I needed to sit through church today. I needed to confess ” I, a poor, miserable sinner…” and I needed to hear in response the pastor say “Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God unto all of you…” I needed to lift up my voice in hymns of praise as we sing with all the company of heaven. I needed to listen to God’s Word. I needed to receive holy communion and carry the benediction home with me “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”
Thanks to daylight savings, the girls and I did make it to church with plenty of time to spare, they even wore matching adorable dresses. We settled into a pew and it was downhill from there. I had my hymnal open for the first hymn and was able to sing through it while keeping one arm firmly clenched around a squirming 1 yr old and trying to keep the almost 4 year old from wiggling her way along the pew like some over grown inch worm. Singing with all the saints? Check. I might have gotten a few words out of the confession, pretty sure I said “miserable” and “sinner” but my attention was on my daughter who was now lying on her back and cycling her feet in the air. But confession and absolution happened. Check. Then I heard God’s Word, or at least God’s Word was spoken and I was in the building, the sounds swirled around me, mingled decipherable with the growing moaning grumble of the 1 yr old and I did not register a single word of the Word. Through the next hymn before the sermon I didn’t even try to open my hymnal, instead I clung determinedly to my daughter who by that point had become a writhing, slippery snot-mess. Her disgruntled mumbles grew as the sermon progressed and I finally admitted defeat and we walked across the street to the house. No communion. No benediction.
It’s hard to feel only 100% sinner on this All Saints Day. I know theologically that Christians are 100% sinner while also 100% saint. That math doesn’t add up in our world. Lots of things that God does don’t add up in our world. Things like the death of one man, Jesus, covering the sins of the whole world. How could one human carry all mankind’s sins? Jesus was fully man and fully God, not 50/50. Again the math doesn’t work out and I am grateful for God’s grace.
After settling the 1 year old down for a nap, I stepped out onto the front porch for a breath of brisk autumn air. Even with the sanctuary windows closed I could heard the voices of the congregation clearly. Like all self-respecting Lutherans, my church loves to sing. I stood there and felt tears of frustration and anger well up. I needed to be over there, my soul needed to be in church; standing here on the porch with crusty snot drying on my shoulders was not where I wanted to be. They were singing For All the Saints. Our organist was playing it with all the triumph and heft the tune deserves, not like some funeral dirge. I slipped back inside and flipped open the family hymnal, maybe I could still sing along…my throat was tight from tears, tight from disappointment in my mothering skills and my children’s behavior. Mutely I read the words till I stopped short at verse 5:
And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
I’ve sung this song all my life but I’ve always imagined martyrs in other countries from the distant past. Today I saw this verse in my life. Raising up Christian children who are 100% sinner and 100% saint is no small feat and the spiritual warfare can gain a foothold oh so easily during the long sleepless nights when your arms feel ready to drop off as you rock a congested child. I realized that today. It was a long uncomfortable Sunday. Maybe next Sunday will be better.