A couple weeks ago, something reminded me of a story from English history. It was during the Reign of Oliver Cromwell, and the British government had begun to run low on silver for minting coins. Lord Cromwell figured that there had to be some silver in the Exeter Cathedral, so he dispatched men to investigate the Cathedral. They were instructions to report back to Lord Cromwell with Information about what they found. When they returned, they told Lord Cromwell that the only silver they could find in the cathedral were the statues of the saints (the 12 Apostles). Hearing the news, Cromwell declared, “Good! We will melt down the saints and put them in circulation!”
I’ve always liked that story, because it expresses some very sound theology, not only about the role the apostles/disciples played in spreading the Christian faith as they circulated throughout the Middle East, Asia, and Europe after the resurrection, but also about the role each of us is called to play in spreading the Christian faith in our community, in the world, today.
Think of all the places you “circulate” during the average week. Your place of employment. The Jewel, Aldi’s, Target, Walmart, Menards. Your bridge club. The Legion Hall. The little league field, the soccer field, the football field, the ice rink where your kids play and parents gather to watch. At the nursing home, and the hospital, and the rehab facility. I’m sure you can name many others.
Now I know that we Christians can sometimes begin to feel like we have done our part to help the church and grow the faith by attending church for a couple hours every week. But being a “saint in the church” on Sunday is not really fulfilling Jesus commission given to the 12, and passed down to every disciple of Jesus over the centuries – to go and make disciples of all nations, all people. To fulfill that role, that responsibility, each one of us must be a “saint in circulation”. We can’t just be Sunday “silver saints in shining armor.” Imagine where the church would be today, if the first disciples had decided to just go to church on Sunday and go back to life as usual every other day. Instead, they told their stories about a life with Jesus. And the world began to change.
I believe that we go to church on Sunday to get melted down by the grace of Christ, to get refined by the power of the Spirit, and get minted into a currency God can use to feed the hungry, heal the sick and broken, to transform this world into a place God intends it to be. So we can go out into the world and share the Good News, share our stories about how God has blessed us, how Christ has transformed us, with people who are lost in the darkness of depression or oppression, with people who see their future as hopeless, with folks weighed down by the day to day struggle of surviving in this broken and conflicted world of ours.
As I said in a recent sermon, we don’t have to preach Jesus to every person we meet. But when asked to do something unethical at work, or when out with friends, we can say, “I’m sorry, but my faith won’t let me do that. I follow Jesus and his teachings, and they both tell me this is not the right way.” When helping a neighbor or a co-worker or a stranger at a local store, and they express gratitude for your help, you can say, “I help others because that’s what Jesus did, and I try each day to be more like him.”
I know it’s tempting, and easier to simply be a “Sunday Saint”, going to church every Sunday, giving your offering, singing the hymns, smiling and talking with all the other good folks.
But I believe that the Lord (not Cromwell) is always calling for an inspection of the cathedral, to see if there’s any saints inside that can be melted down and put into circulation. It’s always up to you. You have been and will continue to be given God’s love and forgiveness, Christ’s grace and peace. But if you keep refusing to let God use you in circulation, you will never fully know the treasure you are, and never know just how valuable you can be in this world.
Blessings and Peace,
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:18-20