Friday, October 22, 2021

All Saints' Day liturgy in a time of pandemic

 Texts: Revelation 7:9-17; Psalm 34:1-10; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12 

Call to Worship 
L: Blessed are those who will not trade 
in their faith for a bushel of fear, 
for they know God’s heart. 
P: Blessed are those who stand alone at gravesides, 
for they are wrapped in God’s arms. 
L:Blessed are those who humbly care for the vulnerable, 
for they shall create new communities. 
P: Blessed are those who miss dinner, and happy hour each night, 
to care for the forgotten, 
for they shall be filled with the manna of hope. 
L: Blessed are those who are compassionate, 
even with those who rub them the wrong way, 
for they will be cared for by others. 
P: Blessed are those who look out for their neighbors, 
for they live next door to God. 
L: Blessed are the menders of brokenness, 
for they know what it is like to be reconciled to God. 
P: Blessed are those who are mocked by the rich and the powerful, 
for they know they are walking the streets of the kin-dom. 
L: Blessed are you when others mock you, 
point at your mask, think you are foolish for keeping your distance, 
caring for others, for then you know you are a sibling of Jesus. 
P: Blessed are all those who model faith for us 
in these uncertain days, weeks, months. 

All Saints Day Prayer 
we continue to bless you, our God, 
as we try to do every day, all day long. 
by your grace, 
we discover that the boasters are not 
the role models we are looking for, 
but the whisperers of grace are. 
 we look for saints in the shadows of fear 
and find a neighbor with a candle. 
we long for a saint to ease the ache in our emptiness, 
and a stranger pours love into our souls. 
we wonder if a saint might quench our thirst for life, 
and a little boy hands us a glass of lemonade. 

you surround us with saints in every moment, 
even these uncertain, confusing ones, 
if we but open our eyes to see. 

we continue to bless you, our Brother, 
as we try to do every day, all day long. 
by your grace, 
we discover that the powerful are not 
the role models we are looking for, 
but the whisperers of hope are. 
we look for a saint to spend time with us 
and a little girl asks us to play catch. 
we whisper of our shattered souls, 
 hoping to find a saintly ear, 
and a grandmother whispers, ‘I will listen.’ 
we seek a saint who will overturn injustice 
and a tired woman sits at the front of a bus. 

you surround us with saints in every moment, 
even these days which never seem to end, 
if we but open our hearts to see. 

we continue to bless you, our wise Sister, 
as we try to do every day, all day long. 
by your grace, 
we discover that the angry voices are not 
the role models we are looking for, 
but the whisperers of peace are. 
 we hunger for a saint who will feed 
our hunger for gentleness, for kindness, for civility 
and a friend packs sandwiches filled with these gifts. 
we want saints to take away our worries, 
and a grandparent laughs and pulls us up
into their lap to smother us with kisses. 

you surround us with saints in every moment, 
even these times which seem overwhelming, 
if we but open our souls to pay attention. 

God in Community, Holy in One, 
it is your hope which wipes away every tear, 
your grace which restores our souls, 
your mercy which makes us one with you, 
even as we pray as we have been taught, 
(The Lord’s Prayer

Call to Reconciliation 
God’s Table is for everyone, no matter how old one is, or young; for those we think of as saints, and those we know are foolish, because we look in the mirror. For God knows that we all try, and no matter h0w many times we mess up, God will forgive us, quickly and mercifully. I invite you to join in the prayer for forgiveness. 

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness 
   Long ago on a hillside, the Teacher spoke words for our faith, God of foolish people, and we still do not listen. Full of arrogance, we have no need for a home for our spirits. Taught to be strong, we push away your arms of comfort. Seeing how the wealthy and selfish are idolized, we want to inherit their hearts. As we pass the hungry in line at the food bank, we rush to the store to hoard more. Noticing how the kindest of people are mocked, we develop hardened hearts.
   Have mercy, God who turns stragglers into saints, when we follow the wrong people, listen to words we shouldn’t. For it is those who make peace, who know your hope. It is those whose hearts are in rhythm with yours who see the most vulnerable. It is those who care more for others than themselves, who have learned the soul behind the words of the Teacher, who would guide us to your living waters. Amen. 

Silence is kept 

Assurance of Pardon
L: lost, we find our way, as we seek God; overwhelmed by loneliness, we are heard when we cry out; stumbling over our foolish choices, we find mercy when we tell all to our God. 
P: We are no different from all we call saints, for they found life in the mercy and grace of our God. We are forgiven. Thanks be to God. Amen. 

Prayer of Dedication/Offering 
God’s love is revealed in those who seek to be faithful in sharing their gifts, so the hungry might be fed, so the lonely might be comforted, so the forgotten will be remembered, so our sisters and brothers might know God’s grace and love in their lives. Amen. 

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving 
L: The God of all people be with you in these moments. 
P: May God be with you as well. 
L: May we unite our hearts in glorifying our God. 
P: We our hearts to the One who fills them with grace. 
L: As God’s people, we join in praising our God. 
P: Our souls and voices come together in glad songs of joy. 

L: There, to the edge of chaos you came, 
God from before time began, 
and you called out in a voice of imagination 
so that all which is wonderful and goodness 
might spring into life out of the emptiness: 
   snakes wiggling across the dirt, 
   wolves watching the moon from mountaintops, 
   dolphins swimming in the ocean waves. 
From the dust of the earth, you breathed life 
into those created in your divine image, 
 not so we might be saints without blemish, 
but we would be your children, 
who would follow you in all the days your created. 
   But we were easily distracted by death, 
   and the easy promises of temptation. 
You sent women and men to us, 
not as examples of perfect humanity, 
for they mumbled and stumbled just like us, 
but to call us back into your presence. 
   But we could not resist idolizing all those 
   who would pull us away from you. 
That is when you sent Jesus to us 
as we could not save ourselves from ourselves. 

On this day of remembering all who helped to shape our lives, 
we join in singing with glad songs: 

P: Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving 
and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! 

L: Though you alone are holy, you are still the God 
who leans over to wipe the tears of this pandemic from our hearts. 
We are blessed that Jesus has come to share your love and hope with us. 
Overflowing with your power and might, 
   he embraces the poor in spirit; 
the Word which called forth life, 
   he stands with us in graveyards; 
the One of whom choirs of angels sang, 
   he shares his heritage with the gentle; 
pouring out his glory and wisdom 
   he clothes us with compassion; 
Isaiah’s true peaceful Prince, 
   he calls us to join him in reconciling our brokenness; 
charged and condemned for being God’s justice, 
   he showed us the way to God’s community; 
broken, suffering, and dying for us, 
   he defeated that power of death over all of us, 
   sharing resurrection with his sisters and brothers. 

We have no idea what the future will hold for us, 
but trusting that it will hold the life and grace 
which was poured on Jesus, 
we join in singing with our sisters and brothers 
of that mystery we call faith: 

P: Because Christ died, we have life; 
Because Christ was raised, so we might have this hope of resurrection; 
Because Christ is our guide, we will be led to the waters of life. 

L: Here at this Table, on this day of remembrance, 
we discover how much love God has for us 
 as we gather around the feast 
where those who have gone before us have been fed. 
We pray you will pour out your Spirit upon these gifts 
of the bread and the cup as well as for those 
whose hunger for justice seems to go unfilled for far too long, 
and for those who thirst for righteousness is not quenched. 
We eat this bread, hoping to taste God’s gentleness, 
to go into the world to care for those 
   who are willing to wear a mask, 
   to stay apart from others, 
   and care for strangers as much as for themselves. 
As we share the cup of grace, may we see God’s hope, 
 heading out into the world as God’s people, 
   to offer shelter to the forgotten, 
   to feed those whose hunger is still there, 
   to speak out for those who endure the great ordeal of oppression. 

And when we gather with those from every nation, 
those from all tribes and peoples and languages, 
 especially those who have gone through this pandemic, 
 washing their hands, wearing their masks setting aside their PPE, 
 as we will all be with God, no longer isolated or quarantined, 
 but worshiping day and night, God in Community, Holy in One. Amen. 

L: Let us go to be God’s saints this week. 
P: Not because we are more pious or special, 
but because we are called to care for those 
whom the world has tossed aside. 
L: Let us go now to serve with Jesus this week. 
P: Not because we are better than those around us, 
but because we are called to humble ourselves 
in serving those whom society has forgotten. 
L: Let us go now to journey with the Spirit this week. 
P: Not because we have the inside track, 
but because we have all lost our way, 
but hand in hand will be led to God’s heart. 

 (c) Thom M. Shuman