Thursday, November 09, 2006

Follow-up: All Saints' Sunday

OK, enough about the job-losing and job-hunting woes. Sunday was glorious! We celebrated the day as All Saints' Sunday. Our pianist had a line-up of jazz-inspired service music. The choir presented a Mark Hayes arrangement of "Blessed Assurance" which was about as soulful as our anglo church will ever sound. We remembered the saints who have died. We heard the Word proclaimed about what the blood of Jesus means to us, then we celebrated the Lord's Supper. It was, to my way of thinking, just the right mix of solemnity and exuberant celebration.

One of my least favorite things--applause--erupted after the anthem. But somehow, it was OK this time. It was absolutely spontaneous. The choir members were totally absorbed in singing this beloved expression of faith for God's glory. We were well-rehearsed and able to sing with abandon. We were sharing with the congregation and our God what we all hold to be true: we belong to the Lord, in whose blood we're washed and in whom is our eternal hope. So it seemed to me that applause for that particular anthem was a way the full congregation could participate in the choir's representative celebration of faith.

That may not make a lot of sense to those who've never sung in choirs. I had to think about why applause seemed so appropriate this past Sunday when it so often does not. But I would challenge any congregation to remain silent when an anthem that expresses their faith well and which is of a celebratory style, is sung well. A hearty "Amen!" is good, too, and probably more appropriate than applause (actually, we got both). But I suppose I'd rather be irritated by even inappropriate applause from enthused, engaged worshipers than by their indifferent silence.

Anyway, it was a wonderful to experience the "communion of the saints" so powerfully. I do feel somewhat sorry for churches which don't observe All Saints. It's one of the times in the Christian Year when I always give thanks to God for the gift of the liturgical calendar. It keeps us balanced in its panoramic focus throughout the year. I read once that the liturgy "entertains" us easily-distracted humans. There's a lot of truth to that! We cannot possibly comprehend all that God is, but with the help of the Christian year, we can systematically focus on many of the various aspects of God's nature and self-revelation.

Praise you, O Eternal One, for all your saints and for the Savior who calls us by his own precious name!

No comments: