All Saints Day
Prepare Holy Communion elements and maybe have some small stones or tea light candles for the Remembering the Saints section after first prayer on p.2
Greeting: The peace of Christ be with you all – and also with you.
Call to Worship
As we gather, we remember that we are not alone!
We gather with the saints, who live in the presence of God, singing praises to the God of our salvation.
From every nation, race, clan and culture, God’s people gather to worship the One-Who-Is-Without-Peer!
To God and to the Lamb, all honour, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, strength and power.
Blessed be God, now and forever! Amen!
Blessed are you, God of our salvation. As we turn to you in prayer, be with us and reveal to us your ways. From your self-revelation in Jesus, teach us how to live in ways that honour you by humbling ourselves; by being content with what we have rather than striving for more; by caring and cooperating, rather than competing in unhealthy ways. Teach us, giver of all goodness, to be strong in your strength for the sake of the gospel.
Help us honour your prodigious grace, by living as doers of peace in this world you love, for we ask in the name of Christ. Amen.
Remembering the saints – (at the church building) writing names of those who influenced our faith on ‘post it’ stars to be placed on large love heart.
(at home) write down the names on a piece of paper or say them aloud and maybe light a candle or place a small stone near the Holy Communion elements before you.
HYMN: TIS 455 For all the saints (vs 1-4, 7 & 8)
For all the saints who from their labours rest,
who to the world their Lord by faith confessed,
your name, O Jesus, be for ever blessed
You were their rock, their fortress and their might,
you were their captain in the well fought fight,
in deepest darkness still their one true light.
So may your servants, faithful, true and bold,
fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
and win, with them, the victor’s crown of gold.
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine,
all yours, all joined in unity divine.
But see, there breaks a yet more glorious day;
the saints triumphant rise in bright array;
the King of glory passes on his way.
From earth’s wide bounds and ocean’s farthest shore,
through heaven’s gate the holy people pour;
the three-in-One for ever they adore.
(William Walsham How 1823-97 alt. PD) Verse 8
Scripture Readings: Revelation 7: 9-17; (epistle) I John 3: 1-3;
Prayer of Confession
Holy God, we so often fail to remember how profoundly you love us.
You bless us even when we are at our wit’s end.
You created us, and you love us as we are, even as you inspire through your Holy Spirit, our desire to be better.
Forgive us when we fail to remember that we are the body of Christ – saints-in-process.
Empower us to begin anew, encouraged by the stories of those who live in your eternal presence.
In the name of Jesus, and for the sake of the gospel, we pray. Amen.
Words of Assurance
Beloved, we are the children of God. Don’t fear failure. It is endemic to our human nature. Learn from your mistakes and cherish the forgiving grace of God. Give thanks for all you are, and go forward in faith, knowing that God is faithful and your sins are forgiven. Thanks be to God.
Scripture: Matthew 5: 1-12
Response to the word
You are blessed when your last option fails, for without the gift of failure, our vision will not be clear to see new possibilities. Our eyes will not be able to see the God who is there for us in new, life-giving ways.
You are blessed when you care for others and when you are kind and compassionate. As we are to others, God will be to us.
You are blessed when your heart is filled with God. As others see God is us, we will see God everywhere.
You are blessed when you choose non-violence as your response of choice.
As we seek good for others, rather than harm for them, others will recognize the God-within-us.
You are blessed when you live for God and people despise you and turn on you because of your kingdom choices. When we live for God, despite the persecution it brings, we find ourselves in holy company – saints and prophets and all who love God. We know Jesus is standing beside us, smiling.
Sermon All Saints Day
For those not used to this annual celebration service, All Saints Day is an opportunity to attend to key themes usually ignored or just mentioned at funerals. As a church existing in a consumerist society that focuses on the present needs and either views the past with rose-coloured glasses or wants to forget it and move on into what is a very uncertain future, the themes point beyond our individualism and parochialism to remind us of our connections to the company of God’s people from every age – in time and place. They can reshape our identity, and teach us who we are and what we can be about because they highlight a community whose focus is on God alone – to worship and adore and find our comfort and guidance for the uncertain future ahead.
Many of us ignore the book of Revelation – too scary, strange images and hidden messages that people interpret to refer to all sorts of predictions. This is not a sermon on the book – but a reassurance that its imagery is a great mixture from the Hebrew scriptures of different times with many references all designed to encourage people in the early second century CE to hold onto their faith in a time of great persecution. God is faithful – trust God and his son Jesus. Enjoy the imagery of this beautiful passage from Chapter 7 – it is ‘over the top’ extravagant poetry yet still inadequate to express the wonderful salvation God has accomplished for us and the promise of God’s care for us.
I first encountered this passage when I was given a book titled “Odd” by Amy le Feuvre (sorry I cannot be sure of the spelling now) for my Sunday School prize at Christmas 1958. The heroine, Betty, is odd because she is a single child between two sets of twins in her family. She visits an English country church and sees a stone carving of a child holding a lily on a sarcophagus with some of this passage printed on it. She puts a real flower on the grave and thus starts a friendship with the child’s father and a woman who explains the passage and the idea of suffering. “Coming out of the great ordeal” or through a time of suffering and having then pure white robes to wear and being able to worship around God’s throne day and night, assured of God’s continual care guiding them to springs of the water of life and having God wipe away all their tears – what an amazing picture and promise this gem of Revelation 7: 9-17 is for every generation.
White robes – the symbol of purity and resurrection. It reminds us of Psalm 51 – of King David’s confession of sin and request to God to ‘wash me until I am clean and whiter than snow’ v. 7. Resurrection – new life for the people who have kept the faith as well as for the Lamb of God who was slain because of sinfulness of humans but raised by God to be with God eternally. Worship and praise to God by a great multitude – a diverse group from every tribe, language and nation – and time and place. All the world is worshipping God – be inspired and comforted all of you suffering and grieving for lost loved ones. Be inspired by the devotion and the example of the faithfulness of those who have gone before you. Remember what waving palm branches and white clothing meant to the people of Israel honouring the victory of God over suffering and hailing God as King/ Sovereign of the universe.
Sacrifice and victory through struggle and suffering are not only what the martyrs of the early church endured, but continue for Christians today faced with many different persecutions, deliberately evil actions, deceitful behaviour, fake news and false twisting of truth to give some power over another individual or group. Vilifying individuals seems to be acceptable if it serves our political purpose. Our news this week shocks us with the evils perpetrated around the world and in our own country. Keeping the faith and focussing on God’s goodness when the world around is disintegrating into chaos with no compassion or care for the suffering of others – that takes huge effort when you want to ask “What’s the point? Why am I bothering?” Like Job of that other apocalyptic tale in the Hebrew scriptures, we are tempted to give up and go sit on a rubbish heap to grieve and tend our wounds. But God does not fail us and comes to call us back to life, promising food and shelter, water and guidance and the willingness to wipe away our tears.
Saints are not just the official victorious survivors and miracle workers of faith, but all people of all ages who keep putting their trust in God. Salvation does not just mean saying the words ‘Jesus is Lord’ but living the kingdom of Heaven way described by Jesus in the Beatitudes of Matthew 5. Jesus addressed the brokenness, oppression and destitution in his society proclaiming deliverance and hope and echoing Isaiah chapter 61 which also lies underneath Revelation 7. Choosing to be dependent on God alone, not human political or economic leaders, and obeying Jesus’ commands to love one another, even our enemies, is risky in our violent, unpredictable world. Jesus’ sermon in Matthew 5 calls us to be holy and humble, obedient and dependent, merciful even as we mourn, peacemakers even when we are persecuted, insulted or mistreated.
Following God’s way for justice and well-being for all on earth leads often to pain and suffering as it did to the prophets, to Jesus and to disciples of all generations, the well-known ones we call saints. Because they endured, we can too. Because they taught us to love God and to follow Jesus’ teaching, we are part of the people of God today worshipping and honouring God above all the human dictators crushing opposition and political leaders claiming victory over their opponents. We choose to focus on hope for the future as we endure the difficulties of Covid 19 – the separation from family and friends in lockdowns, the economic deterioration of our lifestyle, our travel plans, and for some, far more serious loss of jobs, of homes, of health and future dreams.
The ‘Be – attitudes’ of Matthew 5 and the ‘Vision statement’ of Revelation 7 are no mere ‘pie in the sky when you die’ pictures of heavenly harmony but a reminder to ‘hang in there’ focussing on God and Jesus and living in their disciplined way because God is the ultimate, trustworthy source of power and blessing.
HYMN: TIS 123 Be still my soul
1.Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side; bear patiently the cross of grief and pain; leave to your God to order and provide; in every change he faithful will remain. Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
- Be still, my soul: your God will undertake to guide the future as he has the past. Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake, all now mysterious shall be clear at last. Be still, my soul: the tempests still obey his voice, who ruled them once on Galilee.
- Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart and all is darkened in the valeof tears, then you shall better know his love, his heart, who comes to soothe your sorrow, calm your fears. Be still, my soul: for Jesus can restore
the trust and hope that strengthened you before.
- Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on when we shall be for ever with the Lord, when disappointment, grief and fear are gone, sorrow forgotten, love’s pure joy restored. Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past, all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
- A) Cheques to be made out to ‘St Lucia UCA Parish account’ and posted to 7 Hawken Dr, St Lucia Qld. 4067, please. OR
- B) direct deposit to ‘St Lucia Uniting Church’ BSB: 334 040 acct#: 553 842 259 (St George Bank) please mark it OFFERING with your name (optional)
Prayer for offering and Prayers for others
Holy God, thank you for the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us as we worship. Their diversity reminds us of your infinite grace to all your creatures.
Thank you for the vision of a world at peace: paradise restored, where no one hungers, no one thirsts, and no one is wanting. We pray for those who grieve this day for loved ones lost to us but in your care. We pray for those who are ill and those who are anxious about their future. Comfort them with your presence and guide us into practical ways to care for them.
You guide us to the source of living water and invite us to drink deeply of your love. Your magnificent generosity evokes our deepest thanks. And so receive our offerings, that we may join that great cloud of witness as we share our gifts with others. Amen.
HYMN: AHB 426 Jesus invites his saints (Isaac watts 1674-1748)
- Jesus invites his saints to meet around his board:
Here pardoned rebels sit and hold communion with their Lord.
- For food he gives his flesh, he bids us drink his blood:
Amazing favour, matchless grace of our descending God.
- We are but several parts of the same broken bread:
One body has its several limbs, but Jesus is the head.
- Let all our powers be joined his glorious name to raise:
Pleasure and love fill every mind and every voice be praise.
Holy Communion – Prayer of Thanksgiving
The Lord be with you. And also with you. Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord. Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God. It is right to give our thanks and praise.
Promise of salvation, thank you for this gift of grace. As we gather at your table and eat this bread, nourish us with the truth of your word and the blessings of your covenant. As we drink this cup and share table together, fill us with the hope of your salvation. Remind us that we are one body in your name with your disciples throughout time and history.
May our lives proclaim the mystery and majesty of your saving grace.
Always your love remains steadfast. Always, you deliver us from death and despair, from the weary burden of sin and fear, and you call us to return and follow you. And so, with your people on earth, and with all the company of heaven, we praise your name and join their unending hymn, saying:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!
On his last night, before meeting death, at a last supper, Jesus blessed and broke bread one last time, feeding his disciples with these words:
“Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you.”
After supper, he took the cup, giving thanks again, and he gave it to disciples, saying: “Drink from this, all of you; this is my life, which is poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. As often as you drink it, do so in remembrance of me.”
And so, in remembrance of these, your miraculous acts in Christ Jesus, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving, as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us, as we proclaim the mystery of faith.
Christ has died.
Christ has risen.
Christ will come again.
Gracious God pour out your Spirit on these gifts of bread and wine that they might become for us the bread of life and the assurance of forgiveness. As we partake of these gifts, transform us that we might become your people fed with the manna of Christ’s grace and the water of your everlasting love.
We pray as he taught us: The Lord’s Prayer-
Breaking the Bread
The bread we break is a sharing in the Body of Christ. The cup we take is a sharing in the blood of Christ. God’s gifts for God’s people.
Jesus, Lamb of God, have mercy on us.
Jesus, bearer of our sins, have mercy on us.
Jesus, redeemer of the world, grant us your peace.
Receiving the Bread and Cup
The bread of life, to feed your soul. The blood of Christ, to restore your life with God. (eat your piece of bread and drink your wine, juice or water)
Prayer after Communion
This has been no ordinary meal. It has been one in which we have been fed and nourished with the life of Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord. Send us forth as people of grace – people who answer the call to build your kingdom on this earth. In Christ’s holy name, we pray. Amen.
HYMN: AHB 551 I sing a song of the saints of God (Lesbia Scott et al. 1898-)
1.I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true
Who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen, and one was a shepherdess on the green; they were all of them saints of God and I mean, God helping to be one, too.
2.They loved their Lord so good and dear, and his love made them strong. And they followed the right, for Jesus’ sake the whole of their good lives long; and one was a soldier, and one was a priest, and one was slain by a fierce wild beast: and there’s not any reason, no not the least, why I shouldn’t be one too.
3.They lived not only in ages past, there are hundreds and thousands still. The world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus’ will. You can find them in school, or in lanes, or at sea, in church, or in trains, or in shops or at tea, for the saints of God began just like me, and I mean to be one too.
May God, our Creator, renew, reform and reshape us;
May Christ, giver of life and source of light, grow with in us;
And may the Spirit, presence of joy and hope, lead us in the ways of love.
Resources used in this service include Words for Worship year A 1st November 2020 by MediaCom (subscription of Rev Dr Elizabeth Nolan) and The Abingdon Worship Annual 2020 edited by Mary Scifres and B.J. Beu, Abingdon Press, Nashville USA (owned by EN); and Uniting in Worship People’s Book by Uniting Church Press (JBCE) 1988 Melbourne and The Australian Hymn Book multiple copies owned by the St Lucia Uniting Church congregation. Copyright license 217268.