We sang “For all the saints, who from their labours rest” at the hospital chapel service yesterday.
Actually, I read the lyrics of two stanzas, and then Nancy played them on the keyboard. I realized about a year ago, after four years of singing, that no one needs to hear me singing from their hospital bed. And I realized that listening to Nancy play the accompaniment after I provide the lyrics, is a helpful musical interlude in the day.
I read the second stanza:
“We feebly struggle, they in glory shine,
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are thine.”
I choked up a bit as I read.
The Church includes both living in this life and living beyond. And most of us are aware of more and more people who are part of the Church that we cannot see.
We worry and are frustrated with the church these days, as well we should be. Or better, we should be concerned about the gatherings, and the leaders, who try to be the church, who, in the name of Jesus, act in ways that are sometimes misguided, sometimes cruel, sometimes evil. Not always and not all gatherings. Thanks be to God.
But on this day, All Saints Day, November 1, we can remember that the Church is much bigger than the local gatherings. We can, if we are willing, remember that the church includes Mary and John and Mary and Peter and Mary and Mom and Kathryn and Aquinas and Luther and Phoebe and Amy Carmichael and Helen Curry.
We are in time, facing the pain and loss and grief mixed with delight and discovery and uncertainty. They are not.
They have faced all of that, each of them across their lives, and the Church has faced it across generations and geography.
I don’t say this to say, “So we shouldn’t feel bad.”
But I am grateful to remember that the Church didn’t start with me, doesn’t end with me, and doesn’t depend on my perfection or performance.
As all the saints who from their labours rest can attest, it’s never up to us. It is for God.
As of yesterday, Giving the Year Meaning: A Healing Journal for Advent is available on Kindle, and in paperback and hardcover. I did the hardcover so it can last better as you use it from year to year. (The accumulation of reflections from year to year is intriguing). Order it soon. Advent (and the journal) begin on November 28.