November 7, 2011

Their Rock, Their Fortress, Their Might: Reflecting On All Saints Sunday

This year, All Saints Sunday (November 6, 2011), came very close to the eighth anniversary of my mother's funeral. After living with multiple sclerosis for nearly two decades, she left this world to enter eternal rest and reward.

At church, we always sing "For All The Saints, Who From Their Labors Rest" on All Saints Sunday. This hymn has been noted as one of the most beautiful in the English language. I love the message of the hymn because Jesus Christ is clearly exalted as the Founder and Sustainer of our faith, while all of us who have followed Him are honored and remembered.

1. For all the saints, who from their labours rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
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, Alleluia!
3. For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!
4. For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
5. For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
6. O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
7. 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, Alleluia!
8. 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.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
9. The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
10. 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, Alleluia!
11. From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!
This wonderful hymn (words are by William Warsham How) takes us from time into eternity, expressing how Jesus has called followers from all of humanity. As we read or sing these words, we remember life is not a playground, but a battleground (as the famous A.W. Tozer essay reminds us), but that the successful finish of our work is guaranteed --"there breaks yet a more glorious day, the saints triumphant rise in bright array."
While my family and I adjusted to my mother having multiple sclerosis, I think back on the fact that although many people prayed for her to be healed, she never was completely free of the disease. There were good days and bad days, but by the time she passed away, my mother was a quadraplegic, and totally dependent upon others to take care of her needs.
God truly was her rock (her fortitude and spiritual determination to be godly in all circumstances), her fortress (her protection from any person or thing that would damage her soul), and her might (her power to be a faithful witness in the middle of something she didn't like and would not have chosen for herself).

That testimony was timeless, and powerful. When she finally left us, I was comforted and assured that her life had been well spent, well lived, and worthy of imitation. I rejoiced that she was freed from pain and uncertainty, but I was also proud that she could be a person of integrity in the middle of those things.

I hope, with God's guidance, to do as well with whatever circumstances I am called to.

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