that paper. One of them was on top of some books on my desk.
I left the office to go speak at a sports event and was gone for about 3 hours. During my absence the air conditioner blew a copy of the article off the top of the books. It landed on the hot plate, which I had inadvertently left on. It started to smoke. The smoke got into the air conditioner vent, set off the fire alarm, and the fire trucks arrived about the time I returned. They quickly came to my office and found the problem. The interesting thing is that the only part of the article that started to burn was the little section that listed me as “St. John Ed Mathison.” The word “St” had burned out!!
It raised some interesting questions. Who is a saint? Sometimes we negatively say, “He’s not a saint.” We positively remember saints in the Bible. Saints in early church history had to pass certain tests and be canonized as a saint. Following the Protestant Reformation, very few people have been canonized.
The Bible says that every person can be a saint. The word “Saint” refers to one who is living a life of holiness, faithfulness, service, and is described as one in whom Christ lives (Romans 1:7 KJV). Even Gentiles, who were considered unclean by the Jewish people, are referred to as saints in Ephesians 2.
This means that to be a saint you don’t have to be dead for 100 years or be perfect. You have to be one who is holy, faithful, serving where Jesus directs, and allowing the Spirit of Christ to dwell in you. John Wesley said, “A saint is a manifestation of the continuing work of Jesus Christ in human life.”
That is a different understanding of being a saint. It means that you and I can be a saint. I admit I still have trouble with even thinking about being a saint, but it’s a strong challenge as to how Christians must live.
A little boy was walking with his grandfather in a cathedral with stained glass windows. The sun was brightly beaming through the windows to bring out the myriad of colors. The granddaddy pointed to a window and said to the boy, “That’s St. Peter.” He pointed to another window and said, “That’s St. John.” He pointed to another window and said, “That’s St. Paul.” The little boy looked up and said, “Granddaddy, I think I know what a saint is…a saint must be a person that the light shines through.”
A typographical error in an Ozark paper has become a great challenge and a great possibility for all of us!
“When the saints go marching in, O Lord, I want to be in that number!”