Dear Friends in Christ Jesus:
As much of the culture is ramping up for Halloween I am praying and singing my way to All Saints Day, November 1. That said please take a moment and join me in singing, reciting, praying the words of hymn For All the Saints:
For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
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.
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.
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
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.
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:
I hope as you sang, recited or prayed these words you caught glimpses of one or more people of exemplary faith who influenced and shaped your own Christian life. Whenever I sing the words or hear the tune for this hymn, whether I am alone or in the presence of people, I see the faces and remember the witness of those who have gone before us to the Church Triumphant. When someone near and dear to me has recently crossed the great divide and I hear this song, it is usually a challenge for me to get through all the verses without shedding a tear. My Mother died in 1990 and it was multiple years before I could sing this song without crying or my voice trembling on at least one of the verses. About this, I have no regrets. It was evidently one of the ways I processed my loss and grief. It was one way I remembered her influence on my life, especially to live for God’s glory and in the service of humanity.
As we approach All Saints Day 2021, I am absolutely sure I will be thinking about my Father, Herbert Edward Palmer, who died in June of this year. There may be a few tears. Who knows? But there will be overwhelming gratitude for his life well lived by God’s grace and to the glory of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
Time will not permit me to rehearse in great detail every aspect of my love for and appreciation of my Dad for the witness that he was and is to me. More can be shared in small pieces over time. But let me start here, now. He lived a life that exuded gratitude for all that he had received as gift. He overflowed in thanksgiving for things big and small. For life, health, strength, a sound mind, food, family, friends, relationships, faith, the church, education, the opportunity to serve others and so much more. For all of these he profusely thanked people and God. He took with utter seriousness the truth of James 1:17: Every good gift, every perfect gift comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all.
Maybe All Saints Day comes every year so that we can learn again how to say, Thank You and really mean it. I am,
Yours with gratitude,
† Bishop Gregory V. Palmer