Rob and I grew up in church traditions that loved hymn singing, and we gravitated toward churches like that as a married couple. On Sunday mornings now, when I’m missing Rob’s arm around me in the pew, the hymns remind me that he’s near.
“Yet she on earth hath union
with the God the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion
with those whose rest is won”“The Church’s One Foundation”
The contemporary church doesn’t talk much about the communion of saints — that mysterious and beautiful connection across the ages that we possess as the Body of Christ. Hebrews 12 tells us that those who’ve died in Christ cheer us on like spectators along a marathon route. Though absent from us, these dear ones continue to participate with us as the Body of Christ.
This is all a theological nicety until you have lost someone you love. Monday through Saturday I am reminded of all the ways Rob is gone from my life. There is no end to the places we experience his absence. But on Sundays, when I sing the hymns, I am reminded of how very present and connected Rob still is with me and with the Body of Christ.
Rob’s not the angel on my shoulder or that ray of sunshine that breaks through the clouds on an overcast day. I don’t believe he sends me signs. But I do believe, if the ears of my heart are tuned, I can hear his voice, joined with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Hans, Rosemary, Marty, Brett, and others we have loved and lost. Together though apart, we continue to worship as one Body. Death does not end our communion; it only changes it for a time. The hymns remind me that this separation won’t be forever. Alleluia. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
“’Mid toil and tribulation,
and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation
of peace forevermore;
till with the vision glorious
her longing eyes are blest,
and the great church victorious
shall be the church at rest.”“The Church’s One Foundation”