All Saints Day

November 1 or 6, 2022

Lectionary Texts

Today’s texts celebrate the lives of the faithful and God’s care for them. In Daniel 7. 1-3, 15-18 the prophet has a vision of four beasts representing four oppressive kings—but the kingdom won’t be given to them, but to God’s “holy ones.”

Psalm 149 begins in praise of God, and then moves to a call to vanquish those oppressive kings.
     —or—
Psalm 150 is a song of praise to God, for all God’s mighty deeds, calling for joyful music with every kind of instrument.

Ephesians 1. 11-23 says God will redeem us, and gives us the Holy Spirit as a promise. The author prays that the eyes of our hearts be enlightened, so that we can know the hope God offers us, and the riches of God’s gift, and the greatness of God’s power, which raised Christ and placed him in authority over all things.

In Luke 6.20-31 Jesus promises God’s grace for those who are poor, hungry, mourning and persecuted, and woe for those who are comfortable. God gives us grace freely and abundantly, irrespective of our effort or “deserving.” But when we seek power, security and honor, we miss out on God’s gifts. In this radical trust of God’s grace, we dare to love even our enemies.

Preaching Thoughts

All Saints
       In the Roman Catholic tradition each of the saints of the church has their feast day. We protestants know a few of them: St. Valentine on Feb. 14, St. Patrick Mar. 15, St. Nicholas Dec. 6. (Wait. Then who’s on Dec. 25? St. Stephen.) On All Saints Day, Nov. 1, we remember all the saints. On Nov. 2, All Souls Day, we pray for the faithful departed—those who have died, especially in the past year. In Protestant churches we typically combine both: on All Saints Day we remember all the saints of the church and of our own lives, those who have died, especially those who have helped shape our life and faith. We honor them so we may be drawn into their numbers, so we may be sanctified, made saints, by love. So the lectionary scriptures refer to “all the saints,” “God’s holy ones,” the “assembly of the faithful,” inviting us to join them in living faithfully.

Daniel

       The rich and powerful think they own the land but it doesn’t actually belong to them. It belongs to the earth. The rich and powerful think they own the Empire but they don’t. They think they own the world but they don’t. They may own things, objects, real estate. But they don’t own life. In his desert temptations Jesus confronts the attractive illusion of “ruling the world,” and rejects it. It’s an illusion. What’s actually real can’t be owned or controlled. God invites us to abandon the illusory world of control and dominion and instead to be present to this real life, in this present moment. Because here, in this moment, all of life—infinite and eternal—is gathered and shines. No one can own that. But to those who are open, it is given. Not to own but to belong to. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the entire Empire of God.

Psalm
      The lectionary for All Saints Day includes Psalm 149 probably because of its reference to the “assembly of the faithful.” But the praise in vv. 1-5 degenerates (as our own behavior does, often) into a call for executing judgments in vv. 6-9. It may mean overthrowing unjust tyrants, as in the Daniel vision—which will require some explaining, since it reeks of violence, vengeance and retribution. You might prefer to stick with the pure praise of Psalm 150.

Ephesians
       Read Ephesians slowly. Every phrase is a gem. For me Ephesians is the Psalms of the New Testament. Every sentence deserves a sermon. And almost every paragraph can be made into a prayer, or a affirmation, or a litany of praise.

(Click here for a downloadable copy of my paraphrase of the Letter to the Ephesians.)

Luke
      The Beatitudes are the snapshot of what it means to be a Christian. The energy in each of these teachings is the grace of God that flows through us and defines us, empowers us and makes us blessed. It displaces our obsession with ourselves, our powers, our accomplishments, our social standing, and our deserving. It is not any of these things, but God’s grace alone, that is the true meaning, power and worth of our lives. This is a spirituality that renounces the ego’s fixation on power, security and belonging (reflected in Jesus’ temptations). All of these come from God as gifts, and can’t be earned or hoarded. There is a resurrectional energy to the beatitudes: a flowing upward from poverty to the empire of God, from weeping to laughter, from rejection to affirmation, from vulnerability to power. To be a “saint” is not to be an exceptionally good person (though that is good). It’s to live by the resurrecting grace of God, to live the Beatitudes.
      Matthew’sBeatitudes are part of the Sermon on the Mount, a sort of visual parallel to Moses on the mountain with the tablets. Luke has Jesus on a plain, a low place, down with the ordinary people. Matthew’s Jesus says “Blessed are the poor in spirit… those who mourn.” Luke’s says “Blessed are you who are poor, you who weep....” It’s more personal. And while Luke’s Jesus blesses the poor, in Matthew it’s the poor in spirit. Matthew’s allows for a lot of interpretation of what “poor in spirit” means, but it sidestep, or at least softens the issue of actual poverty. Luke nails it. Luke’s audience may be more lower class than Matthew’s. I think Jesus would be OK with either version, and may have preached both in various settings. The point is the same: reliance on our own wealth is hollow; reliance on God’s grace is life-giving.
      Luke has only three beatitudes, not Matthew’s eight—accompanied by three woes. The woes remind us that God’s justice is not all loveliness and light. As in the Magnificat (Luke 1.46-55) not only are the lowly raised up but also the mighty are brought down (1.52). True justice requires reparations, both take and also give. The rich are going to have to share. The woes are not curses or God’s punishment or retribution, they’re just observations of the way things work. Woe to the rich not because they’re evil, but because they have already received the consolation they’ve sought. When life gets tough all they’ll have is the money they cling to—not God’s love. This doesn’t mean they can’t have God’s love, just that it’s not what they’ve sought. Woe to you who laugh or are full, not because it’s bad to be happy, but because life will turn; it always does. And when it does, you’ll need to know and trust that blessed are you who weep or hunger. And woe to you when everyone speaks well of you. If you haven’t worked for justice hard enough to make some enemies, get to work.
      The Sermon on the Plain/Mount is Jesus’ clarion call to a spirituality of radical dependence on God’s grace. It’s also a clear call to nonviolence. It’s not passiveness (turning the other cheek, as is well known, was a powerful and even potentially disruptive act of resistance), nor is it just being nice. It’s radical trust that God’s grace works beyond our own powers. It’s also tied to his call to love radically. Even as we resist injustice we love the people caught up in it, perpetrators and victims alike. (As we do we discover that we’re all victims.) Our “enemy” is actually not the other person, but the system of domination.
      “God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” There’s Jesus’ theology in a nutshell. Does God only love the people that love God? Heck, no; even gangsters to do the same. God loves their enemies, even the most evil. We receive that love, trust that love, and pass on that love. Be merciful, just as your Abba-Amma God is merciful.

Call to Worship

1. [Ephesians 1.11-14]
God’s will, which is always fulfilled,
is that that we, who began by hoping in the Love that Fills the World,
would ourselves live lives that radiate that love.
When you first heard this wonder—
your wholeness that you see given to you in Christ—
and when you first trusted this love and opened yourself to it,
it poured into you. God’s Spirit changed you.
Now you yourself are part of God’s promise.
The Spirit in you is the first bit of God’s redemption of the world.
That is God’s glory, God’s praise.
In gratitude, then, let us worship.

2.
Leader: Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the realm of God.”
All: We give thanks for your grace in all our circumstances.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.”
We open our hearts to your spirit, that you may fill us with your love.
Love your enemies, and pray for those who abuse you.”
Change our hearts, O God, and by your grace in us
help us become the saints you create us to be.


3.
Leader: God of love, we gather surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.
All: Blessed and upheld with all the saints, we praise you.
We come at Christ’s invitation, with the poor and the outcast.
Healed and made new with all the saints, we thank you.
We shine with the gifts of your Spirit.
Gifted and anointed with all the saints, we serve you.
In gratitude and joy, with all the saints, we worship you!


4.
Leader: God of all the saints, you surround us with a cloud of witnesses.
All: We give you thanks. May your Holy Spirit sanctify us and perfect us in love.
Risen Christ, you come to us in the humble and the rejected.
We give you thanks. May your Holy Spirit sanctify us and perfect us in love.
Holy Spirit, you live and breathe in us,
so that we too may be your saints for the sake of the world.
We give you thanks. Holy Spirit, sanctify us and perfect us in love,
in the spirit of Christ. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Loving God, we thank you for the saints who have gone before us, who have shown us the way of love. May we learn from them, and by your grace in us shine with the light of your glory. Speak to us, and sanctify our lives for your purposes, that we too may be your saints, now and in eternal life. Amen.

2.
God of grace and mercy, we give thanks for all the saints who have gone before us. We open our hearts that you may fill us with the light that filled them, that we may live with the love they lived with, that we may take our place among the communion of saints who serve you, blessed and led by your Word in Christ. Amen.3.Eternal God, we give thanks for those you have guided by your Spirit, who have been teachers, lovers and healers in our lives. We open our hearts and minds to your Spirit, that we too may be perfected in love by your Word of grace, the presence of Christ, and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

1.
God, we confess we often act only on our own behalf,
not as agents of your holy purposes for love, healing and justice.
Forgive our selfishness, heal our fears,
sanctify us for the work of love,
and renew in us the holy light of your spirit,
that with the eyes of our hearts enlightened
we may fulfill your delight,
according to the mystery of your power in us.

2.
God of love,
we pray for our enemies,
for those who oppose or disturb us,
for enemies of justice, enemies of you.
We pray for your blessing for them,
and when it is hard to pray thus, for us.
Forgive our sin, heal our fear,
and bless us that we may love our enemies,
do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.
You who are merciful, make us merciful.

Readings

1. Ephesians 1.11-23, my paraphrase

This is our destiny, God’s will, which is always fulfilled:
that we, who began by hoping in the Love that Fills the World,
would ourselves live lives that radiate that love.

1.13-14
When you first heard this wonder—
the good news of your life made whole in Christ—
and you entrusted yourself to it, the Holy Spirit changed you.
So now you know that God’s hopes for you will be fulfilled,
since you have already been turned into holy people.
You belong to God.
You are God’s “Alleluia!”

15-16
Friends, I have heard of your deep trust in Jesus,
the Beloved, the Anointed of God,
and of your love for all the saints,
so I never cease giving thanks for you
as I remember you in my prayers.

1.17-23
I pray that God—
the God the Beloved, Jesus Christ, showed us,
God our beautiful Life-Giver—
may give you a spirit of mindfulness and wisdom
as you deepen your openness to God,
so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened,
you will have the hope God has for you.
May you live in wonder and trust
of the gifts we all receive as God’s Beloved.
May you feel in your bones
the immeasurable greatness
of the power of love when we trust it.
This is God’s power in us.
Love is the power that raised Christ from the dead,
the power that orders the universe,
the power above all human systems,
every rule and authority and dominion,
and above every seen or unseen power,
force or value you could imagine.
God subjects everything to love.
And we—we are the embodiment of that love,
which conquers everything, and fills everything,
and completes everything.
We are the body,
and Love is what makes us alive.

(Click here for a downloadable copy of my paraphrase of the entire Letter to the Ephesians.)


2. (Based on Luke 6.20-27)
Leader: Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.”
All: We release all that we possess,
that we may have you alone.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “
We hunger for justice,
and trust that one day we shall be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”
Knowing all shall be made well,
we weep with all who mourn,
especially victims of Covid, racism, war, and gun violence.

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and exclude you.”
God grant us courage even when reviled to resist injustice,
to stand with the marginalized, and to trust your blessing.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
God grant us love and courage to be merciful,
just as you are merciful,
in the spirit and the company of Christ.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1. [Ephesians 1.11-14]
We give thanks for we have been given an inheritance,
destined by God’s will, which is always fulfilled,
so that we trust in the Love that Fills the World,
and that we live lives that radiate that love.
We behold the wonder of our wholeness, given to us in Christ;
and we trust this love and we open ourselves to it,;
and it pours into us. God’s Spirit changes us.
We are part of God’s promise.
The Spirit in us is the first bit of God’s redemption of the world.
This is God’s glory, and God’s praise. Alleluia.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

God of infinite love,
we are poor in Spirit,
but your Realm of love is ours.
Make us holy
in the opening of our hearts
to your grace.

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

1.
God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.
We thank you, God, for you create us in your image,
make covenant to be our God, and set us free from all that oppresses.
You give us a world, an empire of grace,
to which we belong, that this world can’t take from us.

You call us as your saints, and show us the way in Jesus.
You have given us saints, young and old, women and men,
who shine for us with the way of love, who in your Spirit gather with us now.
Therefore we sing with all the saints, with every living being and all Creation.
[Sanctus]

Blessed are all who come in your name,and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He taught and healed, he fed people and set them free.
He gathered a community of those who desire to live by your grace,
who would sanctify themselves for the work of love.
He sought justice, and for that he was crucified,
but you raised him from the dead,
that he might continually embody for us
your Covenant to be with us in love eternally.

[The Blessing and Covenant…]

Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
As often as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection until he comes again.
Remembering these, your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a living and holy sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:
[Memorial Acclamation]

Pour out your holy Spirit on these gifts of food,
that those who receive them may experience your love and grace.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,

though poor in spirit, blessed by your grace;
though ordinary people, sanctified for lives of love,
for the sake of the wholeness of the world,
in the name and the Spirit of Christ,

[Amen]

____________________

2.
God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

Blessed are you, O God, Creator of all and all that is to come.
By your grace you have given us life and made us a people.
You rescue us from all that enslaves us,
judge the forces of oppression, and offer freedom to all people;
and you sanctify us for the work of bringing justice to all people.
You have surrounded us with saints,
women, children and men who have rejoiced in your grace,
shared in your work of redemption,
and shined as teachers and examples in the way of faith.
You have gathered us into the community of the redeemed,
and given us as a light to the nations.
Therefore together with the whole communion of saints,
and in union with all Creation, we sing your praise:

[Sanctus]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who brought good news to the poor,
who lifted up the downtrodden and gathered the outcast,
and who called disciples to follow
in the holy way of compassion and joy.

Even in death his gift was love and light.

[… The Blessing and Covenant …]

The crucified Christ you have raised to life,
so that we might walk in newness of life.
In his dying and rising
you have sealed the lives of your saints.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

     (Memorial Acclamation)

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the Body and Blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.
Gather us in unity of heart,
sanctify us for the work of justice and healing,
and send us in the power of your Spirit,
poor in spirit and rich in your grace,
loving our enemies,
for the sake of the healing of the world.
(Amen.)

____________
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

God of love, you create us in your image, claim us as your beloved, sanctify us as your witnesses, and include us in the great communion of saints. Send us into the world as agents of your love, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the spirit and the company of Christ. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

1.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. Together with all whom you have made holy by your grace, send us into the world to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with you. May we shine with the light of your grace now and in eternal life. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In your Spirit you have bound us together with all your saints as one body in Christ. You have sanctified us, set us apart for the sacred work of the healing of the world. Send us out in love, for the sake of the world, in the name of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In the mystery of this meal, by your presence within and among us, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, we are made holy, one Body, with all the communion of saints. May this gift work within us, that by your grace we may be perfected in love and live as your saints, for the sake of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.


Benediction

(Ephesians 1.17-22)
I pray that the God Jesus reveals to us, the glorious Giver of Life,
will give you a spirit of wisdom and perceptiveness,
so you may know God more deeply.
I pray that the eyes of your heart will be enlightened,
so the hope God offers us will fill your hearts.
May you know the riches that God’s beloved ones inherit
and the immeasurable greatness of God’s power for us who trust,
the very power by which God raised Jesus from the dead,
and seated Christ at God’s right hand in the realm of the infinite.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Blessed       (Original song)

Dear God, receive me anew, mourning and poor in my soul,
hungry for what makes me whole.
Bless me by making me simple like you.
Blessed are the ones who have nothing but God,
for God and God alone shall fill their lives.

Mercy please grant me anew. Make my heart pure by your grace,
humble, that I may see your face.
Bless me by making me gentle like you.
Blessed are the ones who have nothing but God,
for God and God alone shall fill their lives.

Courage please give me anew, peace in the world to make,
and to suffer for your Gospel’s sake.
Bless me by making me faithful to you.
Blessed are the ones who have nothing but God,
for God and God alone shall fill their lives.


For Your Saints        (Tune: Joyful, Joyful)

God, we thank you for your saints and for their time among us here,
In their faith, their service and their ready smile we’ve felt you near.
In their steadfast love of others and their persevering grace,
we have known your living presence; we have seen your human face.

God, we thank you for the faith that lifts our hearts and lights our way,
for your hidden, healing presence walking with us day by day.
As we face death’s shadows, still we walk with courage and with love,
persevering in the faith that you have granted from above.

“Children, I will never leave you or forsake you,” you have said.
You have been our helper, God, so there is nothing that we dread.
By your grace that never fails us, guide, sustain and lead us on,
‘till we step with grateful hearts into the light of heaven’s dawn.


God Bless the Saints (Tune: Blest Be the Tie that Binds)

God bless the saints we’ve known,
who loved us through the years,
who shared our struggles and cherished our joys
and held us and wiped our tears.

God bless the teachers and guides
whose wisdom brightens our days,
whose courage lifts our struggling hearts,
and shines your light on our ways.

God bless the quiet ones
who serve in humble ways
without their seeing the fruit of their faith,
yet live in prayerful praise.

God, help us be your saints
who trust your loving grace,
that we may be a holy blessing
in our own time and place.


Heart of Heaven (Original song)

There’s a heart in heaven that knows you,
and speaks your name in love from heaven’s throne,
that has laughed and labored here beside you,
and says, “I know your journey as my own.”

There are eyes in heaven that adore you,
and weep with joy at the beauty of your soul,
for they see the courage of your living,
and share your deepest yearnings to be whole.

There’s a tear in heaven that remembers,
there’s a deep, weary sigh that understands;
there are gentle, wounded hands that know the struggle
to do the work of God with human hands.

There’s a voice from heaven within you,
a spring of life-giving water flowing free.
Let it flow, let grace and peace shine in you
with heaven’s loveliness for all to see.

Oh, the heart of heaven is within you,
the universe embraces you in love,
for the humble One who walks beside you
is the One who rules the sun and stars above.