Sunday, November 01, 2009

Happy All Saints Day

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Allelu...
--For All the Saints, William How and Ralph Vaughan Williams
I'm on a week-long "comp time" vacation and since my work is in my church I chose to worship with another congregation today. There's approximately ten churches within walking distance of my house so I picked the Presbyterian church about four blocks away and loved the joy of wrapping up in my fall coat and walking to worship almost as much as the service itself.

  I do not know why I do not do this kind of visit more often.  It is a true gift to be able to walk into a church on a Sunday morning and not have to do a single thing other than be greeted by God and His people and to respond in worship along with them.  It is a beautiful reminder of the universal Church and my place in its family.  I do not go in with an ignorance that the grass is greener there; that they don't have their own concerns, strifes, disagreements and disobediences to contend with, but for that one service I am able to be blissfully ignorant.

I also find that every time I do this I cry during the Lord's Supper.  I can't get over the beauty of people of all types and backgrounds re-enacting this holy remembrance each week.  (although my church does not do this each week, still...)  I truly almost lost it in my pew this morning watching the minister break the loaf of bread and bless the cup.  The drama of people giving each other a place in line to wait for their taste of this holy, ancient supper is magnificent to me.  The undying symbolism of our Lord's broken body and blood that purchased these men and women around me for God is brighter when I'm outside of my normal place of worship.  The ordinary tastes of yeasty bread dipped into rosy, sweet  juice do not detract from the glory, but only enhance the mystery for me.

This is All Saints Day.  I've never celebrated All Saints Day, not ever before in my lifetime.  In fact, up until an embarrassingly few years ago I wasn't sure if that was even an appropriate remembrance for a Christian.  In the fuzzy catechism of my upbringing, saint-remembering equaled saint-worshipping and wasn't that an awful lot like ancestor worship of the pagans?  It was a joy to sit in this marvelously, gloriously ordinary gathering of neighborhood people and join in the remembering of the men and women who also had been purchased for God -- by the same body and blood we remembered together today -- but who were no longer physically present in the weekly bread line of communion.  I did not recognize one single name or photo projected onto the screen during the lovely special song from the worship team, but it didn't matter.  My heart and mind and body were lifted with hope of that future rest.  I am loathe to admit that I could barely remember the names of the saints my own congregation had lost this past year.  Shame on my forgetfulness -- not my lack of sentimentality over death, mind you -- but my utter self-absorption in the here and now-ness of my own life. This is shallow living and shallow worshipping and I no longer am content to live and worship that way.

After the benediction, I walked the four or so blocks to the coffee shop, drawn by the desire for more of this season's pumpkin-flavored coffees and sweets.  Rounding the neighborhood back toward my house, I stopped in the memorial park between the high school and the police station.  It seemed fitting to savor the intinction of muffin and latte in the midst of my community's fallen, but not-forgotten, soldiers.  Surrounded by the vibrancy of swirling autumn leaves and scampering squirrels I read the signs of the dead and remembered.

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Allelu...
2. Thou wast their rock, their fortress and their might;
Thou, Lord, their captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Allelu...
3. O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Allelu...
4. The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Allelu...
5. But lo! There breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on his way,
Alleluia, Allelu...
6. From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...