“Oh When The Saints…”

5 Nov, 2023

By the Rev’d Lucy Nguyen

Season: All Saints Day.

Readings: Revelation 7:9-end | 1 John 3:1-3 | Matthew 5:1-12.

Today, we celebrate All Saints’ Day, our Patronal Sunday and in keeping with the significance of the day, we have our bishop, Bishop Ross Bay, confirming, preaching, and celebrating at our 9:30 a.m. service.

All Saints Day is a time to remember our connection to the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us, to be inspired by their lives and to recommit ourselves to the work of doing the will of God on Earth. We may well remember family and friends who have died in this past year and those we continue to miss.

We will, in our Remembrance Service on the evening of 3 December 2023 at 7:00 p.m., remember all whose lives we have farewelled from this parish in the past year, as well as have space to remember all who have died and whom we continue to miss.

Within the traditions of All Saints Sunday, the recalling of the lives of those who have gone before us is more than an
outpouring of emotions, though that may be part of it; it is more than an honouring of people, though again, that can be a
dimension of the day.

At the preaching heart of today is the exploration of the question: How do we live out God’s call to sainthood?

This morning’s readings affirm that all who claim and trust in the promises of God are blessed, as in, God is with them regardless!

Dallas Willard says: “They {The Beatitudes} are explanations and illustrations drawn from the immediate setting of the present
availability of the kingdom through personal relationship to Jesus.” They single out cases that provide proof that, in Jesus, the rule of God from the heavens truly is available in life circumstances that are beyond all human hope.

God’s saints today – including all who are baptized into Christ – are called to look ahead, to know the hope to which God calls.

God’s saints are called to live now in the presence of God’s promises, working toward the fulfilment of these promises. (1)

Today and every Sunday, we are reminded that our understanding is of a God who creates, comes amongst us in whatever life may bring and calls us into love and life together.

When we faithfully place ourselves in God’s presence, when we become disciples, we know new possibilities for life and service will become visible.

At the 9:30 a.m. service, we will be singing two versions of For All the Saints – lovely hymns capturing in song our vision of what
we have seen in those who have gone before us. We sing to honour, and we sing to inspire.

I thought here at the 7:30 a.m. service, to ensure we don’t bypass some musical opportunity, we would look at the song “Oh When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Not to be confused with the hymn “When the Saints Are Marching In”. They are two different songs.

We’re looking at:

“O when the saints go marching in,
O when the saints go marching in,
O Lord, I want to be in that number
when the saints go marching in.

O when the sun refused to shine,
O when the sun refused to shine,
O Lord, I want to be in that number
when the sun refused to shine.

Oh, when the moon turns red with blood
Oh, when the moon turns red with blood
Oh Lord I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in.

Oh, when the trumpet sounds its call
Oh, when the trumpet sounds its call
Oh Lord I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in.”

This apocalyptic song takes much of its imagery from the Book of Revelation, some of which we heard this morning alongside
the beatitudes.

The verses about the Sun and Moon are often interpreted as Solar and Lunar eclipses; the trumpet is the way in which the
The Last Judgment is announced. (2) Now we know apocalypticism is essentially the belief that civilization will soon come to a tumultuous end due to some sort of catastrophic global event.

There are certainly numerous thoughts around the end times. In our community, we will hold the usual variations of perspectives across the spectrum of understanding.

In my preaching and current understanding, I lean toward the teaching that while the end of the world could come at any
moment, we are called to focus on the present life. (3) In this, I suggest we are not to be caught up in predicting when the end
will come, rather, we are called to live into this time, reflecting on and refining how we live into God’s call of love now.

In essence, to be living saints in the making.

And so, how do we go marching on amid our everyday reality?

What verses would you like to add to this song “O When the Saints Go Marching In”?

Substitute for this moment in place of the apocalyptic event a reality today, and in the place of “the saints”, go marching, put your name, our parish name, or simply a personal pronoun.

For example:

“Oh when the baby’s hunger kills,
Oh when the baby’s hunger kills,
Oh Lord I want to be helping [name your agency of assistance]
Before the baby’s hunger kills.”

Apologies for not quite matching beat and tune – but you can see where I’m going with this …

We have a role to play, along with the saints of old, in the story of God’s saving work.

Take a moment now to reflect on how you would word your verses. Share verse with someone. Consider together the
strength of your song sung together. And take the time to think through what we might do to put our verses into action.

Another example:

“Oh when the tide is rising high,
Oh when the tide is rising high,
Oh Lord we want to be sheltering others [consider our contribution to helping communities affected by climate change]
Before the rising tide is high.”

Let us put our everyday apocalyptic news and ourselves into this song so that we may be active members of the saintly march
which goes before us … for God is present now and, in all times, thanks be to God.

An All Saints Sunday blessing, and may our song be good news:

O ALMIGHTY God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord: Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys, which thou hast prepared for them that unfeignedly love thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (4)


(1) Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (New York: Harper One, 1997), 98-99.

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