Saints: A Study in Honor of Mother Teresa

Miscellaneous Saints

John 20:1-18, St. Mary Magdalene: Minister to the ministers
John 11:17-32, Sts. Martha & Mary: Keep trusting in sorrow
John 11:33-44, St. Lazarus: Come on out!
Acts 9:36-43, St. Tabitha: Do good works and acts of charity
Acts 10:1-8, 24-33, 44-48, St. Cornelius: Act on the message
2 Timothy 1:1-10, St. Timothy: Keep the spirit alive
Titus 1:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-7, 16-24, St. Titus: Have a heart of earnest care
Romans 16:3-5a; Acts 18:24-26, Sts. Priscilla & Aquila: Teach other teachers
Acts 18:27-28, St. Apollos: Teach from the scripture
Philemon 1:1-7, Sts. Philemon, Apphia, and Archippus: Refresh the saints
Romans 16:1-2; 1 Timothy 3:8-13, St. Phoebe: Serve the Church
Luke 1:5-17, 23-25, 57-64, Sts. Zacharias and Elizabeth: Never give up hope
Luke 3:1-20, St. John the Baptist: Teach ethical behavior
John 3:1-12, 7:44-52, St. Nicodemus: Even teachers must ask questions
Matthew 27:57-60; Luke 23:50-53; John 19:38-40, St. Joseph of Arimathea: Make use of your own resources
Acts 16:9-15, 35-40; Philippians 4:15-23, St. Lydia: Be a partner in mission work

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John 20:1-18, St. Mary Magdalene: Minister to the ministers (10/7/16)

Mary Magdalene is called “the apostle to the apostles,” because Jesus apostello/sent her with a message to the aposteloi/apostles. Before Jesus appeared to her, she ran to Peter and John in confusion and sorrow, but after Jesus talked to her, she went back to them in joy, with a message of comfort. Sometimes we need a word of cheer, comfort, or encouragement from our clergy, and sometimes they need the same from us. They have a whole congregation full of needy people to take care of (not to mention that no matter what they do, at least person will be unhappy about it). We need to look for opportunities to take care of them. Be sure to tell them when you’re happy with them, as well as when you are upset! We follow the holy example of St. Mary Magdalene whenever we minister to our ministers.


John 11:17-32, Sts. Martha & Mary: Keep trusting in sorrow (10/10/16)

Sometimes when we have lost a loved one, we might think that God has let us down. We might wonder why he didn’t pay attention to our prayers for recovery, or whether he has deserted us in our hour of greatest need. King David had the same kind of thoughts, and many of the psalms address these questions. Mary and Martha grieved for their brother, but they don’t seem to have stopped trusting Jesus. “If you had been here, he wouldn’t have died,” they say, but they aren’t whining, they are simply expressing an inexhaustible trust in Jesus’ ability and willingness to care for them. When we trust God in difficult circumstances, we follow the holy example of Saint Martha and Saint Mary.


John 11:33-44, St. Lazarus: Come on out! (10/11/16)

I’m not too crazy about translations that render vs. 43 as “Lazarus, come out.” For one thing, Jesus “cried out in a great voice,” according to the Greek. For another, the passage tells us that Lazarus was wrapped up in burial linens, lying in a cave behind a stone, and dead. I’m thinking that he probably couldn’t hear very well. So I would prefer to render this as “Lazarus! Come OUT!”

Jesus calls each one of us to follow the example of St. Lazarus and come forth from death into life.


Acts 9:36-43, St. Tabitha: Do good works and acts of charity (10/12/16)

Peter was powerful in prayer! Tabitha was powerful in her own way, being “full of good works and acts of charity.” Notice that no one tells Peter how much money she gave to the church, only how much work she did for it. I especially like the way the widows show Peter all the clothes she made while she was alive. I’ll bet they were for the poor and not for her own closet.

Did you know that a group of ladies at St. John’s works continually to make prayer quilts, prayer shawls, sweaters, and other items of needlework for the poor as well as for ailing members of our own congregation? Each of these ladies is walking in the holy footsteps of St. Tabitha.


Acts 10:1-8, 24-33, 44-48, St. Cornelius: Act on the message (10/13/16)

All of the very earliest Christians were Jews. Cornelius the centurion is considered to be the first Gentile convert, although vss. 24-25 and 44 suggest that quite a number of converts were made along with him among his relatives and friends. One important thing we know about Cornelius is that he was a man of action. When he gets a message from God through the angel, he immediately sends for Peter. When Peter comes, he invites him in. When he gets the message of salvation from Peter, he believes and is converted and baptized.

Now, sometimes we might think we’re getting a “message from God” to, for example, buy a lottery ticket. We do need to be a little careful that a message is consistent with God’s previous instructions in the Bible. Nevertheless, when we get a genuine message from God – from an angel or a friend – we should follow the example of St. Cornelius the Centurion and act on it.


2 Timothy 1:1-10, St. Timothy: Keep the spirit alive (10/14/16)

It’s easy for us to be excited about a new pair of shoes. After all, they’re new, and if we hadn’t been excited we wouldn’t have bought them in the first place. But shoes get old. They get shoved to the back of the closet and taken out only on special occasions, like ... Christmas and Easter, maybe? Timothy was a third-generation convert, although by the time this letter was written, probably there were very few third or even second-generation Christians. Even so, Paul urges Timothy to “fan the flame”: not to let his faith drift to the back of the closet, but to keep it lively and burning. This week, let’s follow St. Timothy’s example by taking out some little-used aspect of our faith and wearing it with the same excitement we had when it was new.


Titus 1:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-7, 16-24, St. Titus: Have a heart of earnest care (10/17/16)

Titus was one of the young “Greek” pastors whom Paul trained to assist and continue in his work among the Gentiles (the New Testament writers often used “Greek” for any non-Jew). Paul calls him his “true child in a common faith.” Titus was with Paul in Corinth and Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1); Paul sent him to Dalmatia (see 2 Timothy 4:10); and Paul was expecting to find him in Troas (2 Corinthians 2:12-13). Paul, who knew Titus well, says that he had the same “heart of earnest care” for the church at Corinth as Paul himself. God grant that we follow St. Titus in having a heart of earnest care for our own churches.


Romans 16:3-5a; Acts 18:24-26, Sts. Priscilla & Aquila: Teach other teachers (10/18/16)

Two of Paul’s friends and co-workers were a husband-and-wife dynamo, Aquila and Prisca (also spelled Priscilla). They aided him in his work and had a church in their house. One day a Jewish believer in Jesus came to their attention, and they noticed two things about him. The first was that he was knowledgeable of the scriptures and an eloquent speaker. Second, they noticed that he was hazy on the details of the faith. They “took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” Teachers of scripture – whether in Sunday School, Bible studies, from the pulpit, or even by email – and especially those who teach believers, follow in the holy footsteps of Sts. Priscilla and Aquila.


Acts 18:27-28, St. Apollos: Teach from the scripture (10/19/16)

There were synagogues and Jews all over the Roman Empire, and typically the local synagogue was the first place that the apostles and evangelists went. After all, the Jews were waiting for the Messiah, and the followers of Jesus were eager to tell everybody that he was the Messiah. In most places, some Jews embraced the news, and others didn’t. Apollos was an ardent student and teacher of the scripture – the Jewish Bible that Christians call the Old Testament – and an eloquent and powerful debater. All of us who study and teach scripture follow the holy example of St. Apollos. Most of us who argue about scripture, don’t.


Philemon 1:1-7, Sts. Philemon, Apphia, and Archippus: Refresh the saints (10/20/16)

Philemon and Apphia are mentioned only here in the Bible; Archippus is also mentioned in Colossians 4:17. But what a mention! Philemon, Paul’s “beloved fellow worker,” had a church in his house, and Paul calls Apphia his “sister” and Archippus his “fellow soldier.” Can we be co-workers with those who spread the Gospel? I have the idea that after people talk to me, they are exhausted. After talking to Philemon, they were refreshed. If your fellow believers say “Aah...” when they’ve been with you, you are following the example of Sts. Philemon, Apphia, and Archippus.


Romans 16:1-2; 1 Timothy 3:8-13, St. Phoebe: Serve the Church (10/21/16)

Admittedly English words (and presumably words in other languages) can mean different things in different contexts. Nevertheless, it gets my goat (see? there’s one of the words!) when translators assign different meanings to the same word in what seem to be in the same contexts. We see that in today’s reading, where in many translations the diakonos Phoebe, Paul’s patron, is a “servant” and those diakonos who are to lead the church, whom Paul and Timothy appoint, are “deacons.” (See below for the English Standard Versoin's rendition.)

In other places, a word can be ambiguous in its original language, and there the translator must make a hard choice. We see that also in today’s reading, with the Greek word gunay really can mean either “woman” or “wife.” Opinions differ about whether 1 Timothy 3:11 is talking about the wives of the deacons or about women who hold the position of deacon, like Phoebe. I looked at more than 30 translations, and the split is fairly even (see below for examples). Three translators go so far as to render gunay as “deaconess,” which really is an interpretation, not a translation. Notice the dates of the translations; “women” isn’t some feminist idea that only appeared recently, but in fact showed up at least as early as 1881.

Anyway, Phoebe was a responsible church leader, probably trusted by Paul to deliver his letter to the Roman church. It’s important to remember that the most basic meaning of diakonos is, in fact, “servant.” Those who serve the church in leadership positions, male or female, follow the path of St. Phoebe.
Luke 1:5-17, 23-25, 57-64, Sts. Zacharias and Elizabeth: Never give up hope (10/24/16)

Sometimes you’ve been praying for something for so long without any results that you come to one of two conclusions. First, maybe the answer is “No,” and you just haven’t been willing to acknowledge that. Second, maybe it’s just hopeless, a lost cause, or a useless way to spend your time. It’s easy to give up hope. Zacharias and Elizabeth were well along in years, at an age when most people would have decided that no child was in the offing and they might as well give up. They didn’t! We know for sure that Zacharias was still praying for a child, because the angel says, “Your prayer has been heard.” Sometimes the answer is no, but until then, we follow Sts. Zacharias and Elizabeth when we refuse to give up hope.


Luke 3:1-20, St. John the Baptist: Teach ethical behavior (10/25/16)

When people came to John in the desert and asked him what they should do, he said they should repent, of course, but he also gave specific instructions about behavior. Mostly, he taught that you should do what’s right, even when you could get away with doing something not quite right. People didn’t have to share with the poor, but they should. Tax collectors could collect more than was due, but they shouldn’t. Doing what’s right, instead of what’s convenient or possible, is a mark of ethics. When we teach ethical behavior, we follow in the footsteps of St. John the Baptist.


John 3:1-12, 7:44-52, St. Nicodemus: Even teachers must ask questions (10/26/16)

A very famous scientist, James Clerk Maxwell, said, “There are two theories of the nature of light, the corpuscle theory and the wave theory; we used to believe in the corpuscle theory; we now believe in the wave theory because all those who believed in the corpuscle theory have died.”

The problem experts and teachers have is that they already know the material; it can be extremely difficult to understand or accept new ideas. Nicodemus was a teacher in Israel – a Pharisee, and he already knew the material about God and salvation. When he began to hear new ideas from Jesus, he had trouble figuring out where the new ideas fit in with the old ideas. Unlike believers in the corpuscle theory, he was willing to ask questions and try to understand the new ideas. When people (especially teachers) who already know about Jesus study and ask questions in order to understand even better, they are following the holy example of St. Nicodemus.


Matthew 27:57-60; Luke 23:50-53; John 19:38-40, St. Joseph of Arimathea: Make use of your own resources (10/27/16)

Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy man, and many of us are not wealthy. Nevertheless, we can learn from his example. When he saw the immediate need to bury Jesus, he didn’t organize a committee to decide what to do or run a capital-funds campaign to get a tomb. He just gave of his own resources of linen and a tomb. Nicodemus joined with him by bringing all the spices needed for the burial. Many of the expenses of our local church and of mission work are too great for one person to bear, but when we see a need and take steps to fill that need using our own resources, we are taking St. Nicodemus and St. Joseph of Arimathea as our model.


Acts 16:9-15, 35-40; Philippians 4:15-23, St. Lydia: Be a partner in mission work (10/28/16)

Paul prided himself on never burdening his converts by staying in their houses or asking for support. He was no match for Lydia, the first convert in Europe. She was a businesswoman who traded in purple goods, either the purple dye itself or luxury items dyed purple. Anyway, she was accustomed to running things, and she wasn’t hurting for the spare denarius. At her insistence, Paul and his companions stayed with her while he remained in Philippi, and they continued to accept donations from the church at Philippi when they had moved on to evangelize other cities. When we support mission work and missionaries, we follow the holy example of St. Lydia.

This brings us to end of our study honoring Mother Teresa, the newest saint recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, the newest saint in the Church is that convert or baby who was baptized somewhere in the world just a minute ago. “Saint” is another word for “Christian” or “holy person.” Be holy.


More of Saints of the Bible
The Holy Family, Friends and Twelve Apostles
Other Apostles, Evangelists and Deacons
Miscellaneous Saints

Copyright 2016, 2017 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by RPB.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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