All Saints Day (01-11-2020)

WELCOME TO WORSHIP WITH THE BARWON HEADS & OCEAN GROVE CONGREGATIONS

This service was streamed live via Zoom on November 1st at 10am

St. James

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 week’s service includes Holy Communion.  The Uniting Church has declared that, until March 31st next year, lay people may preside at this sacrament, blessing the elements as clergy do.  This means that everyone can partake of Communion in their homes, so if you wish to do so, please prepare the elements before beginning this service.

-oOo-

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

God’s presence fills this place of gathering. The whole earth is full of God’s glory.  So let us celebrate the richness and diversity of life in the presentness of this God.

HYMN 455 – “For All the Saints” (Click here to listen)   

OPENING SENTENCES

L: Time runs in circles and cycles.

R: Day follows night.
Weeks turn into months.
Months into years.

L: One generation follows another.

R: Our lives are locked and linked by time.

PRAYER OF AWARENESS

We are grateful for the generations that have gone before us, especially people of vision, imagination and creativity. We know there are still discoveries to be made and problems to be solved. May we not betray the trust given to us, but be prepared to take our place in the circle of time. Amen.

JOURNEY INTO SILENCE

     Meditation  “We Gather Here”  by Barbara Hamilton-Holway

We gather here as individual people: young and old, male and female, gay, lesbian and straight, abled and differently able.  We gather here as a community of people who are more than categories. We gather here, each ministering to the other, meeting one another’s strength, encouraging wholeness. We give thanks for this extraordinary blessing.  Here may our minds stretch, our hearts open, our spirits deepen. Here may we acknowledge our brokenness and be ever stirred by love’s infinite possibilities.

     Silence

Let us listen to the silence of this sacred space…(Pause)…We live at mystery’s edge, watching for a startling luminescence or a word to guide us. Daily, there are glimmers, reflections of a seamless mercy, revealed in common intricacies.  These circles of grace spill out around us, and announce that we are a part of that mystery.            (30 seconds silence)

WE REFLECT UPON OUR RELATIONSHIPS

L: Friends, let us come gladly to the well-springs of God’s refreshment, that in confession we may find the cleansing of our soiled lives, and the quenching of our thirst. Let us pray.  If we have lived as if the success of the Gospel depended entirely on us, and then became despondent because our accomplishments are so few; Lord have mercy.

R: Christ have mercy.

L: If we have been careless and hurtful in our dealings with others, but then tried to exonerate ourselves by blaming the victims for our failures; Lord have mercy.

R: Christ have mercy.

L: If we have been too timid to enjoy our gifts and virtues, yet focused on our many sins, floundering around in a swamp of miserable guilt; Lord have mercy.

R: Christ have mercy.

L: Most holy God, please give to us a clear picture of what we really are, a sincere repentance for our sins, and an unconditional faith in the healing springs that flow from the cross. May the saving grace of Christ Jesus make us whole, and the fellowship of the Spirit encourage us to walk with our heads held high. To your glory and praise.  Amen!

THE ASSURANCE

St. Nicholas

L: Jesus said: “I have come that you may have life, and have it in abundance.” Look no more to the past, but fix your eyes on the future where your Lord promises to be with you to the very end of all things. By grace we are the luckiest people alive, and so I declare to you, the door to life has been opened to us.

R: Thanks be to God!

FROM THE HEBREW SCRIPTURESJoshua 3:7-17

And the Lord said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. You shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you have come to the edge of the water of the Jordan, you shall stand in the Jordan.’ ”

So Joshua said to the children of Israel, “Come here, and hear the words of the Lord your God.” 10 And Joshua said, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites: 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into the Jordan. 12 Now therefore, take for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from every tribe. 13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.”

14 So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), 16 that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.

FROM THE GOSPELS – Mt.23:1-12

23 1-3 Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. “The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer.

St. Francis

4-7 “Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help. Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called ‘Doctor’ and ‘Reverend.’

8-10 “Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of ‘Father’; you have only one Father, and he’s in heaven. And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.

11-12 “Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.”

HYMN 108 – “Your Holy Angels Bright” (Click here to listen)   

A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS – “Follow the Leader” 

     Part 1

St. Patrick

The weekend began in scary fashion with Halloween.  But more significantly, it is scary because of the frightening and ongoing events in the world around us. What with one narcissistic psychopath as President of the U.S, and another building a nuclear strike capacity in North Korea, a world in the midst of a climate crisis that politicians want to ignore and last, but certainly not least, a global pandemic, there is more than enough fodder for anxiety.

More theologically and more hopefully, today is All Saints Day, a time of thanksgiving and remembrance for all the saints, known and unknown, world famous and local, prominent and private, living and dead.  Tomorrow is All Souls Day, the day for the rest of us: saints yet to be. And last Sunday, though we did not mention it, was Reformation Day, the 503rd anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

St. (Mother) Teresa

We are strengthened as we remember those who, through the ages, have shaped the vision and done good work.  All-Saints Day, All Souls Day and Reformation Day are for celebrating and remembering those who have gone before; those who have built the church and led it to this point.  Given the readings in this week’s lectionary, it is hard to avoid the subject of leadership.  

I suppose many of us think of leaders in terms of our politicians or business leaders; hard-driving people who push themselves and others to get the job done, using whatever means work. Many people, even among Liberal voters, disliked the heavy-handed style of people like John Howard and Jeff Kennett, but few deny that they were effective and strong political leaders. Bob Hawke was something of a larrikin, and hardly a model of moral behaviour, but he was nevertheless the prime minister with the all-time highest approval rating.

Dan Andrews (Premier of Victoria)

Most of us like the security of a strong leader even when we don’t necessarily agree with the direction in which we are led.  We like to be able to follow someone who seems sure of where he or she is going, who has strong opinions when we are not sure which way to turn. We like the fact that strong leaders seem to get something done, even if we don’t like the way it is done, because it feels better than having no sense of accomplishment at all.  It is easier to let others take the initiative (and the blame when things go wrong).

Pope Francis

There has been a tendency in the church to look for the same kind of leadership as we see in the secular world; someone to tell us what path to take, what strategy to use, what goals to attain, even what we should think and believe. Some of my colleagues in ministry, particularly in past generations, were happy to oblige.  But the readings tell us that we are not to look to human leaders, but only to God.  Human leaders, whom God raises up amongst us in the church, are there simply to manifest God’s glory and try to act out God’s will.  Their role is servanthood, which is what the word ‘minister’ means. The way they exercise God’s leadership is by example.  An old Chinese proverb states, “Not the cry, but the flight of the wild duck leads the flock to fly and follow.”

In Matthew we heard a story of Jesus really sticking it to the Jewish leaders.  For the past few weeks the lectionary has included stories of how the Pharisees and Sadducees tried to discredit Jesus and trick him.  Today Jesus fires back, and questions their leadership style.  We hear the word hypocrite with regard to the Pharisees, and Jesus accuses them of laying excessive burdens on the people.  Let’s stop and reflect on this for a few moments.

Try to remember when you first became aware of religious hypocrisy.  How did you feel about it?  How do you react to it today?

What kind of burdens have been laid upon you?  First the positive ones.  Now the negative ones.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

What kinds of burdens does the church place upon people today?  On children and youth?

Of course, today’s readings tell us very clearly what style of leadership is NOT appropriate for the church, but let us try to imagine the kind of leadership of which Jesus would approve.

     Part 2

Anthony de Mello, tells a story about a saint (Prayer of the Frog, vol.1, p.146):

There once lived a man so godly that even the angels rejoiced at the sight of him.  But, in spite of his great holiness, he had no notion that he was holy.  He just went about his humdrum tasks diffusing goodness the way flowers unselfconsciously diffuse their fragrance and street lamps their glow.

Fred Hollows

His holiness lay in this: that he forgot each person’s past and looked at them as they were now, and he looked beyond each person’s appearance to the very centre of their being where they were innocent and blameless and too ignorant to know what they were doing, Thus he loved and forgave everyone he met, and he saw nothing extraordinary in this, for it was the result of his way looking people.

One day and angle said to him, “I have been sent to you  by God.  Ask for anything you wish and it will be given you.  Would you wish to have the gift of healing?”

“No,” said the man. “I’d rather God did the healing himself.”

“Would you want to bring sinners back to the path of righteousness?”

“No,” said the man, “It’s not for me to touch human hearts.  That is the work of angels.”

“Would you like to be such a model of virtue that people will be drawn to imitate you?”

“No,” said the saint, “for that would make me the centre of attention.”

“What then do you wish for?” asked the angel.

“The grace of God,” was the man’s reply. “Having that, I have all I desire.”

“No, you must ask for some miracle,” said the angel, “or one will be forced on you.”

St. Gary, Jr. (a.k.a. the “Son”)

“Well, then I shall ask for this: let good be done through me without my being aware of it.”

So it was decreed that the holy man’s shadow would be endowed with healing properties whenever it fell behind him.  So everywhere his shadow fell, provided he had his back to it, the sick were healed, the land became fertile, fountains sprang to life and colour returned to the faces of those who were weighed down by life’s sorrow.

But the saint knew nothing of this because the attention of people was so centred on the shadow that they forgot about the man, and so his wish that good be done through him and be forgotten was abundantly fulfilled.

Most of us have been blessed to have met such people, people through whom God works without fuss and who may not even be aware of how God’s glory shines in them; saints we’ve met along our way  who have helped us to believe in God.  They have not been perfect, for no one is, but certain things have stood out: 

      • an accepting attitude toward others, 
      • discernment without judgmentalism, 
      • forgiveness issuing from compassion and understanding, 
      • passion for justice, 
      • wisdom borne of self-awareness, 
      • action issuing from faith which conquers fear 
      • and an openness to the future which comes only from the hope which God can give, ie, a giving over of themselves, their opinions, their attitudes, their fears, their power – everything – to God.  
St. Augustine

A number in our congregations occupy official leadership positions: elders, church councillors, convenors of this committee or that group. They have gifts that others have recognised that led to their calling to leadership.  There are many others that lead by virtue of what they do in the wider community as well as in the church.  Without realising it most of you who are reading this have exercised leadership simply in your day-to-day, some might even say ‘mundane’ existence, providing example to your children, their friends, your friends and the anonymous people with whom you come into contact.   

When you meet budding saints, in church or outside it, you will know it.  You may not agree with, or even know anything about, their theology or their ideas about the church, or how they like to worship.  Indeed, they may not have anything to do with church. But you will respect them, because their lives reflect something that reminds you of Jesus, and it seems that they are following God’s will to best of their understanding.  

St. Nicholas

As we celebrate ‘Saints’ week, I encourage you to reflect on the saints — religious or secular — who have inspired you and stimulated your belief and action. Remember the folk who may not be widely known, but have touched you deeply.

In this frightening and distressing time, may we be inspired by these saints – past and present, the known and the unknown – who have been faithful in the defence of God’s creation and God’s creatures and in the promotion of Gods future. For all these saints, may we give thanks, and may we be motivated to ongoing hope and action as we, souls aspiring to be saints, continue in the cause.

HYMN 470 – “Rejoice in God’s Saints” (Click here to listen)  

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

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

L: From around the world we hear many children crying, O God; crying for food and drink and someone to enfold them in loving arms. Hear their prayers, dear Lord, 

R: and make us instruments of your peace.

L: We see the desolate eyes of refugees, O God; plodding along war devastated roads, or looking from transit camps, and from behind barbed wire, for glimmers of hope. Hear their prayers, dear Lord, 

R: and make us instruments of your peace.

L: We read about the abused sisters and brothers, O God; cringing from family violence, or suffering in paddy-wagons and jails, or assaulted in their own homes by strangers. Hear their prayers, dear Lord, 

R: and make us instruments of your peace.

L: We hear the sobbing of the broken hearted, O God; betrayed by spouse or lover, deserted by parents, watching at the bed of the dying, or following a hearse to the cemetery. Hear their prayers, dear Lord, 

R: and make us instruments of your peace.

L: We know about the disasters that afflict others, O God; the bodies mangled in road accidents; those devastated by disease or war, and the minds that have cracked under pressure.Hear their prayers, dear Lord, 

R: and make us instruments of your peace.

L: We read about your church, O God; in some places overcrowding its buildings, in others battling to maintain services, or in some countries meeting secretly behind locked doors.Hear their prayers, dear Lord, 

R: and make us instruments of your peace.

St. Francis

L: We look on the faces of both friends and enemies, O God. Some of our friends are doing it hard, while enemies seem to be getting it easy; yet all are souls for whom Christ died.  Hear their prayers, dear Lord, 

R: and make us instruments of your peace.

L: Holy Friend, while we have been praying, you have been busy answering our petitions with an ineffable wisdom and an indefatigable love. Thank you. Through Christ Jesus our Saviour, who taught us to pray, “Our Father…”

THE LORD’S PRAYER

St. Gary, Sr. (a.k.a. the “Father”)

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

HYMN 521  “Lord Christ, at Your First Eucharist You Prayed”
(Click here to listen) 

WE OFFER THE GIFT OURSELVES

St. John

L:  There are diverse gifts:

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.A.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.

Let us all now recommit all of our lives to God:

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.

CELEBRATING COMMUNITY: The Sacrament of Holy Communion

     Welcome to the Table 

Friends, we are about to share in the sacred story and celebrate the feast of the resurrection, But we have also been reminded that, when we gather around the table, if our sister or brother has anything against us, we must leave our gifts of bread and wine and prepare ourselves for the giving. Let us then pray that a clean heart be found in us. (Pause)

    Prayer of Discernment 

L: Loving and caring God, you have searched us out and known us, all that we are is open to you.  Look not upon our sin but upon our faith. Break down all barriers which we erect against your love.  Cover us with the blanket of your peace, and let your justice reach to the ends of the earth. 

R: So that we come glad to this celebration.

L: When our prayers are as dry as a back-of-Bourke paddock, and our spirits like spinifex,

R: drench us with a downpour of mercy!

L: When we take things for granted and gratitude goes to sleep,

R: put a new song on our tongues in an Australian accent.

L: When life’s abrasive pressures fray us, loosening our hold on life around us,

R: tell us again about kookaburras, mountain minnows, golden wheat fields and a God who loves and seeks after us.

L: When our selfishness begrudges love and we become obsessed with our own needs, when we walk away from neighbours in need and share in the world’s prejudice, warfare and greed,

R: lure us on to be faithful, for if one suffers, we all suffer; if one flourishes, we all rejoice. 

L: (Silence)  O God…

R: O God, bring new life where we are worn and tired; new love, where we have turned hard hearted; forgiveness, where we have wounded, and the joy and freedom of your holy spirit, where we are the prisoners of our selves. 

     Prayer of Thanksgiving

L: God of fresh bread and new wine, 

R: we give thanks and rejoice that we can sense your presentness among us.

L: God of yesterday, today and tomorrow, God of our parents and children, we bless you. Truly you are the dwelling place of every generation.

R: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

L: God of the saints; of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar,

R: We praise you.

L: God of Miriam and Moses, of Mary and Joseph, James and John, Hilda and Brendan, Caroline Chisholm and Henry Nelson Wieman, Florence Nightingale and John Shelby Spong..

R: We thank you.

L: God of the dispossessed, God of the mid-wives of faith, God of the remembered, and the overlooked.

R: We honour you.

L: We remember Jesus, born at Bethlehem,
teaching in Galilee and Jerusalem, crucified and risen.
We remember Jesus breaking the bread and sharing the cup. We remember the apostles and martyrs of the early church
and the countless number of unnamed who have proclaimed through the centuries God’s creativity and mercy in the world.

R: As saints of past ages were empowered,
so may we today be nourished and strengthened
by our being in community in this sacred place.

     Bread and wine 

L: Long ago, our tradition says, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and broke it:(bread is broken) ‘This bread is broken, as my body will be’, And he handed it to his friends, inviting them to eat: ‘Remember all that I have been to you’. 

Sacred objects, bible, bread and wine.

Long ago, that same tradition says, Jesus poured a cup of wine, offered thanks for it, and gave it to his friends: (raise the cup)  ‘This wine is poured out as my life will be. As you drink give thanks for all I have given’. 

Bread, the very stuff of life, in which is gathered up warm sun, rich Australian earth, gentle rain, human labour and knowledge and skill.  Wine, fruit of the vine, nurtured, tended, harvested, and pressed out for us to drink.  Come now, tender spirit of God, brood over these bodily things, that we
and these may be signs of life and love to each other.

R: Nourish us in faith. Bind us together in love.
Fill us with resurrection hope.

     Communion 

And they recognised him in the breaking of the bread.

     After Communion

L: Blessed be God who has raised us and shaped us from the dust. 

R: Blessed be God who has brought us to this table.

L: Blessed be God who has given us the bread of life.

R: Blessed be God who has fed us with the food of love.

L: Our hands and our hearts were empty.

R: Blessed be God who has filled us with hope.

L: Let us go out risking the reality of the gospel.

R: We go in the name of the Holy One.

SONG  – “When the Saints Go Marching In” (Click here to listen)  

PARTING WORDS

L: Let us go in faith to ponder in our hearts the mystery and the wonder of this season.
Go in peace.
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 power
in 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,

R: and go with the dream of that peace set firm in your heart. 

WORDS OF BLESSING

L: May we be blessed with saints to tell us stories,
with angels to surprise us, with friends along the way.

R: May we be blessed with strength and joy and courage
all the length and breadth of our nights and days.

St. Kilda (?!)

 

 

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