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. 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!
5. 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!
6. For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye, Saw the bright crown descending from the sky, And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify. Alleluia, Alleluia!
7. O blest communion, fellowship divine! We feebly struggle, they in glory shine; Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine. 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, Singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost: Alleluia, Alleluia!
William Walsham How 1864
You can hear a Cathedral Choir sing this hymn here
St Matthew 5: 1 – 12
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, follows the exploits of the last active priest in a state, which had outlawed the Church, in Mexico. The priest travels incognito from village to village, saying mass, hearing confessions, baptising babies and praying for those who had died. He is not presented as being at all heroic: a clumsy whisky priest with a daughter from an illicit relationship. However, despite the opportunity he doesn’t escape but, in his imperfections, continues to minister to his flock – after all there’s no one else. Eventually he is captured, refuses to accept a state pension, renounce his orders and live in safety so, inevitably, he is shot. Awaiting execution it occurs to him that really it wouldn’t have been that hard to be a saint and he thinks of today’s reading and the list of beatitudes which mark the lives of the saints. The irony is that the priest, who thinks he’s a failure, by being executed is a martyr and will be venerated as a saint – though the Church will whitewash his failings.
We believe we are part of the Communion of Saints – fellowship not just with other Christians now but with all those who have gone before and all those yet to come. As How wrote in his great hymn, we are united with saints of old who nobly struggled to live a life of sanctity, with apostles, evangelists and martyrs as well as with the ordinary, everyday saints as much as with the whisky priests. Now the saints rest in “the calm of paradise the blessed” but they wait for “lo there breaks a yet more glorious day” when the saints, and us will be called back to life by our risen Lord and we, with them will rejoice as the King of Glory passes by.
Until then we sinners wait in our present imperfection seeking to be holy and change the world as a place fit for saints.
Remind us, Good Lord, that Heaven shall not wait for triumphant Hallelujahs, when earth has passed and we reach another shore. Remind us, Gentle God, that Jesus is Lord in our present imperfection; and that his power and love are for now and then for evermore. Amen
after John Bell and Graham Moule’s Heaven Shall Not Wait.
The Rev’d Andy Braunston is Minister of Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs in the Synod of Scotland’s Southside Cluster. He is also the co-ordinator the URC Daily Devotions project.