“Oh when the Saints go marching in, Lord I want to be in that number, when the Saints go marching in.” Many of us sing this old gospel hymn with great joy and gusto despite realising that sainthood is not a fun-filled path. This was sung recently during the 150th Celebrations of worship in the Church building at Marsden Road Uniting where I am serving as a supply (locum) minister at the moment. The theme for our 150th celebration was Saints Alive which meant the song seemed very appropriate. However, I wonder if we looked at the actual words of the song and not just the joyous refrain what we would think and whether we would sing with such gusto. Look up the verses of this popular song about saints to see why I make the comment.
The verses of the song remind us that the path toward God is not usually an easy one. In the reading from Daniel 7 this All Saints Sunday we find Daniel’s spirit is troubled and has a vision of kings arising like beast from the earth. Seems a bit scary but God promises that the holy ones will inherit the earth. In Sundays reading from Luke 6 we are offered future blessings to the poor, the hungry and the righteous of God. We aren’t told when though. Luke goes on to tell us about the woes that will come upon the successful and satisfied of this world. Do you like me wonder if the promises for the later laughter for the saintly are not all that comforting when one is racked with grief?
I am not sure if I want to be in that number with the Saints as they go marching toward God. I draw from this passage that the saints march with burdens of martyrdom. The saints march with the weight of the world. They march with suffering for the needs of others. They march with a willingness to carry earth’s deep sorrows on their backs. They march all the way to the cross with persistence and perseverance against all odds so that God’s realm may come to this earth.
Okay, maybe we do want to march with them. But does the cost have to be so high I hear you say. Well from my life’s experience I have to tell you I have not had an easy time of it when yearning for the easy path. Instead my life has shown a bumpy path toward God, a path that in its bump has changed me and moulded me through grace into what I hope and pray is the person God wants me to be.
Anyone can love when life is good, but can I love when it is risked-filled, when I may and possibly will not get what we call a fair return? Jesus does not back of in proclaiming woes to the rich and self-satisfied and most of us would be happy if it stopped there. Jesus however goes on to ask us to love those he has just denounced, that we are to be merciful as God is merciful. This includes loving all God’s creation which despite the Beatles singing “All you need is love,” is something we humans don’t always want to do.
In light of our recent 150 years of Saints I hope and pray we may also be numbered as Saints alive despite the woes and difficulties we face. I hope and pray we to may love despite who and what others are like and the difficulty we have with them. I hope and pray then that I to may be numbered amongst those Saints Alive that our celebration took us to be.