Thursday, October 29, 2009

Worship for All Saints' Day

Thursday after Reformation Sunday
October 29, 2009

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday, November 1, is All Saints’ Day. This feast is the most comprehensive of the days of commemoration, encompassing the entire scope of the great cloud of witnesses with which we are surrounded (Hebrews 12:1). It holds before the eyes of faith that great multitude which no man can number; all the saints of God in Christ—from every nation, race, culture, and language—who have come “out of the great tribulation … who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9, 14). As such, it sets before us the full height and depth and breadth and length of our dear Lord’s gracious salvation (Ephesians 3:17-19). It shares with Easter a celebration of the resurrection, since all those who have died with Christ Jesus have also been raised with Him (Romans 6:3-8). It shares with Pentecost a celebration of the ingathering of the entire Church catholic—in heaven and on earth, in all times and places—in heaven and on earth, in all times and places—in the one Body of Christ, in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Just as we have all been called to the one hope that belongs to our call, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). And the Feast of All Saints shares with the final Sundays of the Church Year a focus on the life everlasting and a confession that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). In all of these emphases, the purpose of this feast is to fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, that we might not grow weary or fainthearted (Hebrews 12:2-3).

On All Saints’ Day the Church traditionally has a Communion service, recognizing that when we share the Lord’s Supper we are gathered, not only with the saints we can see with our physical eyes but also “with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven.” Not that they are sharing in the Sacrament with us (they do not need forgiveness for their sins, being confirmed in glory), but they join us as “we laud and magnify” God’s “glorious name.” So, even though we normally do not celebrate Communion on the first Sunday of the month at Lamb of God Lutheran (LCMS) this month we will.

It is also common on All Saints’ Day to give thanks for the life and witness of those who have gone before us into heaven. Those who have passed into Glory during the past year are often remembered by name. In large churches, remembering just those who have died in the Lord over the past year who were also members of the local congregation typically gives more than enough names for the prayers. In smaller churches, like Lamb of God, we are blessed in being able to expand that list by remembering any and all the worshiping community desires, giving thanks for the life and witness of loved ones who may have died many years earlier. We will receive names Sunday morning, but you may wish to leave some names as a comment on this post. If you do this it will make Sunday morning’s service more smooth, and ensure I can read the handwriting.

Because this is a special Sunday we will be using a special setting of the liturgy for our worship service, setting 5. Usually when we use a new service there is a learning curve for the music. Such will not be the case this time as this service replaces the typical chanting portions of the service with well known hymns. All the sung parts of Sunday’s service are:

Opening hymn – “For All the Saints” LSB 677 (vs. 1-5)
Kyrie – “Kyrie—I (Lord, Have Mercy)” LSB 943
Gloria in Excelsis – “All Glory Be to God on High” LSB 947
Creed – “We All Believe in One True God” LSB 953
(Because we will be singing the Creed there will be no sermon hymn)
Sanctus – “Holy, Holy, Holy” LSB 507
Agnus Dei – “Lamb of God, Pure and Holy” LSB 434
Distribution hymns –
    “We Sing for All the Unsung Saints” LSB 678
    “Thine the Amen, Thine the Praise” LSB 680
    “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones” LSB 670
Post-Communion hymn – “O Lord, We Praise Thee” LSB 617
Closing hymn – “For All the Saints” LSB 677 (vs. 6-8)

The assigned lessons for All Saints’ Day are Revelation 7:9-17, 1 John 3:1-3, and Matthew 5:1-12. The appointed psalm is Psalm 149. The antiphon is verse 4. The text for the sermon will be Revelation 7:9. The sermon title “A Great Multitude.”

I found a powerful video for the hymn “For All the Saints” on YouTube, and it is posted at the end of these notes. It is moving, but not for the weak of heart and it depicts the early Christians in the arena. Better Noise (see links on this page) has all but three of the hymns (943, 953, 680).

Preview of the Lessons
Revelation 7:9-17: John gives us a look into heaven. There he sees the saints in glory, together with the angels and archangels, praising God. It is like looking in on a great worship service. Gone are all the trials and tribulations of this world, gone are physical pains and illnesses, gone is all sorrow and tears. However purpose for living remains very much alive. We are reminded that in Glory we will serve our Lord day and night. Boredom is not a problem in heaven.

1 John 3:1-3: John reminds us that we are children of God because God loves us. Because the world does not recognize God the world does not recognize us as God’s children. This leads to the tribulations referred to in our Revelation reading. But tribulations and rejections is not the end of the story. John reminds us that there is an indescribable future for us where we will be completely pure. While that is certainly true of those who have preceded us into heaven, it becomes completely fulfilled at the resurrection on the Last Day.

Matthew 5:1-12: These are the beatitudes taken from the Sermon on the Mount. Often this text us used to describe Christians, or at least what we as Christians strive to be. The text is often used to point to Jesus, who truly exemplified these traits as he fulfilled the Law for us and in our stead. Both of these uses are justified and beneficial. However they don’t seem to fit the All Saints’ Day theme. They are included on this day because of the second half of each beatitude: “theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” “they shall be comforted,” “they shall inherit the earth,” etc. These promises are completely fulfilled at the resurrection on the Last Day.

Psalm 149: We find the joy of the redeemed both now and in eternity. As we saw in the Revelation reading, there will be purpose in heaven. One of those purposes is the executing of God’s justice in his Name and in his place. Those who judged Christians, those who killed Christians, will find the tables turned. Verses 6-9 depicts our roll as judges in terms that must be truly terrifying to those who persecute Christians.

Sunday’s Collect
Almighty and everlasting God, You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that, together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Gradual (Rev. 7:14b; Ps 84:5)
These are ones coming out of the great tribulation.
They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
In whose heart are the highways to Zion.

Verse (Heb 12:1a, 2a)
Alleluia. Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us [look] to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Alleluia.

Introit: Psalm 149, antiphon v. 4
For the LORD takes pleasure in his people;
he adorns the humble with salvation.
Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise in the assembly of the godly!
Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
Let them praise his name with dancing,
making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!
For the LORD takes pleasure in his people;
he adorns the humble with salvation.
Let the godly exult in glory;
let them sing for joy on their beds.
Let the high praises of God be in their throats
and two-edged swords in their hands,
to execute vengeance on the nations
and punishments on the peoples,
to bind their kings with chains
and their nobles with fetters of iron,
to execute on them the judgment written!
This is honor for all his godly ones, Praise the LORD!
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
For the LORD takes pleasure in his people;
he adorns the humble with salvation.

Extra Notes
Don’t forget Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend. Set your watches and clocks back one hour before you go to bed Saturday night.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

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