All Saints Day Study

ALL SAINTS DAY   11-01-2020

FIRST READING:  Revelation 7:9-17  

The book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, has scared and probably scarred some people. It is an apocalyptic writing which unveils future events. It is full of bizarre images, vivid pictures of death, supernatural creatures, and cryptic language. There have been “teachers” over the centuries who have interpreted and manipulated this book in a variety of ways for their own fear-mongering purposes and doomsday theories. Many people look into the pages of Revelation and find whatever they choose to see, carefully studying every detail to find secret explanations. And some people are so confused by or fearful of the mystery and symbolic language that they ignore the book altogether.

The book of Revelation is written to seven churches in western Asia Minor during a difficult time, a period in history that includes great oppression of Christians, but also sweet worldly seduction. Because of his Christian faith, John (there is debate about the exact identity of this John) was exiled to the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea when he wrote this book. The central purpose of Revelation is not to arouse speculation about the future. Rather, it is meant to encourage Christians in that time and every time to maintain their faith, and to do so in the confidence that they will share in Christ’s ultimate victory over forces that oppose him and his people. 

A responsive reading we have sometimes used in worship on All Saints Sunday: 

THE OPENING RITE (based on REVELATION 7:9-17):                            

L   Grace to you and peace from God who is, and was, and is to come;

     and from Jesus Christ [+] the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and ruler of kings on the earth;

     and from the Holy Spirit, like holy wind and holy fire, the power of God at work in and through our lives;       

C    Amen. 

L   In a time when many believers were being oppressed and persecuted because of their faith,

     and also when many Christians were being seduced and sidetracked from their faith by the things of this world,

     John the Seer, in lonely island exile, looked and saw.

     He saw the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders around the throne of God.

     And He saw all the angels and ~ Hallelujah! ~ he saw a great multitude…

C    They were from all nations and tribes, all peoples and languages,

        and they were standing before the throne of God and before the Lamb!

They were wearing white robes and waving palm branches,

and they were singing the songs of salvation and dancing a holy dance.   

L   An elder asked him “Who…”, but John did not know.

     Then the elder told John they were triumphant even in defeat, victorious even in death,

     those who had been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ…

C    Nevermore to hunger and thirst, nevermore to suffer and die,

             nevermore to have anything less than LIFE,

LIFE that overflows with joy,

LIFE that does not end with the grave,

LIFE with Christ and all of God’s faithful ones,

forever and ever, Amen!

L   Sisters and brothers, let us write the vision, teach it to our children, and tell it to the world!

     New believers and old, let us sing the song of triumph with all the saints, dead and alive!

     People of God, let us join in jubilation of salvation and proclaim God’s victory today, tomorrow, and always!

SECOND READING:  1 John 3:1-3  

John (it may be the apostle John, one of the twelve) wrote this letter to people who are already Christians, trying to outline how their faith in Christ should affect a person’s life. Here he celebrates the great love that the Father has given us – we are “children of God now”. We know God and we are known by God and we are claimed in love by God. And someday we will be “like God”, we will see God close up. So we need not be afraid now or in despair about the future. 

YOURS, only YOURS, O Lord… make me, only and always, YOURS. Amen.  

GOSPEL READING:  Matthew 5:1-12 

The Gospel of Matthew contains a collection of the sayings of Jesus that is known as the “Sermon on the Mount”, comprising Chapters 5-7. It probably was not a sermon as the word is used today, nor was it spoken at one time and place. We might think of it as a sampling of what Jesus talked about when he taught. The great theme of his teaching throughout his ministry was the kingdom of God. Jesus must have surprised many when he talked about the kingdom of God not as something that will only come in the future, but also as a present reality. And Jesus must have shocked many by how he described the kingdom of God.

In today’s reading, called the Beatitudes, Jesus provides a shocking description of those who are blessed with God’s favor. Each beatitude is a surprise, each is a puzzling contradiction. The poor will own the kingdom. The mourners will experience comfort in their sorrow. The humble meek will be given the entire world. Those who have a spiritual longing for God will experience inner peace and joy. The ones who offer mercy to others will experience their own forgiveness. Those who practice integrity will experience God’s nearness. Those who work for peace will sense that they are treasured as God’s own children. And those who experience rejection and persecution because of their faithfulness to Jesus can trust that – beyond any and all present suffering – there is everlasting joy. 

What Jesus said must have been a total shock to those who are self-centered and self-serving… to those who seek wealth, fame, and control over others. People who trust in God are truly happy. People who belong to Jesus already live in God’s kingdom.

Blessed. It’s a strange word. Are you blessed? 

We celebrate a God with a big heart, a God who meets us in our troubled lives. Our God is the God of the destitute and the desperate, the poor and the persecuted, the weeping and the weary, the humble and the humiliated, the overlooked and the oppressed, the broken and the bruised, the losers and the loners. Our God hears our cries. Our God shares our pain. Our God loves us through it all. Our God promises us better than we are experiencing right now. 

We are blessed! 

The Gospel of Luke also has Beatitudes; see Luke 6:20-26. They are different from Matthew… they contain a quartet of blessings and woes.

A REFLECTION ON ALL SAINTS DAY

Who are the saints? Some of them have already completed their life’s journey on this earth and rest from their labors, have fought the good fight and received the crown, and rejoice in the everlasting blessing of no more death, sorrow, hurt, hate, or struggle. Some of them live near and far around us, trying to walk the way of humble faith and obedient servant love. And you are also a saint… I am a saint… we all are saints gathered here this Sunday morning. Saints are ordinary, everyday, and not perfect people who go where and do how God’s love leads. Every day is a call to try to walk and talk and think and act holy with a genuine heart and a courageous faith. There are so many ordinary and even some extraordinary ways to offer ourselves as God’s instruments of love. To be a saint, then, is not a sign of perfection but a sign of fidelity. Will you try?

 

       

 

Upcoming Events

Jul
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2024
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28
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2024
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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be gathering together for worship service on Zoom using the following information: MEETING ID: 5977365682 MEETING PASSWORD: 204934 You can also join us for...
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31
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