1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
2 My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
So begins Psalm 84 and so we heard in the sanctuary yesterday as the choir offered a beautiful rendition of the Brahms setting. Sitting in a lovely space dedicated to worship, hearing those notes, knowing the saints we were preparing to remember, I was moved.
I was moved, as I often am, by what those individual saints have meant in my life. But this time, I was also moved by a contribution they make to us collectively. As the congregation sang in the final hymn, Rejoice in God’s Saints, “A world without saints forgets how to praise. In loving, in living, they prove it is true: the way of self-giving, Lord, leads us to you.”
The saints we remembered yesterday who learned from saints they knew before who knew saints before them and, along and along, taught us the truth of the loveliness of God’s dwelling place, the importance of longing for God’s presence and for singing out to God. There are days, even Sundays, when I forget that. I, and I suspect you, can arrive at worship not out of desperation to be there, not feeling faint for having missed the place of worship in those intervening days. Too often we arrive with a weariness of another sort – the bloated kind that comes from filling our lives with pablum.
And, yet, we show up and hear the psalm sung beautifully or speak it ourselves, whether it’s what we’d choose to describe how we’re feeling that day or not. The saints have passed it along, something they felt some days and not others. They reminded us by their presence, their reading, their singing, their lives, how to praise. They’ve shown us that the way of self-giving leads to God. The saints taught us something of what it means love God and neighbor. And now we, as we’ve been reminded, shown, and taught are those who take up the baton and run our section of the race that others may, one day, sing out, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts…”