In our day of thanksgiving one psalm let us offer
for the saints who before us received the reward;
when the shadow of death fell upon them, we sorrowed,
but now we rejoice that they rest in the Lord.
In the morning of life, and at noon, and at evening,
they were gathered to heav'n from our worship below;
but not till God's love, at the font and the altar,
had clothed them with grace for the way they should go.
These stones that have echoed their praises are holy,
and dear is the ground where their feet have once trod;
yet here they confessed they were strangers and pilgrims,
and still they were seeking the city of God.
Sing praise, then, and thanks that God's love here has found them,
whose journey is ended, whose perils are past;
they believed in the light; and its glory is round them,
where the clouds of earth's sorrow are lifted at last.
Sunday is the Christian day of thanksgiving, the day of Eucharist. This hymn celebrates, in concert with Hebrews 11, that we do not worship only with the saints of our own time, but with all those who have gone before. The original title for this hymn was "In remembrance of Past Worshipers."
It was also a hymn penned to commemorate the reopening of a church in England after its restoration. You can picture the congregation ooh-ing and aah-ing at the work that had been done to make their building beautiful and fresh. But the hymn draws their attention instead away from the transiency of these stones to the solid witness of forebears who worshiped here as pilgrims en route to a more abiding City. If God's love has found those whose journey has already ended, and if God's love has found us too, then truly we can sing and pray and eat together as one.
Faithful God, we cannot see or hear our departed ones and yet you have joined us with them in a mystic sweet communion. May the voices you have gathered across time and space bring you glory, now and forever. Amen.