Welcome to worship with the
Barwon Heads & Ocean Grove congregations
on All Hallows Eve
This service was streamed live via Zoom on October 31st at 10:30am
Below is the entire text for a service of worship for home use while public worship is not available in the church buildings Even though the service is streamed live, those who are unable to participate online may use this material at any time for their private devotions. If ‘two or three’ are gathered with you, you may choose a ‘leader’ in order to use the responsive prayers and readings as you would in church.
There are also links to YouTube files for music and, should you rather listen than read, sound files for the text, including the sermon . [I’m sorry about the commercials that sometimes come with YouTube clips. Be sure to click on the “Skip Ad” box if and when it appears in the lower right of the YouTube clip] When a YouTube clip has finished, simply click on the back button of your browser to return to this page. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.
(This service was presented on Halloween – All Hallows Eve – the eve of All Saints Day, so today we bring to mind the saints
who have carried the faith in their day-to-day lives)
Faith is not merely praying
Upon our knees at night;
Faith is not merely straying
Through darkness into light;
Faith is not merely waiting
For glory that may be.
Faith is the brave endeavour,
The splendid enterprise,
The strength to serve, whatever
conditions may arise. (anon)
CALL TO CELEBRATION
Let there be joy in our coming to this time.
Let there be silence for the voice within us and beyond us.
Let there be joy in this time together.
R: asking questions about our values, our directions, our goals, and our relationships.
L: Let us spend this time in the presentness of the Sacred One.
R: Praise be for this gathered community in this sacred place, for all people.
PRAYER OF AWARENESS
Creating God, extend our vision to perceive that this is your world. You are in it. You pervade it. You enfold it. It is immersed in you. Open our eyes to see in the depth of reality, your grace your goodness your glory. To see that we dwell in you. Amen.
JOURNEY INTO SILENCE
A Reflection: “To the God above God…” by Gary Kowalski
To the God above God we turn our thoughts in meditation. To the God above the god of any single nation, who unites the people of the world in the bonds of kinship and peace; to the God above the god of any single ideology, who knows that one human life is more valuable than all the systems in the world; to the God above the god of any single religion, whose goodness and inspiration† are the possession of people of all faiths; to the God above God who brings humility to our minds and reverence to our hearts… We dedicate ourselves in work and in prayer.
Come apart from the busyness of family and work, and dwell in the presence of God who is our source of being. (pause) God calls us to renew ourselves and our life’s purpose as we gather with others who are searching. Let us be in silence together.
(at least 30 seconds of Silence)
WE REFLECT ON OUR RELATIONSHIPS
“Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Let us confess our failure to love this one, merciful God.
If we have tried to serve a shallow god that is made in our own likeness, and have ended up bored and fruitless. Christ have mercy. / Christ have mercy.
If we have tried to serve the gods that others foist on us, and have found they leave us restless and discontented. Lord have mercy./ Lord have mercy.
All wise and all loving God, we confess we have not been whole hearted and single minded in our devotion to you. Through the saving grace of Christ Jesus, overrule our folly and forgive our wanderings and rebellion. Restore us to that spiritual sanity for which we were created. With all our being may we love and honour you, and know that peace and joy which nothing else can never equal. For your name’s sake Amen!
Hear the good news: By grace you are saved, through faith, and faith is not the result of your effort but is a gift from God. Christ Jesus says: “Son, daughter, your sins are forgiven you, go in peace.” And so I declare to you, the door to life has been opened to us. Thanks be to God!
FROM THE GOSPELS: Mark 12:28-34
I’m not sure we have always done a good job with All Saints’ Day. Too often we think of saints in some exalted way, but today we are going to remember all saints, including the small ordinary ones whom nobody remembers, whom nobody but God loved, and made them who they are. It starts with the question directed at Jesus in today’s reading and with his answer. All Saints Day is the story of the attempts by people just like you and me to do this.
28 One of the religion scholars came up. Hearing the lively exchanges of question and answer and seeing how sharp Jesus was in his answers, he put in his question: “Which is most important of all the commandments?”
29-31 Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.”
32-33 The religion scholar said, “A wonderful answer, Teacher! So clear-cut and accurate—that God is one and there is no other. And loving him with all passion and intelligence and energy, and loving others as well as you love yourself. Why, that’s better than all offerings and sacrifices put together!”
34 When Jesus realised how insightful he was, he said, “You’re almost there, right on the border of God’s kingdom.”
After that, no one else dared ask a question.
A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS – “For All the Saints”
Today we are celebrating All Saints Day, which was last Thursday. Many people best know All Saints Day as the day after Halloween. Of course, Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, is so named because of All Saints Day. Halloween is celebrated as it is because it was thought to be the last fling of the forces of evil before All Saints’ Day, the day ‘The Saints come Marching In.’ Of course we know that though saints have indeed come marching in, the battle is far from over. Many more saints need to come marching in, and that is the business of the church: the business of producing saints.
I can almost feel some of you squirm in your seats when I say that. I know I would squirm, too, if I heard that from the pulpit. But it’s true. The church is the name given collectively to ’the saints,’ ordinary people who have been called by God to live holy, sanctified lives; lives that are so caught up in the plans of God that they are called saints. Today, All Saints’ Day, is the day the church gives thanks for all the saints, thanks even for us.
Perhaps the most important thing we do here is the ordinary equipping we receive to be saints, to be those whose lives are caught up in God’s work in the world. When you hear the word, saint, you’re probably too quick to think of Mother Theresa or Saint Francis of Assisi, but I want you to think today in a more mundane, ordinary sense of saint. On this day we recognise the contributions of all our volunteers, I’m talking about you.
When asked to define a saint, Thomas G. Long suggests that a saint is someone whose life is but ‘a cranny through which the infinite peeps.’ The saint is someone who somehow manages to live in two worlds. The saint’s faith has enabled him or her to release some of the tight grip by which most people hold on to this world, which then allows them, paradoxically, to receive this world as a gift. With eyes on the infinite, the saint manages to be thoroughly involved in the finite. The saint manages to chart his or her life by the stars, yet walks on thoroughly solid earth.
You all know them. You will probably know them best through seemingly small, earthly gestures, deeds of love and mercy made all the more holy because they are so earthly.
Reynolds Price wrote a moving account of his struggle with cancer of the spine and beyond. Lying on his back in great fear and pain in the hospital, Price discovered a great difference between the efficient ‘medical professional’ and the everyday ‘saint.’ He contrasted the behaviour of his world-renowned cancer specialist, who could barely carry on a conversation with him about his condition, who popped into his room, examined him with lightning speed, then sped on his way to another person in pain, with the actions and care of those “calm black women” of whom he wrote, “who’d answered my calls in the predawn hours of this painful stay.” Those nurses and nurse assistants did more to care for Price in his sickness than the doctors who were paid so much more.
Price wrote that he didn’t ask for much; just a bit of human concern and human kindness, thoroughly earthly and mundane transactions. Yet those women were much more adept at such practices than the doctor. He said that these nurses “blend their professional code with the oldest natural code of all: mere human connection, the simple looks and words that award a suffering creature his or her dignity.”
Such activities are the work of ‘practical saints.’ Let us not think of the cheerful word, the kind touch, the patient disposition as if these were easily available virtues. I can understand why the harried oncologist had no time, no strength left to spend time with a troubled patient like Price. The world easily wears some people down. You are exposed so frequently to pain that you just can’t bear any more exposure to people in pain. I’ve seen it happen to clergy, and I can understand that it would happen to physicians.
But don’t you see, this makes it all the more amazing that, in a place like a hospital, you can still find these practical saints: folk whose faith has enabled them not to be worn down by the cares of life, not to avoid those who are in need, not to steel themselves against the feeling and responding to some of the hurt and the sorrow of others.
On this All Saints’ Day, we give thanks to God for the saints, all of them, including you. It is no small achievement, whether one is in a hospital ward, or a hardware store or a high school classroom, or in a neighbours lounge room, to live like a saint. Amid the cares of everyday life, somehow to keep your eyes fixed on the things of God, to reach out in compassion to others, to testify to God’s promised kingdom in the middle of our kingdoms and their demands; this is no small spiritual achievement.
I hope, here, you receive the gifts you need to keep at it. I hope you receive the encouragement, the equipment, the grace needed to keep on keeping on. Years ago, the master teacher of preachers, P.T. Forsyth, said, “the one great preacher is the church. And the first business of the individual preacher is to enable the church to preach.”
I believe that. You are the only word from the Lord that many people will ever hear. So go out there and be God’s word in a troubled, hurting, confused world. Embody that word in all you do: volunteering in the OpShop, singing in the choir, making tea and coffee, washing up in the kitchen, representing the church in community organisations, … All you saints.
Ex-President of the United States, Harry Truman, committed this prayer to memory early in life, and recited it throughout life:
Almighty and Everlasting God, Creator of Heaven and Earth and the Universe: Help me to be, to think, to act what is right, because it is right; make me truthful, honest and honourable in all things; make me intellectually honest for the sake of right and honour without thought of regard to me. Give me the ability to be charitable, forgiving and patient; help me to understand the motives and shortcomings of others, even as you understand mine. Amen.
LITANY – “For All the Saints”
L: Through the ages and in many places, saints of God have witnessed in God’s name;
R: through the ages, prophets, poets, martyrs, sages, have witnessed in God’s name.
L: We come together in the cloud of witnesses as one communion;
R: we raise our voices to God, the Source of Life.
L: We bless the earthly memories of those who now shine in God’s glory
R: and join the whole company on earth and in heaven singing unending praise…
L: We celebrate in our lives the presence of the church in Ocean Grove/Barwon Heads,
R: which is real when it stands open to the life of the community, and bears witness to the love and justice of God.
PRAYER OF INTERCESSION
On those days when we are tempted to judge others, may we instead pray, and when we are in danger of sliding into pessimism, may we turn to you for help. Living God hear our prayer, and help us to overcome evil with grace, mercy and peace.
On those occasions when world hunger and homelessness seem overwhelming, give us the tenacity to do what we can and encourage others to do likewise.
In moments when the threat of disease or disablement looms over us, and what is worse, when it threatens our loved ones, please help and guide us.
In those seasons when the world seems to have gone crazy with suspicion and fear, and when they turn again to more violence and terror, come to our aid.
In situations where politicians seem arrogant and foolish, and the church looks like wringing its hands, please give us wisdom to seek solutions.
At those times when the divisions in the church provoke scorn, and when we are tempted to make excuses rather than repent and mend our ways, Living God, help us.
On occasions when death, broken relationships and divorce, cause havoc among our friends or in the church, show us how to be agents of Christ Jesus, living God hear our prayer.
God of infinite reserves, you have entrusted people with a massive responsibilities. With your help we can do far more than is humanly possible, without you we will do far less. Fill us with your Spirit, that we may be channels of your saving, healing love. Through Christ Jesus, who taught us to pray, “Our Father..”
THE LORD’S PRAYER
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, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us in the time of trial, and deliver us from evil; for the kingdom and the power and glory are yours now and forever. Amen
WE OFFER THE GIFT OURSELVES
R: but it is the same Spirit who gives them.
L: There are different ways of serving God:
R: but it is the same Lord who is served.
L: God works through people in different ways:
R: but it is the same God whose purpose is achieved through them all.
L: Each one of us is given a gift by the Spirit:
R: and there is no gift without its corresponding service.
L: There is one ministry of Christ:
R: and in this ministry we all share.
L: Together we are the body of Christ:
R: and individually members of it.
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING AND COMMITMENT
Let us all now dedicate ourselves and offer our work to God in all the ways we minister in this church community.
If you are a member of any committee or the choir or the U.C.F., if you do the flowers, help with the cleaning, are a friend or visitor to someone, if you assist in worship with the liturgy, readings or prayers, if you help out in the Op Shop, or help provide food and beverages… you are the saints for whom we give thanks today.
Living God, you have called us forth to CHOOSE LIFE. Help us so to choose. In that choosing, and assured of your grace, we commit ourselves anew to your service. We will bear one another’s burdens, and love our neighbours as ourselves. We will accept opposition and frustration, and not lose heart. We will love your world as you love it, bring friendship into our work, adventure into our church, and courage into our politics.
Create in us a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within us. Stir into flame the gifts you have given, and the faith to use them. Make us know the freedom to move into the unknown, to see the opportunities of the new day, and to serve the present age with compassion, imagination, and faith in you. Amen.
Live simply, at home in yourself.
Be just in your word, just in deed.
Remember the depth of your own compassion.
Do not forget your powerin the days of your powerlessness.
Do not desire to be wealthier than your peers,
and never stint your hand of charity.
Practice forbearance in all you do.
Speak the truth or speak not.
Take care of your body, be good to it, it is a good gift.
Crave peace for all peoples in this world,
beginning with yourselves,
and go as you go with the dream of that peace
set firm in your heart.
WORDS OF BLESSING
May we be blessed with saints to tell us stories,
with angels to surprise us, with friends along the way.
May we be blessed with strength and joy and courage
all the length and breadth of our nights and days.