Posted by: Melissa Bane Sevier | August 9, 2010

Running Team

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith… 

    Hebrews 12:1-2    

We Presbyterians don’t talk too much about saints.  Even so, they are everywhere.   

Rosa Parks was a saint.  She refused to move to the back of the bus.  Out of her action came the Montgomery bus boycott, from which came the Civil Rights Movement.  “I never meant to start anything.  I was just tired of being pushed around.”   

She lived what she believed.  She had seen enough injustice.  She had read the histories of former slaves.  She had heard the stories of her own parents, had watched others as they struggled.  Now she simply did what she had to do, and she became a legend. 

Maybe there is a future legend reading this; maybe not.  But the saints of the Bible weren’t real saints, either.  Moses was a coward, Abraham a liar, Rahab a prostitute, David an adulterer.  Not a single one led a perfectly exemplary life.  But that is not the point.  We glean what we can, and we learn from their mistakes, too. 

If you think we Presbyterians and other Protestants don’t believe in saints, just look at the Apostles’ creed:  the communion of the saints.  Every time we learn from another person of faith, we experience that communion.  Every time we remember a life well lived in faith, we have that communion.  Every time we gather together and check in with our friends, we experience communion of the saints.   Yes, it’s in the passing of bread and cup, but that sacrament is lived out, or ought to be, in the imperfect lives of all the saints every week. 

It’s a marathon, says the writer of Hebrews.  It’s a long, sometimes difficult road, and we make it because of those who cheer us on. 

We are the runners; we are the members of the crowd.  Every child, every teen, every adult needs people to lift them with their cheers, to charge them up and enable them to continue the race, to tell them they can do it, and, when their legs are just too weary, to carry them along.   

That is the communion of the saints.  That is what enables us to run with perseverance the race that is set before us.  Yes, Christ is at our side.  But he is most often there in the person of one of the imperfect saints who accompanies us on the way.  

© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2010 






  1. I try to emulate role models I meet and interact in everyday life. That communion of saints is too distant for me as living paragons. As much as I admired here, Mother Teresa was an worldly example who was simply above me. Worldly possessions one could pack in a box? No, thank you. I have too many books and DVDs I treasure. Tending to the lepers of India? Not today! Not ever! Just not my thing!

    Our neighbor, Jean Smith, on the other hand, is someone whose pattern of life and everyday gifts I could aspire to as a human being and a Christian.

    Elizabeth and I just returned from her funeral service this morning filled with a mixture of grief and joy. Over the course of the year-and-a-half she struggled with cancer–a dread disease her doctors chased from one organ in her body to another–she showed a kind a sure and certain religious faithfulness and gentle righeousness that I admired every time we visited her (not often enough) and thought of her (thankfully, many more times). Even during the frequent low points in her illness, she never ceased to remind herself and us that “we are so blessed.” Every phone call, even when she or her husband needed us to help, concluded with the heart-felt question, “now let us know if there is anything we can do for you.”

    One time, her husband Ed, who weighs barely 100 lbs., phoned to ask I could assist him in getting Jean off the floor and onto her wheelchair from the bathroom. Jean weighed maybe 225 lbs–maybe a little less–and he could not lift her up. As I joined him in pulling her up and easing her onto the wheelchair, I thought, “Jean is a big woman and all her weight!” In that instant, it occurred to me that her heft stemmed from all that goodness and generosity and joy she had accumulated and found time every day to share with others.

    Her full name is Gloria Jean Smith (nee Payne). Her nickname was “Honey.” She died around 5:00PM on Friday.

    I know two things: she’s my earthy “saint”; and I am never going to sing another “Gloria” in choir without thinking of her and her fine example of how to live and how to die.

  2. I just arrived home from a memorial service for a dear man. He was fun and smart and faithful to our Church in so many ways. His daughters were there – one of them expecting her second child. I find that as I become [ahem] wiser I also often think of the saints that are not yet born….

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