For All the Saints

We observed All Saints' Sunday this morning, which I LOVED LOVED LOVED; we had communion, which should always be part of the All Saints celebration, and we sang my favorite hymn, "I Love Your Kingdom, Lord," and of course "For All the Saints," which I can never get through with dry eyes, and my voice cracked when I led the congregation in the acclamation from Revelation 7, "Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat...." It was beautiful and thrilling and bittersweet to remember and thank God for our own loved ones who are in the church triumphant and for those from this very congregation that have gone home in the past year.

And then I went back for our second service, which doesn't really follow the church year at all (except for Christmas and Easter), and which ended with an altar call and time of prayer. And the names that came to my mind to pray for during the time of prayer at the end of the service were people whom I haven't seen or spoken to in years, but who -- as far as I know -- are, like the word of God itself, still living and active in this world. And it seemed particularly appropriate on All Saint's Sunday to be praying for brothers and sisters whom I have no real expectation of seeing again this side of heaven, but who are still part of the great communion of saints who will one day be gathered together for the great wedding feast of the Lamb. Just as it is appropriate this day to look back and remember the lives of the faithful departed, it is appropriate to look forward and pray with hope for the work that God's people are continuing to do in this world, and how we each are to be a part of it.

And I came home and put this song on the stereo and turned it up LOUD:

Sara Groves has turned on its head the way I hear the words "When the Saints Go Marching In." I've always heard the classic spiritual as being about heaven and personal salvation, but Sara reminds me powerfully that saints also go marching into hell on earth. Saints don't sit around hoping they'll be part of the heavenly number; saints lift a hymn to God in the here and now by taking action to set aright some part of the brokenness of creation.

Because there are not two churches. There is one (holy, catholic, and apostolic) church. And we who are the church on earth can and should and must be militant precisely because we are already triumphant, because Jesus is triumphant, and we are his Body. "I see the Man of Sorrow and his long troubled road / I see the world on his shoulders and my easy load / And when the saints go marching in / I want to be one of them."

Alleluia, alleluia.


Blogbarger said...

Solidarity here, my friend. We sang "For All The Saints" also. I was Epistoler and Necrologist today. Read Revelation 7 followed by over 100 friends, family members & clergy from our parish who are now in the presence of Christ. I agree with you, it was a thrilling and very moving Sunday.

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