Like a mighty army moves the church of God
brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
but the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
we have Christ's own promise, and that cannot fail.
Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud, and honor unto Christ the King,
this through countless ages men and angels sing.
-- Lines from the hymn, 'Onward, Christian Soldiers';
words by Sabine Baring-Gould, music by Arthur S. Sullivan
We sang this hymn in church today.
There are those who think that the Christian language has become too entangled in metaphors of war, e.g. 'conquering the world for Christ' and 'crusades'. I would agree that, in an increasingly pacifistic world, Christians can afford to widen their vocabulary.
But at the same time, I don't think we can run away from war metaphor. The fact that the book of Revelation speaks of wars at the end of time makes it quite clear that until the new heaven and new earth come, wars will not cease. Great pieces of literature like The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia eloquently suggest how righteous men and women ought to live in a world where war is nature.
With reference to the stanzas quoted above, we Christians would do well to be united as an army is united; to fight the Enemy and not the enemies we make of each other. We would do well, as Pastor Vincent pointed out, to remember that we are on the offensive; the Gates of Hades will not prevail. It is not a picture of us defending our posts against an invading Hell, but of a Hell retreating and falling apart when Christians march.
'Join our happy throng' reminded me of how we are an army whose weapon is the joy of the Lord. In this manner were the walls of Jericho and the armies attacking Jehoshaphat defeated.
Soldiers are taught discipline and loyalty, courage and honour. The Church would do well to remember this.
* * *
I arrived just in time for Communion. Among those serving today was Angeline, who is training to become a pastor.
Charisse Tay is the leader of a newly planted College Zone cell hosted by Cindy Koh. I remember when Charisse was a primary schoolgirl in VBS (Vacation Bible School) back when I was a helper.
It is encouraging to see these people still faithfully serving, standing their posts as soldiers of Christ Jesus.
On another note, it occurred to me that the Senior Pastor of my very Pentecostal church has one Catholic trait: he is single! Perhaps this is one of the subtle reasons why I remain drawn to Catholicism.