Posts Tagged With: all saints

Worship Piece: All Saints

Just a little Call to Worship for All Saints day. Our opening scripture is Isaiah 25:6-9.

 

This morning we remember our loved ones who have died,
And we remember God’s promise of eternal life.
This morning we mourn the absence of many,
And we celebrate God’s continuing presence.
We listen for the Divine voice in ancient words of scripture,
And we hear of miracles, we hear that death will be swallowed up forever.
Through sorrow and through joy, let us worship our Holy God.
Let us be glad and rejoice in our salvation.

Categories: Call to Worship, Worship Pieces | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts on Revelation 21:1-6

'The Vision of the New Heaven and the New Earth...' photo (c) 2013, Sharon - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/[Below is an excerpt from a sermon I preached on All Saints' Day a few years ago.]

This vision John gives us is a beautiful vision. A necessary vision. It is a vision that Christians have clung to through persecution and war and slavery and untold numbers of personal sorrows and tragedies.

“And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.”

We tend to think of eternal life with God as completely other than what we experience now. That when we die our souls somehow fly away . . . up there . . . to another place, another mode of time, another reality. That our flawed earthly existence will be erased, replaced with heavenly life.

But that is not John’s vision in the book of Revelation. John’s vision is of the new earth and new heaven. If we believe John’s revelation, we believe that this earth—God’s magnificent creation, our bittersweet home—does not need to be removed. It needs to be redeemed and transformed.

People are not whisked up into some other place in the sky. The new Jerusalem comes down. This Jerusalem is not the same violent, greed-filled place that it had been. But it is still Jerusalem.

As I’ve been reading this passage, I’ve been thinking about this idea of a transformed reality as opposed to a removed and replaced reality. And I’ve been thinking that what we believe about the end times, about the afterlife, may have more bearing on our call to follow Jesus than I had previously thought.

Transformation versus removal.

We see the tendency toward removal in our penal system: the continued use of the death penalty; the scarcity of programs that work toward transforming the lives of the prisoners. But there are people of faith stepping in and offering the alternative of redemption and transformation.

Transformation versus removal.

Watch these ideas battle in our foreign policy and our national security efforts. Our efforts to remove terrorism seem basically to have increased animosity toward the United States. What would happen if, instead of trying to defeat terrorists, we worked to redeem and transform them? I don’t know. Most people would probably dismiss the suggestion as naïve.

Transformation versus removal.

A friend passed on a great article to me about a woman whose husband tried to leave her. He told her that he didn’t love her anymore and he wanted a divorce. She told him that she didn’t believe him and wouldn’t give him a divorce. He wanted to remove himself from the life he had. She insisted on transforming it. The transformation wasn’t easy. But eventually the husband came back to the family. And the marriage was transformed.

Of course, it might not have been. The husband could have decided to move to Cancun and never see his wife or children again.

And I think that is the crux of why we—as a society—seem to favor removal over transformation. We can control the removal. It might not give us the best result, but we can control it. We can abandon the relationship. We can administer the lethal injection. We can drop the bombs.

Transformation, on the other hand, is ultimately the work of God. We can work towards it. We can facilitate it. But we cannot make it happen.

Sometimes our efforts will succeed. Sometimes our efforts will fail.

Always we have God’s promise of a new heaven and a new earth. We can rest in the knowledge that God is the Alpha and the Omega. God was at the beginning. God will be at the end. And God is with us now. God’s home is among mortals. God dwells with us as our God, and we can live joyfully as God’s people.

God’s promises are for this life. And God’s promises of transformation are also for the life to come. Thanks be to God.

*Also, for folks working on services for Easter 5C, I posted some family worship ideas based around Psalm 148 over at Practicing Families earlier this week.

Categories: Bible Study, Preaching | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Few Thoughts on All Souls Day

I had a lot of fun trick-or-treating with Grace downtown on Halloween. We were harmless aliens. Nothing scary.

But there were plenty of fierce werewolves and bloody vampires and creepy ghosts wandering around. Plenty of costumes to remind me that Halloween is not really about candy; it’s about death–it’s particularly about our fear of death.

In many ways, watching horror movies and dressing up as frightening creatures is a way that we confront our fears. By placing ourselves in the story–even in these imaginary ways–we hope to gain some control over these forces of death that are really uncontrollable.

I know not all Christians choose to celebrate Halloween, but I believe it can be a fun celebration. (Who doesn’t love dressing up and getting free candy?) But as Christians, we do not try to fight death with death. We do not meet violence with violence. We do not try to overcome our fear of the uncontrollable forces of destruction by participating in the broad story of death.

As Christians, we may enjoy the Halloween festivities, but we truly celebrate the next two days–All Saints and All Souls. We may enjoy the pageantry and the candy, but we live into the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

As Christians, we do not face our fear of death by participating in the death story; we face our fear of death by participating in the Jesus story. In the story of a God who loves us deeply–so deeply that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” In the story of how Jesus overcame the forces of death and violence through the power of the resurrection.

As Christians, we participate in a counter-story. A life-giving story. We seek to live our lives within the power of Christ’s life. And we seek to understand death in the context of the broader story, the bigger story, of eternal life in Christ.

I encourage you to take some time on this All Soul’s day to honor those you love who have lived and died in the reality of God’s Divine Life. Say a prayer. Light a candle. Tell a story. Type their names into the comments section below. And give thanks that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In memory of Lola Lohrentz. Lover. Laugher. Worker. Quilter. Saint of the church.

Categories: Ponderings, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Wednesday Worship Piece: Isaiah 25:6-9

This Sunday we are observing All Saints’ Day. This call to worship is inspired by the lectionary reading for the day from Isaiah 25:6-9. (Leader reads plain text, people read bold.)

Hurricanes and floods and environmental havoc;
drones and IEDs and handguns;
cancer and heart disease and bodies shutting down;
poverty and injustice and oppression.
The ways of death in this world are many.
The words of death surround us.
The fear of death envelopes us.
But we come now to hear a different Word,
a true Word
a life-giving Word.
We are here on Isaiah’s mountain
where tears are wiped away,
where a banquet table has been set,
where death has been swallowed up forever.
We do not fully understand it.
We may not fully believe it.
And yet here it is:
the power of Christ’s life within us and among us.
So let us be glad and rejoice in our salvation!

 And here is a link to an edited version of  Hebrews 11:1-12:2, put into a format for three readers. It’s not lectionary, but it fits nicely with All Saints. (Though some of these guys –and Rahab–aren’t exactly saintly.)

*As always, you are welcome to use this material in your own worship context. Acknowledgment is appreciated.

Categories: Call to Worship, Worship Pieces | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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