All Saints Day 2020
The Rev’d Andy Braunston
Good morning and welcome to worship, my name is Andy Braunston and I work with four URC churches in and around Glasgow in the central belt of Scotland. Today the service comes from my study and has been recorded with the help of various people from my churches. We come together today to mark All Saints’ Day when we think of all those who have gone before us and now cheer us on in the heavenly places.
Call To Worship
The wisdom of God calls to us, from the heights, along the paths, and at the crossroads. Come into God’s presence to worship, sing, and pray.
From our scattered places we come. Let us worship God.
Hymn: For All The Saints
William Walsham How (1864)
For all the saints
who from their labours rest,
who thee by faith
before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesus,
be forever blest.
2 Thou wast their rock,
their fortress, and their might;
thou, Lord, their captain
in the well-fought fight;
thou, in the darkness drear,
their one true light.
3 O blest communion,
we feebly struggle,
they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee,
for all are thine.
4 And when the strife is fierce the warfare long
steals on the wear
the distant triumph-song
and hearts are brave again
and arms are strong,
5: But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
the saints triumphant
rise in bright array;
the King of glory
passes on his way.
Prayers of Approach, Confession, and Forgiveness
God of grace and glory,
whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven,
we bless you, we magnify you,
we adore you as Lord of heaven and earth.
We bless and thank you for all those made saints through Jesus Christ,
who have testified to your love,
and shared the gifts with which you graced them.
May your Spirit be powerfully at work
through the communion of your saints to build us all up in faith and love,
for loving service to each other and to the world you so love,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Eternal God, in every age
you have raised up women and men to live and die in faith.
Forgive our indifference to Your will.
You have commanded us to speak, but we have been silent.
You have called us to do what is just, but we have been fearful.
Have mercy on us, Your faithless servants.
Keep before us faithful people for us to follow
so that, by the power of your Holy Spirit,
we may grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
to the praise of Your holy name. Amen.
Listen, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. Rejoice then in the freedom that is yours, and learn to live lives that are holy and true, Amen.
Prayer of Illumination
In your Word, O God, show us heaven.
By your Spirit, O God, show us truth;
through Christ, the Living Word,
in whom we see your face, O God. Amen.
Reading: Revelation 7: 9-17
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing,
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour
and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Hymn: How Shall I Sing That Majesty?
Ken Naylor (1931-1991)
1 How shall I sing that majesty
which angels do admire?
Let dust in dust and silence lie;
sing, sing, ye heavenly choir.
Thousands of thousands
thy throne, O God most high;
ten thousand times
ten thousand sound
thy praise; but who am I?
2 Thy brightness
unto them appears,
whilst I thy footsteps trace;
a sound of God comes to my ears,
but they behold thy face.
They sing, because
thou art their Sun;
Lord, send a beam on me;
for where heaven is
but once begun there alleluias be.
which doth all beings keep!
Thy knowledge is the only line
to sound so vast a deep.
Thou art a sea without a shore,
a sun without a sphere;
thy time is now and evermore,
thy place is everywhere.
Religious folk like saints. We like the tales of those who have gone before us and have led heroic lives of sanctity. Some of us may have been raised on the stories of saints – Columba the Irish man who founded a monastery on Iona, then in the middle of the water highway of the age and who evangelised Scotland. Aiden, another Irish man, who founded a monastery on the holy isle of Lindisfarne and evangelised Northumbria. Augustine of Canterbury, the Italian who came to evangelise England only to find the Gospel was already here, Augustine of Hippo, the African theologian and reluctant convert, Patrick the English man who converted the Irish and drove out the snakes (evidently) or George, the Turk, who slayed the dragon. Or we may have heard tales of Gladys Aylward an evangelist in China in the 1930s and 40s, or David Livingstone, the Congregationalist Evangelist in Africa or countless others who have given up much to spread the Gospel.
Some Christians simply recognise the sanctity of those who have gone before us, others have rather elaborate systems to determine if someone should be recognised as a saint. The Catholic Church, for example insists on a number of things. Firstly, the person has to be dead. Second they have to have had lived a holy life – if they have they are declared a Servant of God. Then a deeper investigation into their life is held and if they pass this second exam they are declared Venerable. Then there is a two part practical exam – Christians can ask a Venerable to pray for them for healing and if one miraculous healing is confirmed by doctors the Venerable is promoted to a Blessed and then, after another miracle the person is declared a saint. The idea is that saints are in God’s presence and so can intercede for those on earth.
Other, older, traditions simply held one was a saint if the faithful declared you one. The most recent example is St Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador who was gunned down by government forces whilst celebrating Mass in 1980. The people immediately declared him a Saint but the Vatican took almost 40 years to catch up and formally declare him a saint.
This older tradition is based on the idea that if one has died as a result of persecution for the faith one is immediately a saint, washed in the blood of the Lamb as our reading from Revelation has it.
Revelation was written during a difficult time in the life of the early Church where those who had turned to Christ has to reject much of what went on in their contemporary society. Against the frequent assertions of the divinity of the Emperor, Christians believed that only Jesus is Lord. Against, the worship of many deities, Christians – like Jews – believed that only God was to be worshipped. This set them apart from their fellow citizens who became suspicious of them seeing them as anti-social. Romans were a superstitious lot and not taking part in the Imperial religious cults meant you were seen as endangering Roman society. Of course all that talk about equality contained seeds that would undermine a society based on a strict social order and the enslavement of people. From time to time Christians were subject to persecution – sometimes killed, often given the chance to recant by saying a prayer and burning some incense to the Emperor. The weak would give in, the more robust wouldn’t. Those who turned away and those who were killed left behind faithful struggling Christians and Revelation was written to give strength and the promise of an eternal reward.
We, of course, live in happier times. No one is persecuted for their Christian faith in the West. In fact, those of us who confess Christ are seen as quaint, maybe a bit odd, we might even be seen as antisocial and views projected onto us (which we might not hold) which are seen as out of step with contemporary culture. Instead of persecution we live with indifference. In other parts of the world, however, Christians still live with persecution – in Pakistan scores can be settled by accusations against Christians of blasphemy – a capital crime. In Iran the ancient churches are left alone (especially if they worship in liturgical languages not spoken in everyday life) but more evangelical churches who worship in Farsi struggle. Recently I was asked to give a character reference for my friend Ali who is on the verge of gaining British citizenship. He fled Iran 7 years ago after his house church was discovered. He has no idea what happened to his friends in that small church which was held together by a radical faith that Jesus makes a difference, that true happiness and purpose, in this world and the next, is found only in Christ. A modern way of saying that only Jesus is Lord. Christians have to worship in secret in some Gulf countries, in some African countries Christians are hassled and discriminated against. In China one can be a Christian but only if part of one of the government controlled churches where bishops are appointed by the state ensuring the social order isn’t critiqued.
The writer of Revelation holds out a promise of glory for those who suffer for the Gospel, the writer of the Psalm set for today shows the qualities of those who trust in the Lord. We hear it now sung to a Genevan tune written when the nascent Reformed Church was living in a time of persecution
The LORD I will extol,
At all times bless His holy name.
I will not cease to sing His praise;
His goodness I proclaim.
I glory in the LORD;
Let the afflicted hear my voice.
O magnify the LORD with me!
With me in Him rejoice.
I sought the LORD in prayer;
He heard my plea & answered me.
From all my worries and my fears
The LORD has set me free.
Those who on Him rely
Will never hang their heads in shame.
When this poor man
cried out for help,
The LORD delivered him
The Angel of the LORD ever encamps around all those
Who fear him and exalt His name; God saves them from their woes.
O come, then, taste and see that He, the LORD, is good and just.
Blest is the one who turns to Him and puts in Him his trust.
We too, like the saints of old and the saints who are persecuted around the world are called to live in trust. We trust that God isn’t finished with us, that God still has a purpose for His Church in the West. We trust that times will change, that in God’s good time more of the Kingdom will break in overthrowing unjust regimes, irrational prejudices and deadly persecution. Like the saints of old we proclaim the Kingdom to a world which is indifferent in its pain. Like the saints of old we put our trust in the One who will never betray us. Will you pray with me?
God whose holy name defies our definition,
but whose will is known in freeing the oppressed,
make us to be one with all who cry for justice,
that we who speak your praise, may struggle for your truth,
through Jesus Christ, Amen.
Affirmation of Faith
Do you believe in the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects, and cares for the Church through Word and Spirit. This God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end. We do
Do you believe that God is the One who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people. We do.
Do you believe that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor, and the wronged? We do.
This is the faith of the Church! We are proud to confess it in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Hymn: Jesus Invites His Saints
Issac Watts (1674-1748)
1 Jesus invites his saints
to meet around his board;
here pardoned rebels sit, and hold
communion with their Lord.
For food he gives his flesh,
He bids us drink his blood;
amazing favour! Matchless grace
of our descending God!
2 This holy bread and wine
maintains our fainting breath,
by union with our living Lord,
and interest in his death.
Our heavenly Father calls
Christ and his members one;
we the young children of his love,
and he, the first-born Son.
3 We are but several parts
of that same broken bread;
one body has its several limbs,
but Jesus is the Head.
Let all our powers be joined,
His glorious name to raise;
pleasure and love fill every mind
and every voice be praise.
Father of the universe, hear our prayer this day, as we gather together separate but one. Send your Spirit to prompt our prayers. May our voices join the voices of those scattered far from here so that in all that we are,
and wherever we might be, we may join with the saints throughout the ages in serving and praising your holy name.
We give thanks, O Maker, for all who have gone before us marked by the sign of faith. For those who taught and inspired us, those whose lives and faith changed us, and those from of old who have proclaimed your Kingdom. Help us to love and inspire others with the glad tidings of your coming realm.
We pray, O Lord of the Ages, for those saints who now are persecuted for your Name’s sake. We think this day, for Christians gathering in secret for fear of the authorities, for Churches having to adjust their life and their actions for fear of the state, for faithful ones living in fear of being accused of blasphemy to settle old scores. We pray, O God, that you give strength and peace to all who suffer in your name. We pray too, O God, for those who oppress – the cold civil servants making policy, the efficient agents of the state to hunt down your people, the torturer and jailors who maintain fear that you bring them to judgement along with the leaders and politicians who endorse and lead in evil policies.
We remember before you, God of Mercy, those who lead and govern our own nations: Elizabeth our Queen, Boris our Prime Minister and Nicola our First Minister, that they, and all who are elected to serve at local, and national levels, may work for the common good, uphold the law and promote peace and prosperity for all.
We bring to you now, O God, the names of those we love who are in any kind of need……and we bring ourselves and our own needs before you….
Accept our prayer, Loving God,
for the sake of your son, our saviour, Jesus Christ,
who taught us to pray saying
We bring our offerings to God – ourselves, our love, our work, the money we give either through standing order or our envelopes and we ask God to accept these gifts.
Loving God, all things come from you, and of your own do we give you,
accept our gifts and use them for your service. Amen.
It is right, our duty and our joy always and everywhere to give you thanks, holy Maker, almighty and eternal God, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses and glorified in the assembly of your saints.
The glorious company of apostles praise you. The noble fellowship of prophets praise you. The great robed army of martyrs praise you. We, your Holy Church, acclaim you. In communion with angels and archangels, and with all who served you on earth and worship you now in heaven, we raise our voice to proclaim your glory, for ever praising you and singing:
Holy is the Lord (Holy is the Lord) Holy is the Lord (Holy is the Lord)
Holy is the Lord (Holy is the Lord) Holy is the Lord (Holy is the Lord)
Righteous and mercy,
judgement and grace,
faithfulness and sovereignty
Holy is the Lord….
Father, you are holy indeed, and all creation rightly gives you praise.
All life, all holiness comes from you through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit. From age to age you gather a people to yourself, so that from east to west an offering of praise and thanksgiving may be made to the glory of your name.
And so, Lord, we bring you before you this bread and wine. We ask that as we break this bread and drink this wine, you lift us up into the holiness of your presence, where with the angels and saints we may praise you forever.
We remember the night when Jesus was betrayed, he took bread and gave you thanks and praise. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said:
Take this, all of you, and eat it:
this is my body which will be broken for you.
When supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples, and said:
Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood,
the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.
It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.
Do this in memory of me.
Father, calling to mind the death your Son endured for our salvation, his glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven, and ready to greet him when he comes again, we offer ourselves in thanksgiving as we eat and drink in your presence. May he make us an everlasting gift to you and enable us to share in the inheritance of your saints, with the apostles, the martyrs, and all your people in every age. Welcome into your kingdom our departed sisters and brothers, and all who have left this world in your friendship. We hope to enjoy for ever the vision of your glory, through Christ our Lord, from whom all good things come. Through him, with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever. Amen.
So as the music plays I invite you to share this meal, this food is to give us strength and our journey. So eat the bread of salvation, and the drink the wine of passion. Taste and see that God is good.
Prayer after Communion
Creator of all ages as we sit at your table we thank you for the faithful witness of your apostles, prophets, and martyrs throughout the history of your Church and throughout the world even today united with us through your Holy Spirit. Through their witness we see and hear your truth. We bless you for all who bless your name through their writing, speaking, art, and music. Through their work we glimpse your beauty. We praise you for all who serve you without recognition or honour, offering encouragement to the lonely, the sick, and the fearful. Through their lives we see your faithfulness and sense your comfort. Now we pray that you will use even us to reflect the glory we see in Jesus Christ. May the voices of all your saints, made holy in Christ, swell in joyous praise to you, the giver of all good gifts, through Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Hymn: Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones
Athelstan Riley, 1906. Tune: “Lasst uns erfreuen”, 1623.
1 Ye watchers and ye holy ones,
bright Seraphs, Cherubim
raise the glad strain, Alleluia!
Cry out, Dominions,
Angels’ choirs, Alleluia!
2: O higher than the Cherubim,
more glorious than the Seraphim,
lead their praises, Alleluia!
Thou bearer of the eternal Word,
magnify the Lord,
3: Respond, ye souls
in endless rest,
ye Patriarchs and Prophets blest,
Ye holy Twelve,
ye Martyrs strong,
all Saints triumphant,
raise the song, alleluia!
4: O friends, in gladness
let us sing,
supernal anthems echoing,
To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
May the One who has given us, in the lives of the saints,
patterns of holy living and victorious dying,
strengthen your faith and devotion
and enable you to bear witness to the truth against all adversity;
and the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be with you and all whom you love,
now and always, Amen.
Call To Worship from Worship Aids for the Revised Common Lectionary from the Presbyterian Church of the USA
Affirmation of Faith from selected sections of the Belhar Confession of Faith.
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness, and Post Communion Prayer Adapted by Andy Braunston from The Worship Source Book 2nd Edition, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship et al. 2013.
Prayer of Illumination from Feasting on the Word Worship Companion Year A Volume 2.
Eucharistic Preface and Prayer adapted by Andy Braunston from the Roman Missal.
Metrical Version of Psalm 34 written by William Helder © 1980 and sung by Michael Owens.
Post sermon prayer by Janet Morley from All Desires Known.
Sanctus from Vineyard. Agnus Dei from Marty Haugen’s Mass of Creation (revised 2010).
For all the Saints – from BBC’s Songs of Praise’s Big Sing
How Shall I Sing That Majesty? – from BBC’s Songs of Praise
Jesus Invites His Saints – Phil and Lythan Nevard
Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones – Choir of Belfast Cathedral
Lobt Gott Ihr Christen (“Praise God ye Christians”) by Johann Gottfried Walther (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Toccata from Suite Gothique by Leon Boëllman (organ of St Thomas-on-The Bourne, Farnham – 2016)
Both pieces played by Brian Cotterill: http://briancotterill.webs.com
Jonnie Hill and Adam Scott, Ruth and Kingsley Browning, Phil, Lythan and Carys Nevard for recording the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith and to Myra Rose, Jamie Stewart, Gordon Smith, Margaret Higton and Dan Morrell for reading various spoken parts of the service.