The season of All Saints-tide and a chance to sing one of my favourite hymns- For all the Saints.
It has too many verses but I then struggle to decide which one(s) to leave out, because it flows.
I find the middle verses so realistic but hopeful, as the hymn reminds us of the now and what is promised, which the “saints” already enjoy.
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine; ..
And when the strife is fierce, the battle long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph-song,
and hearts are brave again and arms are strong,
Our current situation feels like a long battle, a wearisome march, a forever cloudy day, so all the more the need to cup the ear and listen out for the distant triumph song, the song of the saints who are surrounding us – since we are surrounded by such a crowd of witnesses, let us run the race with perseverance, looking to Jesus (Hebrews 12)..
God has not changed and his promises are no different; God is with us to weep with us, hold us, and gently remind us that the world at this time needs signs of his light and love even more.
And we must also engage with the demands and needs of the diocese (which is our Church here in this part of the NW). There is no hiding from the fact that things will change and much faster than we would like or wish for. Part of this is a nation’s shift, away from God, away from Christian worship, towards a more secularist and post-modern consumer world; Part of this is our failure to be the churches of the gospel, oflove, welcome, hope, prophetic commitment and challenge. Part is the historic swings in societies and nations, where there are periods of greater or less religious engagement.
Whatever the reasons, as the saints on earth, or the Church militant as the Prayer Book puts it, contending for the faith now, not “triumphant”, resting from our toils, it is our task to be salt, light, a witness to the love of God and to be those who keep the memory and truth of God alive (always remembering that God’s Spirit is actually the one who will keep that memory alive, that Christ is the light that the darkness cannot overcome).
And the hymn ends with the great promise of
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,
Let us hear the triumph-song, the song of the angels, the song of the saints and may our hearts be brave and our arms strong again, for God is with us and God will be with us, and we are with God and will be for ever.
Rev’d Peter Reiss: 30th Oct 2020