Year C,  ALL SAINTS DAY

November  1st.

 

                (THIS LITURGY COMBINES ALL SAINTS AND ALL SOULS.)

 

Luke 6: 20-21

Ephesians 1: 11-23                              (Sermon 1:  “Blindfolded Saints?)

Daniel 7: 1-3, 15-18

Psalm 149

 

ENTRY INTO WORSHIP

 

Today we give thanks for the dear and holy dead,

who surround us like a great cloud of witnesses

and make the mysterious heaven a home for our hearts.

 

Especially we remember the less famous saints,

and that host of ordinary Christians,

 who in  their day and place, faithfully loved and served the Lord.

 

Praise God! Sing a new song of praise,

sing God’s praise in the assembly of faithful people.

For our God takes pleasure in ordinary believers,

and decorates the humble with victory robes.

 

PRAYER OF APPROACH

 

We come before you, eternal God, not to be counted with those most noble saints and martyrs, but as those ordinary Christians who know that they have a wonderful Saviour. By the enabling grace of Christ Jesus, please assist us to so worship you here, and to serve you in all our daily affairs, that in the hour of our death we may be gathered to that choir of the redeemed whose joy and praise is unending. For your Name’s sake.

Amen!

 

CONFESSION AND FORGIVENESS

 

Draw near with faith, and with me make your confession, and receive the saving justice of God.

 

Let us pray.

 

God of the heavenly hosts, we confess that unlike your choicest saints

we are just average disciples, seldom very evil and rarely very loving.

 

We make our way through the streets and malls of life,

and at time along lonely byways, trying to give our best,

yet rarely achieving half of the good which we intended.

 

Too often we try to skirt around the obstacles of evil

 rather than challenging their existence,

we are polite when we should be angry,

 and apologetic when we should be definite.

 

We read of your saints, and we feel uplifted

and for a few hours, inspired to reach higher,

but too soon the indifference of the society in which we live

dampens our spirits and dissipates our energy

 

We remember loved ones whose faithfulness once lit our path

 and whose stead fast love warmed our hearts,

yet we admit that our own light flickers and our love becomes lukewarm.

 

We are not saying we are useless, God. You never call us that, and even in our worst times, your grace has not been entirely wasted. But we repent all that has compromised and sullied us and hurt those around us. We repent and pray for the forgiveness which only you can decree, and the renewal which only your Spirit can enact.

 

Through Christ Jesus, the Saviour of all on earth, and of all the redeemed in heaven.

Amen!

 

FORGIVENESS

 

In the company of all the souls who ever believed, and with all the saints who ever achieved,

you, my dear sisters and brothers of Jesus, have a secure home-coming.

Through and apostle the “Father of the lights of heaven” says to us all:

For by grace you are saved, through faith;

faith which itself is a free gift of our wonderful God.”

 

The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

And also with you.

 

PRAYER FOR CHILDREN

 

            Thanks for the Saints

 

Thank you, God,

for all your saints who made this world

a more loving place for us to live in.

 

Thank you that they now live

very close to you, which is heaven,

in light and happiness that will never end.

 

Thank you, God,

for your Son Jesus who started it all

and helps us still.

Amen!

 

PSALM 149

 

Sing out the new songs of our God,

praise with all the host of faithful souls.

Let God’s people delight in their Creator

let the children of God rejoice in their Redeemer.

 

Let us praise God’s name with dancing,

and make music with drums and guitar.

For God finds happiness in redeemed souls,

and decorates the humble with victory robes

 

Let all faithful souls exult in glory,

let them sing for joy in the comfort of God..

Let praises forever be on their lips,

and their songs be keener than swords.

 

May their joyfulness strike down arrogant nations,

their happiness be a judgement on all evil.

May rulers discover how heavy are sins chains,

and the rich and proud find themselves in fetters.

 

For the judgement on evil stays written forever.

But glory is the destiny of God’s faithful people!

                                                                                                                        Ó B D Prewer 2003 and 2012

 

COLLECT

 

God of all those who though dead are very much alive, grant us the grace to follow in their steps. May the lamp of faith by which they walked, and then handed on to us, be never hidden under a multitude of worldly cares. Help us to treasure the light and share it with those around us, and then pass it on for generations that are to come. To your praise and through the name of Christ, our light and salvation. Amen!

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                ©  B.D. Prewer 2003

 

 

SERMON:  BLINDFOLDED SAINTS?

 

Luke 6: 20-23

 

What would happen if everybody went blind at the same time?

 

That is what Jose Saramago 

(a Portuguese writer and a Nobel Prize winner for literature) explores in his novel simply called: BLINDNESS.

 

Today there is not enough time for me to outline the main story ,

which Saramago creates. I want to refer only to one episode near the end of the book. You need to know that a whole city has been afflicted with a plague of blindness, cause unknown. In this city of blind people there is just one woman who can still see.  Lovingly she chose to stay beside her blind husband at the outbreak of the epidemic of blindness. She is the eyes for a small group that gathers around her strong compassion. Wandering the chaotic, garbage filled city streets in search of food, they come to a Catholic Church, and she leads her group inside.

 

What she sees confuses her.

The old church has many plaster images of the saints (no doubt gaudily painted, especially the blood on some of them)  At this time of disaster, someone had tied a cloth over the eyes of them all.  The saints were all blindfolded.  Thus they had been made the blind saints of a blind city. Of course only the lone woman can see this oddity;

 

The woman tells her husband what she sees: “You won’t believe me if I tell you what I have in front of my eyes, all the images in the church have their eyes covered.

 

A man nailed to a cross with a white bandage covering his eyes, and next to him a woman, her heart pierced by seven swords and her eyes covered with a white bandage, woman teaching her daughter, and both had their eyes covered,

 

A man with an open book on which a little child sits, and both had their eyes covered,

another man, his body spiked with arrows, and he had his eyes covered,

a woman with a lit lamp, and she had her eyes covered,

a man with wounds in his hands, feet and chest, and he had his eyes covered,

another man with a lion, and had his eyes covered,

and another man with a lamb, and both  had their eyes covered,

another man with a spear, standing over a fallen man with horns and cloven feet,

and both had their eyes covered,

another man carrying a set of scales

and an old bald man holding a white lily, with their eyes covered,

a man leaning on a sword, and a woman with a dove, both with their eyes covered.”

 

A host of plaster saints, (and a plaster Christ) all now blindfolded!.

 

After the one woman who could see spoke of what she saw before her,

the word spread among the crowd of blind people who are in the church. Wild, grieving cries break out..  If even their saints are blind, what hope was there any more for a city full of ordinary blind people?

 

The thought was unbearable. The crowd in the church panicked.

 

“One scream was enough, then another and another, then fear made all the people rise up, panic drove them to the doors” where they pressed together,  tripped and climbed over each other in their frantic rush to get out of this church where even the saints are blind.

 

IS THAT HOW THINGS REALLY ARE?

 

Powerful writing. eh?

 

In the wake of that parable-like story, I ask myself and you:

Is that how things really are? Are the saints of the Christian story, in spite of our lavish praise of them, really just as blind as the rest of us? Is it a case of the blind leading the blind?

 

On this day of All Saints,

the Gospel reading is usually from Jesus’ “sermon on the mount.”. Today we read it from Luke’s Gospel.

 

Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you that hunger now, you shall be filled.

Blessed are you who weep now, you shall laugh

.

Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and abuse you, and ban your name as evil, on account of your trust in the Son of Man. Celebrate in that day and leap with happiness ,for great is your reward in heaven.

 

I say unto you: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If a man should strike you on the cheek, offer him the other also. From him that takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt.

 

As you would wish others to deal with you, so deal with them.

 

Be merciful, even as God your Father is merciful.

 

With teaching like this, backed up by his own life,

Christ raised the bar of love to a new height.  Did the saints fulfil all these high values?  Did they live perfect lives? Is that why we call them saints? I don’t think so!

 

Let us return to the question I asked earlier:

In spite of our lavish praise of the Saints, are they really just blind like the rest of us? Is it a case of the blind leading the blind?

 

My answer is both Yes and No.

Yes they were blind. No they were not blind.

 

YES THEY WERE A BIT BLIND

 

Jesus set the standard for twenty/trinity vision.

.

However, even the most loving among of his saints did not achieve such heights. Their flaws hindered them.

 

Those inspiring people whom we call saints,

the ones officially canonised as such and all those others whose names are holy in our ears, were (and are) just human beings like us. Even the smartest, bravest, and most loving of them had blind spots.

 

Did they really have faults like ours?

You had better believe it! Martin Luther had flaws that stood out a mile! John Wesley was fastidious to a fault. William Booth could be rampantly pig-headed. Billy Graham could appear insensitive to social injustices and was, maybe, unduly impressed by Presidential favour.  “Luv em” by all means, yet they were all “sight impaired.”

 

Their achievement was partial.

With each of the official saints, and all the other choice Christian souls, including those recent ones who have touched our lives with light and love, there is always a degree of blindness.

 

That story in the book  BLINDNESS, 

with which I commenced, describing  the blindfolded saints in a Catholic Church, is at least a part of the true story.

 

But does that mean we should panic and cry out:

 “Well if they wear blindfolds, there is no hope for the rest of us!”

 

Not for one moment!

Is it a case of the blind leading the blind? My answer is an emphatic “NO!”

 

All the saints, and all the choice souls

whom we remember with thanksgiving this day, were illuminated by the light of Christ. Their flaws and their sins could not inhibit the light shining from their lives. By whatever cause, more of Christ’s light shines through them than through most of us. In that sense, they may be lauded as far holier than us. We do right to honour them, praise God for them, and try to emulate them.

 

We do so, not because they were perfect,

but because God did something especially beautiful in their lives. They saw more clearly and followed more nearly. More of God was expressed in and through them than in common church members. They inspired, and still inspire, those of us who contemplate their lives with wonder and joy.

 

These choice servants of God  did not have twenty-twenty spiritual vision,

but by the grace of God, they had much better vision than most of us.  It is right to sing their praises, for in so doing we sing the praises of the Christ whom they loved so dearly.

 

What of US

 

We do no favour to those around us,

if we mercilessly berate ourselves for not being brighter lamps.  The light still shines in spite of our most abject failures, and it cannot be smothered.

 

We may be small candles rather than a bright lamp,

but that is still a wonderful miracle! God is still glorified in small candles.

 

In every church where I have been pastor, there have been “ordinary” members

of the congregation, holding no office, giving no speeches, yet humbly reflecting something of the love of Christ to others. They have helped me to see a little more clearly and love more dearly.

 

I see it among you.

From the articulate to the inarticulate, from strong and the weak, from the young and energetic to the aged and infirm. I see it in some of you who happen to have a poor opinion of yourselves, those who “put yourselves down.” There is some of the light of Christ, who incognito lives in your heart.

 

It is not an accident that in the earliest phase of the church,

back in that first century, every person who believed in Christ Jesus, was called a saint. It was a synonym for those who loved the Lord Jesus. This is the light God gives us each and all of us, by grace. It is the light which shines through even the most flawed characters among us.

 

I CAN SEE! I CAN SEE!

 

Think again of that story from Jose Saramago with which I commenced.

 

A city of blind people.

Some of them visiting a church where all the plaster statues of the saints have been blindfolded.  They fear and panic at the thought that the saints may be as blind as they are.

 

That may be the lesser part of the truth.

All humanity, even those who love Christ well, are to some degree sight impaired.

 

Another part of the truth, and the better part,  is that in Christ, the blind do see. 

The cry of the blind man whom Jesus  healed near the pool of Siloam still rings true fore us. “One thing I do know. Once I was blind but now I see.”

 

At the end of Saramago’s story, one man regains his sight.

He starts shouting: “I can see! I can see!”  Before long a few others join him, calling “I can see, I cam see!” Then across the whole city the streets are filled with people joyfully shouting :”I can see. I can see.”

 

We have a long way to go before that becomes true

for our cities and towns and far flung country homesteads. But by the healing work of Christ, hope is established among us.

 

The saints ancient and modern,

famous and unobtrusive, even you and I, have sufficient light to see the next step and be able to encourage others to step bravely into the future.

 

Put your hand into the hand of Christ and take the next step.

You will be more than conquerors through Him who loved us and gave himself for us.

 

 

ALL SOULS: REMEMBRANCE AND THANKSGIVING

 

As we aloud read the names of members of this congregation who have died over the last 12 months, let us silently give thanks to God for each of them.

Names............................................................................................................................

            ...........................................................................................................................

 

Now in silence we remember all those other precious souls who no longer walk by our side in this life, yet whose integrity and steadfast love profoundly touched and enriched our lives.

Silence................................................................................

 

Let us give thanks for all the redeemed.

 

God of life, we give you thanks for all those people, so very dear to us,  whose loving presence here on earth is no more, yet who live a larger life hidden in Christ.

Grant them your peace and joy,

and may perpetual light shine upon them

 

We give you thanks for those servants of yours in this nation whom we never met, yet whose faith and love were like beacons in this world of shadows.

Grant them your peace and joy,

and may perpetual light shine upon them

 

We give you thanks for the outstanding Christians around the world who lived and died in the faith, blazing trails of glory in the name of Jesus.

Grant them your peace and joy,

and may perpetual light shine upon them

 

We give you thanks for your loving saints across the centuries, from many denominations, who served Christ at high cost, and bequeathed to us a rich heritage.

Grant them your peace and joy,

and may perpetual light shine upon them

 

O Lord our God, from whom neither life nor death can separate those who trust in your love, and whose gentle power holds in its embrace your children both in this world and the next,

so unite us to yourself that in fellowship with you we may always be united with our love ones, whether here or there.

 

Give us courage, constancy and hope; through him who died and was buried and rose ag ain for us, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen!

 

INTERCESSIONS

 

The church on earth has many branches; but we have one gracious Christ, one loving God, and one Spirit of living Truth. Our prayers today will centre on our fellow believers.

Let us pray.

 

 

Let us pray for Christians who at this moment are suffering persecution by evil rulers and their enforcers, some in prison, some facing summary execution.  God of salvation, save your people;

God of the saints and martyrs, surround them with your loving Presence.

 

Let us pray for Christians who because of their beliefs are being shunned or ridiculed, in workplace or neighbourhood, in schools or in within families. God of salvation, save your people;

God of the saints and martyrs, surround them with your loving Presence.

 

Let us pray for Christians in local and federal politics, in commerce and industry, in the disciplines of medicine, law and social work; especially praying for those who are finding it difficult to maintain the love-values of Christ where they work. God of salvation, save your people;

God of the saints and martyrs, surround them with your loving Presence.

 

Let us pray for Christians who under difficult and dangerous conditions are trying to show Christ’s love by serving with aid agencies in underdeveloped countries, where poverty, disease, corruption and violence hinder their work and threaten their lives. God of salvation, save your people;

God of the saints and martyrs, surround them with your loving Presence.

 

Let us pray also for folk among us or around us who are enduring tough times; those out of work and the ill, the lonely and the broken hearted, the handicapped and any who suffer domestic abuse, the overworked and the exhausted.  O God of salvation, save your people;

God of the saints and martyrs, surround them with your loving Presence.

 

God our holy and eternal Friend, through you may we see ourselves linked to the love and joy of other Christians around the world today, and in fellowship with the mighty host of the redeemed souls gathered before your throne, in that world where evil, sorrow, pain and death are no more.

Through Christ Jesus our Brother and Saviour.

Amen!

 

SENDING OUT

 

Get ready to go out into the wider world,

to serve Christ freely and gladly, day by day.

 

In each moment realise that you are not alone.

 

Untouchable yet very near you are ‘the dear and holy dead”

whose love and prayers will never cease.

 

Within and above you, beneath and around you,

is the ever-generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

the ever-faithful love of God,

and ever-warm fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

 

Amen!