ALL SAINTS’ DAY

SUNDAY 7TH NOVEMBER 2021

SENTENCE FROM SCRIPTURE

The Lord of hosts, he is the king of glory. The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.

OPENING HYMN

GREETING

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen.

COLLECT FOR PURITY

Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

SUMMARY OF THE LAW

Our Lord Jesus Christ said:
The first commandment is this:
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”
The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
There is no other commandment greater than these.

Amen. Lord, have mercy.

CONFESSION

God is love and we are God’s children.
There is no room for fear in love.
We love because God loved us first.
Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith.

God our Father, we confess to you
and to our fellow members in the Body of Christ
that we have sinned in thought, word and deed,
and in what we have failed to do.
We are truly sorry.
Forgive us our sins,
and deliver us from the power of evil,
for the sake of your Son
who died for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

ABSOLUTION

God, who is both power and love,
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by the Holy Spirit,
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.

GLORIA
by Billy Dewar Riddick

COLLECT

Almighty God,
you have knit together your elect in one communion
in the mystical Body of your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord:
grant that we may attain,
with all your saints,
the whole measure of the fullness of Christ
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen

PROCLAIMING & RECEIVING GOD’S WORD

FIRST READING
ISAIAH 25: 6-9
read by Andrew Ratnam

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.

Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

SECOND READING
REVELATION 21:1-6a
read by Margaret Morton

The New Heaven and the New Earth

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also, he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

GRADUAL HYMN

GOSPEL READING
John 11: 32-44
read by Rev Chris Wren

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St John chapter 11 beginning at verse 32

Glory to Christ our Saviour

When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So, the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So, they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious gospel.

Praise to Christ our Lord

SERMON

Winston Churchill, arguably one of the greatest political and military leaders of the 20th century, planned every detail of his funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. He worked clandestinely with cathedral staff, under the code name “Operation-Hope-Not.” That code name reveals a lot about humanity’s attitude toward death, doesn’t it?

One aspect of his funeral seems absolutely inspired: a bugler played The Last Post from the west end of the cathedral. Then a full minute of silence passed. And then, surely a surprise to all those mourners who crowded into St. Paul’s that day, another bugler, this one positioned in the east, rose to play Reveille, the happy morning bugle call that gives soldiers and scouts the “get up and go” they need to kick-start their day.

Always a commanding presence – even from the dead – Churchill relayed two important messages. First, he offered a testimony to the shock, joy, and surprise of the Resurrection. At the last day, we’ll all rise to the sound of the Lord playing a heavenly version of Reveille and waking us up to the new life, new earth, new Jerusalem. It wasn’t random that the Reveille came from the east, where the sun rises, the direction the altar faces in many churches, the direction from which we expect Christ to return again. Secondly, Churchill bid them to press on, to attend to the day at hand, and the life ahead, here and now.

As the writer in Ecclesiastes says there is a time to mourn and a time to dance. At the start of our today’s Gospel Reading, there is mourning and by the end there is dancing, for death is defeated. With Jesus, death has no power or authority. That is good news for us especially on this All-Saints’ Day.

All Saints’ Day reminds us that we are part of a much larger fellowship than we can ever imagine. We are in the company of the saints in heaven and the words of the hymn ring true:

O blest communion, fellowship divine!

We feebly struggle they in glory shine;

Yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.”

There are the saints in heaven who in glory shine and there are the saints on earth, you and I who struggle with this life and all its trials and tribulations, disappointments and disasters, foolishness and fears. But we and all the saints in earth and in heaven are part of God’s one kingdom of fellowship. The saints in heaven are separated from us, but they have not left us. We are surrounded by them, and they are cheering us on, encouraging us, strengthening and loving us.

Every Sunday we celebrate this wonderful fellowship, that we share in, when we say the words of the Apostles’ Creed “I believe in the communion of saints.” What do we mean when we say this? Who are the saints? And what is the “communion” of saints? Many people have a false idea of what a saint is. They think saints have never committed a sin in their entire lives; they are people always shining with virtue. But this is fallacy. It simply is not true! It implies that the saints were saints from the cradle onwards, that they were born saints.

Whereas the reality is that the saints are made of the same human material as us, the same flawed material that might have become something else. They faced the same temptations as we do. They did not have things easier than us. They just struggled harder. The saints who resisted temptation know more about its power than the sinner who yields at the onset to temptation. Saints become saints through the choices they make. One child defined a saint as someone through whom God’s light shines. Saints were ordinary people who shone God’s light where they went, as they sought to uphold the gospel standards and values.

We are led to believe that Lazarus was such a person- a saint through whom God’s light shone. We are told Jesus loved him very much, and yet on news of his death, he remained distant from the family. The family could not get their mind round this: “If you had been here our brother would not have died.”

In this moment we are reminded of Jesus’s divinity and his humanity. Jesus joins Mary on the ground and also weeps. Jesus does not distance himself from suffering; he willingly enters into it and models care for the dead through his grief for Lazarus. Rather than arriving and telling Mary that her grief has no place, he sits with her a while and acknowledges the very real suffering that has happened and even participates in its expression. As he wipes her eyes and his own, he asks where Lazarus has been laid. Jesus and Mary stand up and join the others who lead the way to Lazarus’s tomb. Jesus continues to weep as he walks; rather than hide his emotion he welcomes it and joins the tearful lament of the crowd at the tomb.

At the tomb, Martha reminds us of the reality of Lazarus’ death when she says to Jesus standing at the tomb “by this time there will be a stench for he has been dead for four days.” Her words remind us of how the body quickly decomposes and decays. But decomposition and decay do not deter Jesus in his mission, as he reminds Martha “I am the resurrection and the life” and then he proceeds to call Lazarus to come out of the tomb.

You can imagine every person gathered freezes in time and some even hold their breath as they peer past Jesus and stare into the cave. Some don’t want to admit that they don’t expect to see Lazarus, and others don’t want to admit that they do. Though very little time passes it feels like ages before they all finally see Lazarus emerge from the cave still wearing the clothes of death. The quietness continues at first and then they began to talk, everyone at once, so that it is loud and no one can really hear anything. Jesus calmly speaks over the noise and instructs them to take off his grave clothes and to let him go. Unbind him. Mary and Martha are probably the first to rush to Lazarus. They weep again and fumble over one another as they free Lazarus from the linen. They walk away from the crowd huddled together in an embrace. This is the first time Mary and Martha have seen a man raised from the dead, but it will not be the last.

The Father, acting through his incarnate Son by the power of the Holy Spirit, calls this friend back to fullness of life. Come out of the tomb, out of the darkness, out of death. Come out and get the stench blown away.” These words are uttered specifically to Lazarus but I wonder if they are meant for us too. For life has a way of causing decay in us and making a stink. You will have heard people say: “Wow, that really stinks.”

There are times when our choices, priorities, and patterns of behaviour take on a suffocating odour. It might be the stink of anger, grudges, and resentment; guilt and regret; or unmet expectations and disappointment. Often, it’s the stench of hurt feelings, betrayals, and broken relationships. Some breath the stench of grief, sorrow, and depression. Sometimes beneath the stink is the echo of sharp painful words we spoke to another or another spoke to us. Other times it’s the busyness, forgetfulness, and distractions that cause us to lose sight of who is important and what really matters. Life begins to stink when we no longer see the beauty of creation, the wonder of being alive, or the mystery of love.

Regardless of how we got there or what the stench is, Jesus is always calling us out of the stink. Lazarus responded to that call and we are invited to respond to his call as well. Equally important is the second thing Jesus commanded concerning Lazarus: he directed the gathered community to unbind Lazarus, an order that makes it clear that Jesus wants those who believe in him to participate in this miracle of loosening people from all that limits them from an abundant life.

Prejudices; tiredness; fearfulness; small-mindedness constrain us and we need to unbind our hearts where love stops short and be free to love everyone. “Unbind us, and let us go.”

We are the saints and as saints, we are called to be instruments for unbinding those who are tied up and limited, so they too can experience the fullness of life. We, who are the saints of God, must continue to unbind others by our concern to end hunger in our region and care for homeless children and adults.

We, who are the saints of God, must be caring friends and listening ears for those who are struggling with problems and might otherwise feel abandoned.

We, who are the saints of God, must understand that everything we do in this life is a form of ministry-there is precious little we do that is not a manifestation of God’s call to us to be in the world for good.  Unbind them … let them go.  

So, in concluding, what is central to this miracle of life, is this: to be alive is to hear the call of God in Jesus Christ. The saints whom we celebrate today are those friends of Christ who, in him, have heard the call of God the Father and are fully alive in the Holy Spirit. St. Irenaeus, a Bishop in Gaul in the second century, famously wrote: “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” Today we celebrate all the saints who have heard the call of God in Christ, a call to fullness of life in God who makes all things new. Amen.

THE CREED

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one substance with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father.
With the Father and the Son,
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

PRAYERS

Loving God on this All -Saints’ Day,
we celebrate the lives of those church members,
who have shone with the brightness of your love.
Today we offer you ourselves and our lives in fresh commitment.
We seek to serve you in this church, and as individual Christians,
grant us courage to exercise our gifts and talents for your name and glory.

Make us all

worthy of our calling

Loving God, we pray for all your saints here in Scotland
thanking you for their loving care and compassion
and asking that your light will shine through them
as they exercise their gifts in the different vocations
to which you have called them.

Make us all

worthy of our calling

Loving God, we thank you for the witness of strong faith
in your saints of so many generations,
for the struggles borne bravely,
for the life times of quiet godliness.
Be with your saints today
who face hostility, discrimination,
repression and persecution because of the gospel.
Grant them your strength and courage.


Make us all

worthy of our calling

Loving God, we thank you for all the past saints
who testified with conviction to your presence and love.
We pray today for all seeking to communicate their faith,
evangelists, ministers, chaplains, missionaries
and ordinary everyday believers like ourselves.
Give us all your wisdom and inspiration
so that we may all speak your word with power.

Make us all

worthy of our calling

Loving God, you raise our expectations
and challenge us to match these expectations.
Inspire us along with all your leaders
to reach beyond the limits of convention and the status quo,
with the aspiration and determination to bring about greater freedom,
justice and respect for all your people.

Make us all

worthy of our calling

Loving God, thank you for the saints
who have stressed the significance of your creation,
thinking especially of St Francis of Assisi.
As COP 26 continues help us your saints
to be mindful of your creation
and to do our utmost to reduce fossil fuels
and restore life and vitality to the earth,
thereby avoiding climate change
and damage to your world.

Make us all

worthy of our calling

Loving God, we thank you for those saints in the past
who were blessed with gifts in caring.
We pray this morning for those saints
who need such caring, as they wrestle with poor health,
depression, injury and sickness.
Remind them of your care, restore them in your image
and touch them at their point of need,
and help us to be faithful in prayer for them.

Make us all

worthy of our calling

Loving God, we remember those saints
who have died in the faith,
particularly those who have just recently joined you,
lifting to you their families and friends who mourn.
We remember those who recently lost loved ones
help us to weep with those who weep.

Make us all

worthy of our calling

Loving God, thank you for all the saints of heaven
who join us the saints on earth
in praising and in serving you.
Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those
who sin against us.
Do not bring us
to the time of trial+
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours,
now and forever. Amen.

HYMN

BLESSING

The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of His son Jesus Christ our Lord: and the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen