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saint

All Saints Day

Order of Service

Weekly Bible Study Notes and Worship Resources

All Saints Year C, Colour = Gold or White

All Saints Sunday

Related Material: Church Sermon Archive and Church Archive of Lectionary Material

Introduction

All Saints is a yearly celebration in which we are encouraged to remember that we are literally 'all saints!'

We tend to think of people like Mother Theresa as saints. They are special because their lives reflect the very best of human behaviour. As we think of them and the way that they lived we are encouraged to be more like them. We think of them as being holy, Saints of God - All saints in the sense of living special godly lives, separated from the grubbiness of usual daily living.

This is all well and good but we need to also remember that you and I are saints as well. We might not live such remarkable lives as Mother Theresa, but we are still saints. This is because we are already holy by virtue of being God's children.

We do not have to work hard trying to become God's children, we already are! In the same way that a child might work hard to please their parents, so we will want our lives to measure up, but we are already God's, we are already saints because we call Him Father. Of course like all children we sometimes let ourselves and our parents down, the good news is that just like any good parent, that doesn't mean that God stops loving us.

At this time of year we admire saints, we use them as role models to encourage ourselves that we can do better. But we do not lose sight of our special realtionship to God who loves each one of us as he made us.


Opening Verse of Scripture - Psalm 84 v 1

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

Collect Prayer for the Day - Before we read we pray  (Collect for All Saints)

Almighty God, you have knit together your chosen people in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord. Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that we may come to those inexpressible joys which you have prepared for those who love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen  Methodist Worship

Holy God you have called witnesses from every nation and revealed your glory in their lives. Grant us the same faith and love that, following their example, we may be sustained by their fellowship and rejoice in their triumph; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Methodist Worship

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord.: grant us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that we may come to those inexpressible joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen. Common Worship

God of holiness, your glory is proclaimed in every age: as we rejoice in the faith of your saints, inspire us to follow their example with boldness and joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. Common Worship Shorter Collect

First Bible Reading - Daniel 7: 1-3, 15-18

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying on his bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream. Daniel said: "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea..
"I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. I approached one of those standing there and asked him the true meaning of all this. "So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 'The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever-yes, for ever and ever.'

Second Reading - Ephesians 1: 11-23

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Gospel Reading - Luke 6:20-31

Looking at his disciples, he said:  "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. "Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets. "But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.7"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. if someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Post Communion Prayer

Lord of heaven, in this Eucharist you have brought us near to an innumerable company of angels and to the sprits of the saints made perfect: as in this food of our earthly pilgrimage we have shared their fellowship, so may we come to share their joy in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord.   Amen

God, the source of all holiness and giver of all good things: may we who have shared at this table as strangers and pilgrims here on earth be welcomed with all your saints to the heavenly feast on the day of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
 

Commentary All Saints Day

The origins of this festival come from pre-Christian festivals, warding off evil spirits in preparation for the Celtic New Year on November 1st. The pagan Feast of the Dead ‘Sanhain’ ('sow'inn') is not ‘dark’, as for them, death is not to be feared, old age is valued for its wisdom and dying is simply necessary and valued part of life. So when the festival was adopted by Christians it retained those elements of honouring the dead marking, as it does, the night before ‘All Hallows' or ‘All Saints' Day.

In more recent years, however, it has become the secular ‘Halloween,’ while many celebrate harmlessly with pumpkin lanterns and traditional games, for others it is a chance for mischief, leading to its bad reputation and the fear some now regard it with.

Why do we celebrate All Saints here? This afternoon we have our ‘Feast for the Faithful Departed’ that annual opportunity to remember, and pray for those we have lost, but this morning is more about encouragement, our commitment to playing our part and striving to be the best we can be, claiming our place among the ‘communion of saints’.

The bible is full of guidance on this, today’s readings see God’s faithful saints being called to praise God’s saving acts and promises, Psalm 46, an angel giving hope to an oppressed people by explaining that empires and rulers will be destroyed by God and replaced by “the saints of the Most High”, Daniel, In Ephesians we are reminded that we should not take God’s promises for granted, that it is through the “seal” of the Holy Spirit we are living in God’s power and protection, and in Luke Jesus gives teaching on true values.

Jesus addresses the gathering, saying, “Blessed are you…” So begins the teaching that has become known as ‘the beatitudes’, he goes on to say that God blesses the poor, the hungry, the tearful and those who are persecuted, or rejected because of their faith. This is understandable, and we can perhaps imagine the crowd murmuring their agreement, but then Jesus changed tack. He draws attention to the opposite, and delivers a warning to the rich, the well fed, the laughing and the well-regarded that their prospects are not so good. At this point we may imagine the mood of the crowd shifting, some maybe uncomfortable, others shocked? Jesus’ teaching, once again, challenges the accepted ‘norm’, and turns the values of society upside down. Where we may see need, Jesus pronounces God's blessing and presence, where we see enemies Jesus sees Gods people, treat others as you wish to be treated he tells us.
While it seems obvious that God blesses the poor and the sad, do we really believe that God curses the rich and the happy? On all saints day we are reminded that ‘Saints’ could be said to be those persons who are blessed by God, not only those society recognises as being of exceptional virtue but also the vulnerable, the forgotten and the outcasts. So, rather than a list of instructions, this can be seen as a set of values intended to shape how we understand God, the world, and our place in it. Rather than seeking ways of being blessed ourselves, through poverty, hunger, and sadness, rather we should respond by seeking out those who are in need, and sharing what we have. Jesus could actually be saying, woe to you who keep your riches, fullness, and laughter to yourself.

God’s saints are not exempt from the highs and lows of life but, when we faithfully place ourselves in God’s presence, new possibilities for life and service become visible. We have a role to play; as individuals and as the church, what this may be is different for each of us, yet something we can explore together.

Perhaps the truly difficult part is this, loving our enemies, but then who are our enemies?
According to the free online dictionary enemies are; One who feels hatred toward, intends injury to, or opposes the interests of another; a foe; A hostile power or force, such as a nation; A member or unit of such a force or Something destructive or injurious in its effects.

I would suggest that most of us do not actually have anyone that is ‘out to get us’, even as a nation we do not have many actual ‘enemies’, though there are many whose values differ from our own. Are our ‘enemies’ actually just people we don’t understand? If we seek to list our enemies would we be surprised by how short the list is? If we follow Jesus teaching the list can only get shorter as, in the act of getting to know someone, we find we actually have much in common.
It is a theme I have notice coming up time and time again recently, for example in the recent film, I recently came across the children’s book ‘Enemy Pie’ by Derek Munson, in which our ‘hero’ is helped by his Dad to get rid of his enemy (the new boy down the road) by spending time with him. And only this week Maurice and I saw the cinema adaptation of Orson Scott Cards book ‘Enders Game’, a film about earths’ response to a successfully defended invasion, by preparing to wipe out any future threat. One quote struck me;

“in the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then in that moment when I love them… I destroy them.”

It is also a ‘mantra’ repeated by notable historical figures; Mahatma Ghandi said
“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.”

And
“It is easy enough to be friendly to one's friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.”

Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying
“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

I could do little better than ending with words from the sermon "Loving Your Enemies" by Martin Luther King, Jr
“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, "Love your enemies." It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.” Deacon Jane Mills  

Meditation

The book of Daniel is set in the days of the exile in Babylon and was probably written around 165 BC. It was written to give hope to the Jews who were suffering persecution under Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a Hellenistic ruler who tried to eliminate Judaism. The revelation through Daniel in our reading today reminds us that our earthly kingdoms, however powerful they may appear, will pass away to make way for the kingdom of God. As we remember those saints who have gone before us over the centuries we see the truth of the message of Daniel. Many kingdoms have passed away in the many centuries since the book of Daniel was written, but the kingdom of God remains strong through His people on earth. Earthly lives may pass away, but as Christians we are part of God’s heavenly kingdom, an inheritance which will last for all eternity.

Hymns

  1. Lo He comes with clouds descending

  2. Fear not rejoice and be glad

  3. For all the saints(Verses 1, 2, 6, 7, 8)

  4. Sing to God new songs of worship

  5. Ye holy angels bright

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

representation of prayer as seed growing

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian. If it is well cultivated and
nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die.

For all the saints who went before us,
Who have spoken to our hearts and touched us with your fire,
We praise you, O God

For all the saints who live beside us,
Whose weaknesses and strengths are woven into our own,
We praise you, O God

For all the saints who live beyond us,
Who challenge us to change the world with them,
We praise you, O God
Janet Morley
(in Bread of Tomorrow, Christian Aid and SPCK, 192, 2004)


O Lord, in every age you reveal yourself to the childlike and lowly of heart, and from every race you write names in your book of life, give us the simplicity and faith of your saints, that loving you above all things, we may be what you would have us be, and to do what you would have us do. So may we be numbered with your saints in glory everlasting. Amen.

Father God, you have brought us near to the spirits of those who have been made perfect, and to an innumerable company of angels; grant us during our earthly pilgrimage to abide in their fellowship, and in the heavenly country to become partakers of their joy. Amen

Lord God, we thank you for calling us into the company of those who trust in Christ and seek to obey His will. May your Spirit guide and strengthen us in mission and service to your world; for we are strangers no longer but pilgrims together on the way to your Kingdom. Amen Prayer of the Inter Church Process (The Swanwick Declaration)

May almighty God grant you to be numbered with the saints in glory everlasting; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen
 

Additional Resources

The last day of October marks the beginning in the church of a period known as Hallowtide 'All Saintstide' when Christian remember those who have died. All-Hallows Eve, or Halloween, October 31 has Celtic origins being originally the feast of Sanhain/Samhain,(pronounced 'sow'inn) the last night of the Celtic year, when all kinds of spirits were thought to be active. The Celts believed that this was a time when the boundary between the spirit world and the earthly world is at its thinnest and when spirits are most likely to be seen on earth. It was a night of danger signifying the change from Autumn to Winter, it was a night when feasts were held for the dead and animals killed for the Winter. On this night fires were lit in the belief that light had power over darkness, hence pumpkin lanterns to frighten away witches and ghosts. When the Romans invaded Britain they included elements of their harvest celebrations in which they honoured the goddess of the fruits of trees, Pomona. Children still play games with apples at this time of year.
So when did Sanhain become Halloween? By the 9th century Christianity had spread into Celtic lands and the celebration became known as the Eve of All Hallows and eventually Halloween.

All Saints Day, (All Hallows) November 1

The word Hallow means 'Holy', (blessed, consecrated or set apart in a special way) and so 'All-Hallows' or 'All Saints' refers to the Saints—the Holy Ones. Those who died for their faith or who lived extraordinary lives. This day dates back to the 5th century Antioch in Syria when the church dedicated a day to the memory of all those who had been killed for their faith. Until then the church had remembered martyrs on special days of the year, but there became more martyrs than days in the year, and there were some whose names were not known. In Rome Boniface IV (608-615) had relics of martyrs moved from the catacombs to the Pantheon. In 835 the 1st of November was given the title 'All Saints.'
St. Martin of Tours is represented by a cloak which he cut in half to give to a shivering beggar
Catherine of Alexandria is shown with a spiked wheel
St. Sebastian usually holds an arrow—as a reminder of the terrible methods of their respective martyrdoms.
The saints are our ancestors on earth and precede us in heaven. Many Christians experience a strong sense that the saints are still with us, and that they watch over us and pray to God for us. The prayer from Methodist Worship at the bottom of this page expresses the idea of knowing their fellowship with us. Although dead, they are members of Christ's Church and we use this day to give thanks for the lives of all the saints as they are examples to us. Saints are created as signs of hope, that the gospel really can change lives. Somebody is not made a saint at canonisation, it is rather an acknowledgement that somebody was a saint and is therefore in heaven and not neglectful of the needs of the world, through the communion of saints.

We celebrate today the solemnity of All Saints. This invites us to turn our gaze to the immense multitude of those who have already reached the blessed land, and points us on the path that will lead us to that destination.   (Pope John Paul II, All Saints' Day 2003)
 

All Souls Day, November 2

In the New Testament, 'saint' is often used to describe all those who are followers of Christ, the people called to holiness in him. Not just those who were extra-specially good. So does this apply to Christians now? Are all saints? The answer must be Yes! So on this day we pray not just for those who have been specially recognised as Saints, but for all of our loved ones. In 1048 Odilo, the Abbot of the Benedictine Monastery at Cluny near Paris instructed his monks to use this day as a day of remembrance and prayer for all the departed, this day was made official in the 14C.
In the Christian Church we remember the Church not just as those who are living but also those who have died, they are just as much the church as we are and the Christian Church has two names for this, those who are living are called the church militant, and those have died are called the church triumphant.

This time of year is an important time to cherish the memory of those who have died and who have gone before us. As we celebrate their memory we can know and be glad that they share with us in Christ's eternal kingdom. People find the whole idea of death difficult and to have a special day to remember those who have died is not an easy thing for some people. At this time in the year of the church we can really think and speak about those who have died and not in hushed tones. We can remember and feel our loss. We celebrate the lives of those whom we have known and love and we pray for their peace.

All Saints’ Sunday

All Saints’ and preparing for the season of Advent belong together, as the celebration of All Saints’ reminds us of the judgement of God. The Saints who stand before the throne of glory have also stood before the throne of judgement. Whilst we sometimes think of Saints in terms of spiritual giants who lived many years ago, the biblical understanding of a Saint is someone whom God has sanctified and made holy. For the Old Testament people of God, this meant belonging to God’s Chosen People, the Jews, to be a son of Abraham as Jesus puts it in the Gospel reading. For New Testament believers and beyond, it means belonging to the Body of Christ, a people made holy through Jesus’ sacrifice - and being a Saint has implications as to the way we live our lives. ‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light - 1 Peter 2 v 9. As Christians we are both caught up in "so great a cloud of witnesses," whilst also watching, waiting, for the coming again of Christ, when all things shall be gathered up into the Kingdom of God. All Saints' Day, also known as All Hallows' Day, as hallow means to make holy, to consecrate or to honour, and it’s from the name All Hallows' that we derive Hallowe'en (the Eve of All Hallows). Throughout the year the church commemorates specific saints, but on 1st November we commemorate and celebrate all saints and thus God's mercy and love for us too. This celebration of saints started around the the 8th century when Pope Boniface IV designated 1st November as All Saints' Day to specifically honour those saints that didn't have a special day of their own. By the 9th century it had become a major feast in the church calendar in England and continues today. Although All Saints Day is actually 1st November, the church celebrates All Saints’ Sunday today. In England "All Saints" is the second most popular dedication of English churches with over 1250 churches dedicated to All Saints. All Souls' Day, also known as the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, comes the day after All Saints’ Day. This day provides an opportunity to commemorate "those we have loved but see no longer” and recognises the pain of human grief and fragility in a way that an All Saints' Day celebration cannot. It is for this reason that we always have a special service of commemoration of the faithful departed at this time of year.


Commentary

Who is in the Communion of Saints?

As early as the second century, Christians gathered for worship at the tombs of the martyrs, celebrating the power of God’s grace in the lives of these faithful men and women. From this came the early understanding that the phrase ‘the Communion of Saints’ referred to the enduring bond between the faithful on earth and the faithful who had gone before, especially those whose witness was crowned with martyrdom. While all Christians are properly called saints, the word “saint” soon became a title of honour referring to exemplary lives among the faithful, and most notably the lives of martyrs. The celebration of saints as we know it (i.e. those who served God but died in the faith rather than for the faith) comes later, about the 7th century. Egbert of York brought the festival to England and by the 9th century it had become a major feast in the church calendar in England. Today, we continue to celebrate a Communion of Saints that embraces all Christians, past present and future; including those whose lives are not necessarily like us, or whose lives are not notably marked by saintliness! ‘We live among saints but saints are not perfect. Their weaknesses and strengths are woven into our own’. But together we are part of that great community God calls His saints.

The inextricable link between holiness and the Communion of Saints
All Saints' Day is also known as All Hallows' Day, hallow meaning to make holy, consecrate and honour. The theme of God’s holiness permeates the entire Bible and as human beings we are invited to participate in the holiness of God through His Son, Jesus Christ. To be holy is to participate in the holiness of Jesus who is “the way, the truth, and the life”. The Communion of Saints, the communio sanctorum, implies, first of all, communion, communion with Christ and through Him and the power of the Holy Spirit, communion and a relationship with our God, who is all holy.

Our own holiness starts then with a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, the mediator of all holiness. Our holiness also entails being in communion, part of our journey with one another and all the saints who have gone before us. Holiness therefore implies relationships; relationships which sometimes make it feel like it’s very difficult to be holy! But however challenging some of our relationships seem, it’s impossible to be in communion alone. God’s own holiness is part of being in communion, a communion of Father, Son, and Spirit dwelling together in love. To enter into a relationship with God is to enter into a relationship with all who share in that same fellowship of God; past, present and future. Jut as we are called into a relationship with God, we are called into a relationship with each other, the Communion of Saints, the Priesthood of all believers.

Our relationship and fellowship with Christ and with one another will never be complete in this life, but is emphasised and strengthened as we together draw closer to him and to one another, and will be perfected in eternity. Together we are in union and communion with all the faithful saints, and as Christians we are called to live out that unity and communion, whatever our denomination or race or background. One of the statements from the Second Vatican council expressed this unity and communion as ‘…that among all the nations of earth there is but one People of God, which takes its citizens from every race, making them citizens of a kingdom which is of a heavenly and not an earthly nature. For all the faithful scattered throughout the world are in communion with each other in the Holy Spirit.’ We live in faith with all those who have gone before us, we, like they are on a journey of faith, a pilgrimage which leads to God. Jesus takes us as we are, with all our diverse backgrounds, perspectives and relationships, takes us even though we often feel far from holy, and, invites us to be holy, as He is holy, and to join with Him in the communion of saints.

Our Holy Communion links our holiness, our sainthood, to our daily experience. We start the Eucharist with contrite hearts, confess our sins, receive God’s forgiveness and pray the Kyrie Eleison. We listen to the words of scripture from the bible and through the sermon. We confess our faith and give thanks to God in prayers and intercessions. We receive from God the body and blood of Jesus and together are sent out with the task of renewing the earth. Communion is not the end but the beginning of mission, mission as a Community of Saints, made whole and made holy through God and His gifts. Sam Cappleman

Commentary

The word Hallow means 'Holy', (blessed, consecrated or set apart in a special way) and so 'All-Hallows' or 'All Saints' refers to the Saints—the Holy Ones who died for their faith or who lived extraordinary lives. This day dates back to the 5th century Antioch in Syria when the church dedicated a day to the memory of all those who had been killed for their faith. The theme of God’s holiness permeates the entire Bible and as human beings we are invited to participate in the holiness of God through His Son, Jesus Christ. So today we continue to celebrate a Communion of Saints that embraces all Christians, past present and future; including those whose lives are not necessarily like us, or whose lives are not notably marked by saintliness! ‘We live among saints but saints are not perfect. Their weaknesses and strengths are woven into our own’. But together we are part of that great community God calls His saints. Our own holiness starts then with a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, the mediator of all holiness. Our holiness also entails being in communion with one another and all the saints who have gone before us. Holiness therefore implies relationships; relationships which sometimes make it feel like it’s very difficult to be holy!

But however challenging some of our relationships seem, it’s impossible to be in communion alone. God’s own holiness is part of being in communion, a communion of Father, Son, and Spirit dwelling together in love. To enter into a relationship with God is to enter into a relationship with all who share in that same fellowship of God; past, present and future. Just as we are called into a relationship with God, we are called into a relationship with each other, the Communion of Saints, the Priesthood of all believers. In our gospel reading Jesus reminds us that being His holy people, the Communion of Saints on earth, can be tough. We are to love those who are our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, pray for those who treat us badly and to turn the other cheek time and time again. Jesus also points out that the more we have, the harder it can be for us to be that kind of person because our personal riches can get in the way of the riches we inherit through Christ. Riches which enables us to be the holy people He wants us to be. This is the inheritance that Paul talks about in Ephesians. He speaks about the Holy Spirit being the pledge of our inheritance in Christ, an inheritance which God gives to all of us so that we can be truly free. Free to be ourselves, Free to be the people God on earth. Freedom to be the Communion of Saints and to be part of God’s transforming and redeeming work.

It’s our inheritance in Christ that links us back to the saints that have gone before us and forward to the saints that are to come. We are at the same time a part of that inheritance and guardians of it for future generations. As the saints before us have been examples for our lives, so we should set our sights on being Christian examples for those that will follow us. Examples that are based not on our worldly wealth or power but on our openness to God and our humility before Him as we live out His precepts in our lives. Sam Cappleman

Meditation

On the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England, the throne passed to the son of her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots. King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England. Uniting the two thrones would eventually lead to the joining of Scotland, England and Wales to form “Great Britain”. King James enforced some harsh anti-Catholic laws. A small group of Catholics conspired together in what is now known as the “Gunpowder Plot”. They placed 36 barrels of gunpowder in cellars underneath the House of Lords in the British Parliament. Guy Fawkes was to be the one who would light the fuse. It was intended that the explosion would kill the king and members of the Lords and Commons as they gathered for the State Opening of Parliament. One of the conspirators leaked details of the Plot, and Guy Fawkes was discovered in the cellars. He was arrested, tortured and executed, along with the other conspirators. Parliament decreed that, from then on, bonfires should be lit each year on the 5th of November to celebrate the deliverance from the “Gunpowder Plot”. Nowadays a “guy” is often still burnt as a reminder of Guy Fawkes. In our own times, on the night before the State Opening of Parliament, there is a symbolic searching of the cellars of Parliament by the ceremonial ‘Yeomen of the Guard’, bearing lanterns.

Let us pray: God our Father, open our eyes to whatever may not be just and right in our own surroundings and in our society. Enable us to be of good influence and work in a non-violent way to promote understanding and better relationships that will lead to justice and peace. Amen.

 

Prayers

Great God our healer, by your power, the Lord Jesus healed the sick and gave hope to the hopeless. As we gather in his name, look upon us with mercy, and bless us with your healing Spirit. Bring us comfort in the midst of pain, strength to transform our weakness, and light to illuminate our darkness. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

O God, the strength of the weak and the comfort of sufferers: mercifully accept our prayers and supplications and grant to your servants the help of your power, that sickness may be turned into health and sorrow turned into joy, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Praise to you, God, for all your work among us. Yours is the vigour in creation, yours is the impulse in our new discoveries. Make us adventurous, yet reverent and hopeful in all we do. Amen.
God the Sender, send you; God the Sent, go with us; God the Strengthener of those who go, empower you, that you may go to do His will; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen

God of holiness, your glory is proclaimed in every age: as we rejoice in the faith of your saints, inspire us to follow their example with boldness and joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Hymns 

  1. Be still
  2. Lord the light of your love
  3. Make me a channel
  4. The church of Christ in every age
  5. The kingdom of God
  6. Lord thy church on earth is seeking
  7. Stand up, stand up for Jesus
  8. How lovely on the mountains
  9. God is our strength and refuge
  10. Fight the good fight
  11. Christ is surely coming
  12. How sweet the name of Jesus sounds 251
  13. How lovely on the mountains
  14. I heard the voice of Jesus say
  15. King of glory, King of peace 397

Commentary

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Explaining Halloween, All Saints and All Souls

Halloween

The last day of October marks the beginning in the church of a period known as Hallowtide 'All Saintstide' when Christian remember those who have died. All-Hallows Eve, or Halloween, October 31 has Celtic origins being originally the feast of Sanhain/Samhain,(pronounced 'sow'inn) the last night of the Celtic year, when all kinds of spirits were thought to be active. The Celts believed that this was a time when the boundary between the spirit world and the earthly world is at its thinnest and when spirits are most likely to be seen on earth. It was a night of danger signifying the change from Autumn to Winter, it was a night when feasts were held for the dead and animals killed for the Winter. On this night fires were lit in the belief that light had power over darkness, hence pumpkin lanterns to frighten away witches and ghosts. When the Romans invaded Britain they included elements of their harvest celebrations in which they honoured the goddess of the fruits of trees, Pomona. Children still play games with apples at this time of year.

So when did Sanhain become Halloween? By the 9th century Christianity had spread into Celtic lands and the celebration became known as the Eve of All Hallows and eventually Halloween.

All Saints Day, (All Hallows) November 1

The word Hallow means 'Holy', (blessed, consecrated or set apart in a special way) and so 'All-Hallows' or 'All Saints' refers to the Saints—the Holy Ones. Those who died for their faith or who lived extraordinary lives. This day dates back to the 5th century Antioch in Syria when the church dedicated a day to the memory of all those who had been killed for their faith. Until then the church had remembered martyrs on special days of the year, but there became more martyrs than days in the year, and there were some whose names were not known. In Rome Boniface IV (608-615) had relics of martyrs moved from the catacombs to the Pantheon. In 835 the 1st of November was given the title 'All Saints.'

St. Martin of Tours is represented by a cloak which he cut in half to give to a shivering beggar
Catherine of Alexandria is shown with a spiked wheel
St. Sebastian usually holds an arrow—as a reminder of the terrible methods of their respective martyrdoms.
The saints are our ancestors on earth and precede us in heaven. Many Christians experience a strong sense that the saints are still with us, and that they watch over us and pray to God for us. The prayer from Methodist Worship at the bottom of this page expresses the idea of knowing their fellowship with us. Although dead, they are members of Christ's Church and we use this day to give thanks for the lives of all the saints as they are examples to us. Saints are created as signs of hope, that the gospel really can change lives. Somebody is not made a saint at canonisation, it is rather an acknowledgement that somebody was a saint and is therefore in heaven and not neglectful of the needs of the world, through the communion of saints.

All Souls Day, November 2

In the New Testament, 'saint' is often used to describe all those who are followers of Christ, the people called to holiness in him. Not just those who were extra-specially good. So does this apply to Christians now? Are all saints? The answer must be Yes! So on this day we pray not just for those who have been specially recognised as Saints, but for all of our loved ones. In 1048 Odilo, the Abbot of the Benedictine Monastery at Cluny near Paris instructed his monks to use this day as a day of remembrance and prayer for all the departed, this day was made official in the 14C.

In the Christian Church we remember the Church not just as those who are living but also those who have died, they are just as much the church as we are and the Christian Church has two names for this, those who are living are called the church militant, and those have died are called the church triumphant.

This time of year is an important time to cherish the memory of those who have died and who have gone before us. As we celebrate their memory we can know and be glad that they share with us in Christ's eternal kingdom. People find the whole idea of death difficult and to have a special day to remember those who have died is not an easy thing for some people. At this time in the year of the church we can really think and speak about those who have died and not in hushed tones. We can remember and feel our loss. We celebrate the lives of those whom we have known and love and we pray for their peace.

Holy God you have called witnesses from every nation and revealed your glory in their lives.
Grant us the same faith and love that, following their example,
we may be sustained by their fellowship and rejoice in their triumph; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Methodist Worship)

The last day of October marks the beginning in the church of a period known as Hallowtide 'All Saintstide' when Christian remember those who have died.

All-Hallows Eve, or Halloween, October 31

Halloween has Celtic origins being originally the feast of Sanhain, the last night of the Celtic year, when all kinds of spirits were thought to be active. It was a night of danger signifying the change from Autumn to Winter, it was a night when feasts were held for the dead and animals killed for the Winter. On this night fires were lit in the belief that light had power over darkness, hence pumpkin lanterns to frighten away witches and ghosts. The ashes of fires were sprinkled on the land to frighten the evil spirits away. In England bonfires are now lit on Guy Fawkes Night, but other countries still stick to Halloween. On this day people play with apples, apple bobbing was done in the Celtic belief that the branches of the apple tree helped dead souls to pass into their heaven. They dress up as witches and evil spirits and ghosts. We make pumpkins and put candles inside and the idea is that the light and scary face will frighten evil spirits away. More recently we have seen the spreading of children dressed up behaving badly doing trick or treat, the practice seemingly fitting in with the idea of a time of devilment.

Of course many people are unsure about whether children should be involved at all in all of this. Personally I made a pumpkin with my children this year and I think Halloween can be a good time for children to explore the concept of the dark side of life. Within the boundaries of games and costumes they can experience their fear of the dark and their images of evil, all in the safety of make believe and items bought from the supermarket. But evil can be more sinister and just as some people are injured by fireworks so too there are those who are affected by involvement in sinister rituals. It is important that Halloween remains a game and that children's pranks are kept within the realms of play. As Christians there are lessons which we must bring out of Halloween

As Christians we need not fear any enemies. Even if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death God is still with us. There are no powers of darkness which can overcome us God has triumphed over evil
Impress on children that Halloween is the eve of the holy day of All Saints and All Souls.

All Saints Day, November 1

The word Hallow means 'Holy', and so All-Hallows refers to the Saints—the Holy Ones. Those who died for their faith or who lived extraordinary lives. This day dates back to the 5th century Antioch in Syria when the church dedicated a day to the memory of all those who had been killed for their faith. Until then the church had remembered martyrs on special days of the year, but there became more martyrs than days in the year, and there were some whose names were not known.

A saint is not given blanket approval, we know that they may have faults. A proverb tells us that 'a man cannot be a hero to his own valet,' the message being that familiarity breeds contempt, and it is probably true that the definition of a saint is somebody who lived a long time ago and who has not been researched well enough. They also led mucky lives and yet we applaud their courage as examples of their commitment and faith. The saints are honoured because of their heroism, their courage, it has nothing to do with station in life.

A saint could be described as somebody who has co-operated with the grace of God, known the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. They will all be dead. They will have made some sacrifice for the people or the community in which they lived, they all tried to follow Jesus. Saints are often remembered for particular deeds of kindness and symbols are used which are related to their special deeds,

St. Martin of Tours is represented by a cloak which he cut in half to give to a shivering beggar
Catherine of Alexandria is shown with a spiked wheel &
St. Sebastian usually holds an arrow—as a reminder of the terrible methods of their respective martyrdoms.
The saints are our ancestors on earth and precede us in heaven. Many Christians experience a strong sense that the saints are still with us, and that they watch over us and pray to God for us. Although dead they are members of Christ's Church and we use this day to give thanks for the lives of all the saints as they are examples to us. Saints are created as signs of hope, that the gospel really can change lives. Somebody is not made a saint at canonisation, it is rather an acknowledgement that somebody was a saint and is therefore in heaven and not neglectful of the needs of the world, through the communion of saints.

There are many saints who are known only to their neighbours and God alone. Perhaps you too could be a saint—But in the NT saint is often used to describe all those who are followers of Christ, the people called to holiness in him. Not just those who were extra-specially good. So does this apply to Christians now? Are all saints? The answer must be Yes! All Saints Day is an occasion to celebrate those who never picked up the title 'saint', but were nevertheless known as holy to God. In other words, All Saints Day is a celebration of ordinary Christians everywhere, at every time, who have tried to live the Gospel life.

You might find it hard to accept that people who are just ordinary can be saints. The saints are people who are supposed to be good at things ordinary people like us are not good at. They have qualities we don't have. They have patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control. We envy them their qualities; that's why we call them saints in the first place. Saints are other people, people we read about, but not very many of the people we actually know. The trouble is, seen in that way, saints can be people who put us down, they're so different, so special that we'd never recognise one if we saw one. They put us down, because we find ourselves so contrasted to them. They are much better, much holier than I can ever be—that's what a saint is. But might it not be that I have qualities or virtues that other people envy and aspire to? Might it not be that I'm putting myself down wrongly?

Surely, none of us can be so far from sainthood that we totally lack all saintly virtues? I might lack patience, but perhaps I have modesty. I might lack courage, but perhaps I have charity. In fact, those who are trying hardest to practise their Christian faith may be those who are least aware of their own best qualities and virtues. So let's not put ourselves down by comparing ourselves unfavourably with the saints. Let's recognise that we have saintly qualities too, perhaps not always as well-developed or focussed as in those recognised as saints, but they're there.

We all find ourselves in situations from time to time which can evoke a saintly, holy response in us. Most of us have at some time known poverty, worked for justice, been bereaved, suffered for conscience sake, and so on. You and I can be saints, when we respond to the challenge of a particular situation, using a conscience formed by prayer and faith in Jesus Christ. Let's not be so obsessed with our failings that we forget our moments of saintliness.

Today is a good day to remember that we are all saints. We are all called to be special ones, chosen by God and set apart for his service. We are all called to make sacrifices for our Lord as he gave the ultimate sacrifice for us. We are all called to share in the benefits of being his chosen ones to inherit the kingdom of God.

All Souls Day, November 2

On this day we pray not just for the Saints but for all of our loved ones. In 1048 Odilo, the Abbot of the Benedictine Monastery at Cluny near Paris instructed his monks to use this day as a day of remembrance and prayer for all the departed, this day was made official in the 14C. In the Christian Church we remember the Church not just as those who are living but also those who have died, they are just as much the church as we are and the Christian Church has two names for this, those who are living are called the church militant, and those have died are called the church triumphant. This time of year is an important time to cherish the memory of those who have died and who have gone before us. As we celebrate their memory we can know and be glad that they share with us in Christ's eternal kingdom.

Death has lost its sting for us! People find the whole idea of death difficult and to have a special day to remember those who have died is not an easy thing for some people. An old and respected elder of the Church was once asked, "What will happen to you when you die?" He answered, "I shall immediately depart into an eternal life of joy and bliss—but come now, let us not talk of such unpleasant subjects!" Wonderful doctrine, great news, the heart of the gospel—but no one wants to talk about it. Woody Allen said, "You know Death can really spoil a weekend." But not just death but also talk of death. So we hide behind humour sometimes. They say that when Oscar Wilde was on his deathbed he raised himself up on one arm, pointed to the wall, and said, "Either that wallpaper goes or I do." And so he did. Sometimes we just avoid the subject altogether. You can turn to the obituary section of the daily paper and find that we "pass away," "pass on," "go to our reward," "or are reunited with loved ones," We do so "peacefully," "suddenly" or "after a long illness." But it takes a powerful magnifying glass ever to find the words, "he died on Friday."

In our society we are protected from death. It is possible for a person to go through their whole life and not to be in contact with a dead body. A fear of death is natural but a tendency to turn our back on the dead and the bereaved is not a Christian thing to do. For Christians Death is not such a distressing subject and we must not allow our minds and our thinking to become distorted by the ideas of those around us who have no faith. At this time in the year of the church we can really think and speak about those who have died and not in hushed tones. We can remember and feel our loss and that is the purpose of the service which we will hold tonight. We celebrate the lives of those whom we have known and love and we pray for their peace, and of course it is a time to recognise that these people had impact upon our lives and are a continuing presence in our memories, in our affections, and in their abiding influence upon us.

One of the most common misunderstandings of Christianity is that it is primarily concerned with giving people a recipe for how to be good, or in the words of Dorothy Sayers "How to be kind to granny and the cat." But this misses it all. As Ernest Bloch, the German philosopher says: "It was not the morality of the sermon on the mount which enabled Christianity to conquer Roman Paganism but the belief that Jesus had been raised from the dead." What God has in mind for us is something of a new order, as different as a seed is from its bloom, as different, he says, as the earth is from the stars. I tell you a mystery, said the Apostle Paul, 'we shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed.'

Let's be clear here about one thing. When we say the word 'resurrection' we are not talking about the mere revival of the life you and I already know. God forbid that 70 or 80 years of aching bones, failing health and moral failings should stretch into an eternity! We are talking about a new and wonderful kind of existence where you will be you, your character, body, mind and emotion all made perfect. The you will be the real you at last. A story is sometimes told to children of water larvae little beetle like creatures that live beneath the water and they one by ones loose their friends as they go towards the surface of the water and they don't see them anymore. Then they agree that the next one to go will come back and tell the others what is going on. The next one leaves and as he passes through the surface of the water he becomes a dragonfly. He flies around and he knows how wonderful it is, but as he tries to go back through the water and tell his friends he cannot, he finds that he is unable to return. But he doesn't worry because he knows that one day they too will leave their watery existence to live a new life.

I like the way C. S. Lewis finishes his Narnia Chronicles, books written for children but best read by adults. The closing paragraph of the last chapter in the last book called The Last Battle put its this way: The things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

Or as Paul tells it:

O Death where is thy sting? O Grave where is thy Victory?
Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

 

Commentary

All Saints’ and preparing for the season of Advent belong together, as the celebration of All Saints’ reminds us of the judgement of God. The Saints who stand before the throne of glory have also stood before the throne of judgement. Whilst we sometimes think of Saints in terms of spiritual giants who lived many years ago, the biblical understanding of a Saint is someone whom God has sanctified and made holy.

For the Old Testament people of God, this meant belonging to God’s Chosen People, the Jews, to be a son of Abraham as Jesus puts it in the Gospel reading.

For New Testament believers and beyond, it means belonging to the Body of Christ, a people made holy through Jesus’ sacrifice

Being a Saint has implications as to the way we live our lives.

‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light - 1 Peter 2 v 9.

As Christians we are caught up in "so great a cloud of witnesses," whilst also watching, waiting, for the coming again of Christ, when all things shall be gathered up into the Kingdom of God.

All Saints' Day is also known as All Hallows' Day, hallow means to make holy, to consecrate or to honour, and it’s from the name All Hallows' that we derive Hallowe'en (the Eve of All Hallows). Throughout the year the church commemorates specific saints, but on 1st November we commemorate and celebrate all saints and thus God's mercy and love for us too. This celebration of saints started around the the 8th century when Pope Boniface IV designated 1st November as All Saints' Day to specifically honour those saints that didn't have a special day of their own. By the 9th century it had become a major feast in the church calendar in England and continues today.

Although All Saints Day is actually 1st November, the church celebrates All Saints’ Sunday today. In England "All Saints" is the second most popular dedication of English churches with over 1250 churches dedicated to All Saints. All Souls' Day, also known as the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, comes the day after All Saints’ Day. This day provides an opportunity to commemorate "those we have loved but see no longer” and recognises the pain of human grief and fragility in a way that an All Saints' Day celebration cannot. It is for this reason that we always have a special service of commemoration of the faithful departed at this time of year. Our service will take place at 3.00pm on 12 November at St Mark’s Church. Sam Cappleman