"For all the saints who from their labors rest, who to the world their steadfast faith confessed, Your name O Jesus be forever blessed. Alleluia. Alleluia." --Hymn
Alex Haley told the story that when he was a little boy and upset his grandmother would say: “Alex, we don’t when Jesus is gonna come back—but he is always gonna come on time.” I have found those words to be true more times than I can remember. Here is one of those experiences.
I was spending two weeks in the summer at Princeton Seminary. When I left home things were not going well in the church. I just felt like I was at a dead end and I did not know what to do. Should I leave? Should I stay? Not too many churches wanted a guy in his mid-fifties. It was a hard time when you stand at the crossroads and no path ahead seems clear.
One of my favorite places in Princeton is the University Chapel. From time to time I would wander in that sanctuary and just sit. It was built between 1925 and 1928. It was designed by the leading Gothic architect of that day, Ralph Adams Cram. It is rich in symbolism and its windows tell the greatest story ever told in a beautiful depiction. One day I moved toward the front facing the altar. O my left, near the front I stared at this particular window. They call it the great north window. Looking closely I saw that it depicted endurance. Jesus stands at the center of this window. He is surrounded by many who have been martyred for the faith. Underneath the window carved in stone are the words: “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” It is a window of endurance.
Some days I would look up and just cry. Some days I would look up and marvel at the stained glass Jesus and the faithful. Even after I left Princeton and made my way back home I remembered the endurance window. And I began to think if Jesus kept them in the hard places of their lives—surely he would keep me. That window, among other thing, kept me going in that difficult time.
All Saints Day is that time when we stop and look up and remember. It is a holy day because we are all surrounded by mothers and fathers and friends and colleagues and so many who have gone before us. We would not be where we are without these that loved us and cheered us on. Carlyle Marney used to say, “Even the worst of us—who have known nothing it seems but terrible experiences-- need to remember that when you were born somebody washed you off and held you or you wouldn’t be here at all.”
Somebody. A lot of some bodies. The faithful ones. The enduring ones. The ones who have made a profound difference in our lives. Put aside these things that seem so important and ponder the great mystery. Thanks to them we all have come to know that through them, the faithful ones, Jesus has always come to us on time.
"And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
then hearts are brave again, and faith grows strong.