All Saints’ Sunday
Dear Faithful Praying Family & Friends,
Honestly, Chemo Round 2, Days 4-10 were rough [no ER visit, however!]. I began to feel normal on Day 11 and this morning I went to worship and tonight I enjoyed “Soup Group,” which we host in our home and which is the highlight of my week. Soup Group is the weekly Sunday Evening Supper & Study for Graduate Students & Faculty. We always serve homemade soup and lately, dear friends have offered to take a turn making soup for us. [Thanks to Patty, Margie, Jessica, and Kris!] This semester, we are discussing “Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church,” by N T Wright. This has been a challenging, yet fascinating, book to study and discuss.
Now, back to this morning: “All Saints Sunday: Is a holy time when we celebrate all the people of God, those now living on this earth and those who have passed into the greater life, who together form the mystical Body of Christ. New members are welcomed into Christian life in the Sacrament of Baptism. We also remember all who have lived and died in faith, with whom we know we’ll be reunited around God’s heavenly throne. Banners are displayed for children who are baptized on this day, and a procession of banners for those who have departed this life in the past year streams to the altar in remembrance.” [from St. Peter’s Anglican Church Service Leaflet]
What a poignant and emotional morning is All Saints Sunday, for me, every year, because I usually know the family of at least one of the persons who has died. The Entrance Hymn, during the Procession, is always the majestic “For All the Saints, Who From Their Labors Rest,” during which we [the congregation] stand and sing all eight verses! [I invite you to ponder the theological depths and riches of that hymn, for I cannot type it out here.] I will, however, share the first verse with you:
“For all the saints, who from their labors rest, who thee, by faith before the world confessed, thy Name O Jesus, be forever blessed. Allelluia, Alleluia!”
As I sing the hymn, I see the back of each banner-carrier as he/she slowly processes down the aisle, toward the altar. The banner-carrier is almost always a close family member of the person who has died. When the family member reaches the front of the sanctuary, he/she turns around and hands the banner to the Verger, who positions each banner so that it faces the congregation during the rest of the worship service. The banner displays the first name of the loved one who has died and underneath is the phrase, “Christ’s Own Forever.” For just a few seconds, I can see the brave face of the family member before he/she returns to their pew. This is the moment that I have to compose myself and fight back tears, as I think about the loss, sorrow, and grief of that family.
The Worship Service was especially poignant to me this year –today — and I am keenly interested in understanding the content of the N T Wright. Is there a connection to my current suffering? Absolutley! No matter how brief or long my life may yet be, through suffering, I have been given a gift: A view of seeing my life as, not my own, but as belonging to Christ. “You are not your own; you have been bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.” [1 Corinthians 6.20]
May I remember, in spite of the suffering, that I belong to Christ forever! Please pray for me, especially between Days 4-10, of the next Chemo Round. These are the days that I am filled with despair and fear. These are the days that I find it difficult to “glorify God in my body.” The suffering batters me, weakens me, and renders me unable to think clearly. [Just ask my husband and he will confirm this!] At those times, I need those of you who are strong to remind me of the truth.