During the first part of the Twentieth Century, a young mother in Britain composed spiritual songs to sing to her children and to teach them about the Christian faith. Her name was Lesbia Scott, and one of those hymns – I Sing a Song of the Saints of God – became a children’s classic of the 1940 Episcopal Church hymnal.
At the Wednesday Unplugged gathering on November 1st, we honored All Saints’ Day by singing this familiar hymn (a cappella, no less!) and then reflecting on the meaning of the words. (I hasten to say that I’ve enjoyed having relaxed time with parishioners of all ages (from pre-schoolers to 80+ year olds) on our Wednesdays so far, and we’ve learned from the parables of Jesus and more as we enjoy a tasty supper and end the evening with Compline prayers.)
As we reflected on this most familiar hymn, the characteristics of a saint began to come into focus. There are famous saints of old and saints with whom we are in relationship in our lives today (if sometimes unknowingly). Saints strive to be the best people they can be, not to bolster the ego but because of their love of the Lord. Saints engage in all manner of roles and work in the world; the key is not the particular task itself, but addressing the task ethically and gracefully.
And, last and far from least, the hymn boldly claim that “the saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one, too.” All Saints’ Day cannot be limited to the “stained glass window” saints, heroric though they were in their own time. If we are to live into the meaning of All Saints’ Day, we do so in our own time and place. May we “mean to be one, too” in our imperfect, challenging and yet graceful witness to the Lord we love and strive to know more deeply.