For All The Saints
On some Sundays when one of us is not feeling well or I am starting a new medicine, my wife Vicky and I worship at home instead of at Clear Lake Presbyterian Church. This past Sunday, as my doctor had just put me on something new, we did just that. When we worship at home, one of the things we like the most is singing hymns together. We sang many hymns, but only one of them brought tears to both our eyes. It is the hymn, “For All the Saints.”
The hymn was written by an Anglican priest and was first printed in 1864. It was a processional hymn, meaning it was the first hymn that would be sung at a Sunday worship as the choir and pastors marched in. The song was in a collection of hymns which could be used on All Saints Day, the Day when many Christians remember all “the dead in Christ,” those who have died united to Christ and are now in His blessed presence. I believe the letter to the Hebrews speaks of those faithful departed when it says we are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.” (Hebrews 12:1) When we are united to Christ by faith, we know that in we cannot be separated from those who, although having died, are still united to the source of all life“ because they are in Christ” ! (I Thessalonians 4:16).
I believe all Christians (living and dead) are saints, not just the extra good ones. One reason I believe it is I Corinthians 1:2. The best translation of the Greek is: “To the church (called-out ones) of God in Corinth, to those sanctified (set apart) in Christ Jesus and called holy (saints), together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” For those churches whose worshipers say the Apostles Creed when they gather in worship of God, when we say the words, “I believe in the communion of the saints,” we are saying that in Christ we are united with all Christians of all nations, tongues, circumstances, and cultures—whether living or dead!
The song, "For All the Saints," has particularly to do with our communion (our close unity) with those saints (or Christians) who have died and are with Christ! I am pretty sure these are the verses that Vicky and I sang:
For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
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.
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
I am particularly moved by the last two verses printed above. The last verse brought to Vicky’s mind the scene in Lord of the Rings where the forces of Theoden the King of Rohan (with his niece Eowyn disguised as a male warrior) are coming to the rescue of the city of Gondor which is besieged by an overwhelming force of evil. As the battle is going very badly for Gondor, the horn of Rohan sounds (it is like a mixture of a trumpet and a shophar). It announces that the forces of good are about to rescue their besieged comrades at the last moment—when there had seemed to be no hope.
“And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Winfield Casey Jones is a retired pastor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The column first appears in the Pearland and Friendswood Reporter News.