“Not a hair of your head will perish; by your endurance you will gain your souls.”
Have you ever watched young children go off a diving board for the first time? Some of them (the very brave) will walk to the ladder and go up needing just a little verbal encouragement. Maybe they’ll walk to the end of the board, close their eyes, and step off. Then there are the reckless few who seem not to understand the risk, who bound up the ladder, run to the end of the board and leap into the air. And of course there are the others, the fear filled ones, who may need a helping hand or to see a trusted adult ready to catch them in order to jump into the water. And we all know those who are paralyzed by the thought of even going up the ladder and if they get that far may need someone to help them back down. Diving boards are a place of fear from thrills to terror. As a child I did not like the idea of even looking at a diving board. My fear froze me. And yet, now, I do go off diving boards and have even taught others to do the same.
What makes the difference to get through fear and terror is having some trusted person there to coach, to encourage, and to strengthen by their presence. Fears are more bearable when there is some trusted one with you, alongside of you all the way. Think of something in your own experience that has caused you to fear, on the side of being fully terrified, and then remember what or who helped you to get through that fear. With that in mind let’s turn to today’s gospel.
O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom.
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I have no doubt that at some point as kids, sitting in the back of the family car during one of those boring road trips, we all asked our parents are we there yet? Besides being a sure-fire method for pushing mom and dad into complete delirium, it was also a rather odd question to ask. Because it was already perfectly self-evident that you had not yet arrived at your destination — you were still uncomfortably buckled in your seat and your sibling was still poking you in the head. But, of course, that’s precisely why you kept asking if you were there yet, despite the abundant evidence otherwise. You had been on the road long enough that surely you had to basically be there by now. How could you feel so ready to get out of the car if the time to do so had not yet come?
I have no idea if William How was thinking of today’s Ephesians reading when he wrote the hymn “For All The Saints,” but if he wasn’t, he should have been. Paul prays two things for the Ephesians this morning. He asks first, that they would know the hope to which God has called them, the riches of their inheritance; and second, that they would know the power of Christ for us who believe.
The hymn “For All The Saints” does such a great job of depicting the connection between those two things. There’s all this imagery first of struggling to walk the way of Christ now, in the face of a world which is blind to wonder, which stands in opposition to mercy. And then there are these moments where the future hope, the inheritance God offers in Christ, breaks in and becomes his power for us who believe.
And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long, - there’s the present
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song - there’s the future
And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong. - The future hope comes back into the present to become the power Paul is praying for, applied to what we’re going through.
“For All The Saints” actually has several more verses that aren’t usually in modern hymnals, and here’s the one about martyrs:
For Martyrs who, with rapture kindled eye, - there’s the revelation of insight from God that Paul prays for
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky, - there’s the future, the hope of our inheritance in Christ
And (here comes the present), And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
And seeing, grasped it. The revelation of that fullness, that hope, that inheritance, that future, taken hold of and welcomed into the present as God’s power for us who believe.