Material for Worship for All Saints

Moira writes: This morning as we celebrate the feast of All Saints and remember the ‘multitude that no one could count’ (Revelation 7.9), we also remember the ordinary people who in their own way have reached out and have risked their lives to save others. In the past seven months, many who we would consider to be modern day ‘saints,’ have risked their lives to help those suffering from Covid-19 and those isolated by lockdown. We have much to be grateful for, but we must not forget those whose lives have been touched with sadness and grief in the loss of a relative from this unrelenting virus. Tonight, Nerys will lead a service of remembrance for those of our loved ones who have gone before us, as the church celebrates the feast of All Souls.
We begin with a prayer of thanksgiving for the Saints which you can read or sing along to David on the organ.

For all thy saints, O Lord,
our grateful hymn receive,
who followed thee. obeyed, adored,
and strove in thee to live.

For all thy saints, O Lord,
accept our thankful cry,
who counted thee their great reward,
who strove in thee to die.

Thine earthly members fit
to join thy saints above,
in one communion ever knit,
one fellowship of love.

Jesus, thy name we bless,
and humbly pray that we
may follow them in holiness
and live and die in thee.

All might, all praise, be thine,
Father, co-equal Son,
and Spirit, bond of love divine,
while endless ages run.
Bishop Richard Mant

On a personal note, it seems rather appropriate that our Gospel reading comes from the Sermon on the Mount and that it includes the Beatitudes. In 2018 Sandy and I were fortunate to join a Diocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land and for two days we stayed at the Mount Beatitudes Guest House, run by Franciscan Sisters. Set high up in the hills looking over the Lake of Tiberius, the Church of the Beatitudes and its beautiful gardens were so tranquil and peaceful. In the garden the beatitudes were set out on plaques, with flowers and flowing water, with space to reflect and be still. The church was also very beautiful and as we sat in silence, Rev Matthew Little from our group began to sing ‘Salve Regina,’ and his voice carried around the church and rose into the heights.

As we listen to the first reading from the Book of Revelation 7.9-17, read by Ramanie, St John gives a wonderful description of people that we would identify as being the saints in heaven. We are told that they were ‘a great multitude.’ Many from all tribes and nations, all peoples and languages. They were the ones ‘who washed their robes in the blood of the lamb,’ and their promised reward was shelter, freedom from hunger and thirst, and the great Shepherd as their guide. They were certainly blessed and the saints we remember today, certainly give us a great example to live up to.

In the Gospel passage from Matthew 5.1-12, read by Davie, Jesus is speaking to the crowd gathered before him, and all were eager to hear what he had to say. The Beatitudes which Jesus set out before the crowd, spoke about the ‘attitude’ that his followers should have in their everyday lives, and a number of years ago, Pope Francis produced his own set of modern-day standards to live by, and this is what he wrote:

Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others and forgive them from their heart.
Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalised and show them their closeness.
Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him.
Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home.
Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.
Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians.

I am particularly encouraged by this last beatitude. Both the Beatitudes of Jesus and those of Pope Francis, place stress on the attitude part of the word Be-attitude. What really matters is the attitude that we have as we serve God in our church community and in the communities that we live in.

Let’s look at what the Beatitudes mean.
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Poor in spirit’ means to be humble, to realise that all our blessings come from God’s grace, and to have poverty of spirit means to be completely empty and open to the Word of God. Humility brings an openness and an inner peace, which allows us to do the will of God.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
When we are humble and appreciate the gifts and blessings we have from God, we grow in love and gratitude for Jesus and all that He sacrificed for us. This in turn brings regret for our own sins and the sins of the world, and of course we also mourn over the suffering of others. But as the sentence continues we reminded that we will be comforted when we mourn. And so our mourning becomes a blessing.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Justice and righteousness in the New Covenant we have with Jesus, indicates the fulfilment of God’s will in our hearts and in our souls. It’s not just about observing God’s law, but more an expression of brotherly love towards one another. This should bring about in us a desire for social justice for all.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
If we have mercy, we are showing a loving care towards those who suffer distress. Love, compassion and forgiveness towards each other will bring peace in our relationships. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 25 ‘whatever you did to the least of my brethren, you did it to me.’

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
Moses, John and Paul all say that no one can see God here on earth! However, Jesus says that the pure of heart shall see God! To be pure of heart means to be free from all selfish intentions and self-seeking desires. What a wonderful goal to aspire to, but how difficult to accomplish!

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
In the Gospel of John 14.27 Jesus gives us peace, ‘My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.’ Peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Peacemakers not only live peaceful lives, but also try to bring peace and friendship to others and to preserve peace between God and Man.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

Stephen, Peter and Paul, nearly all of the Apostles, and many Christians in the Roman era suffered martyrdom and it brought them the honour of Sainthood. We look to their lives today in our All Saints Service and give thanks for them and for the modern-day saints we encounter in our ordinary lives during these strange times of lockdown and the Coronavirus.

Following the Beatitudes is not easy. They challenge our human nature and challenge our attitudes to each other and to the world. In this passage we are being challenged by Jesus to become purer in heart, to try to always see the good in each other and to work for justice and peace whenever we can. Keep praying for the people and causes that you care about, and God will answer your prayer.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the communion of saints through which we are mysteriously united in Christ with those who have walked before us and with us in the faith. Although they now rest from their labours in your heavenly realm, we continually draw upon their indelible and living examples of excellence and holiness. We are grateful for the way they have shared their lives, struggles, faith, courage and acts of mercy during their lifetimes so that we might today live better lifetimes of joyful service to You in your kingdom. With them we pray in one accord, ‘Thy Kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Preserve the vivid lessons of their deeds of heroic trust, healing compassion and sacrificial love and inspire our hearts to dare to follow in their fearless footsteps.

We pray for our ever-changing world. For an end to poverty, homelessness, and abuse of any kind. For a sharing of resources and an end to inequality. Lord help us to have compassion and give us an attitude of care and concern for those in need. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for an end to conflict, war, and greed. For peace among nations and peoples of every race, colour, and creed. For your love and peace to spread throughout the world. Lord help us to be peacemakers where we can and give us an attitude of fighting for justice in our troubled world. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for all who are working to control the effects of the Coronavirus throughout the world. For all who work in the NHS, in Care Home settings, and in our community. For the development of a vaccine, with access for all to receive it. Lord help us to keep others safe and to follow guidelines in this present time of trouble. Give us an attitude of humility as we seek to serve you as best we can. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

As we remember the feast of All Souls, we pray for all of our family and friends who have gone before us and for those who have died as a result of the Coronavirus. We remember them before God now in the silence of our hearts. They may have gone from our sight, but they are not forgotten. May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace, and rise in glory.
Heavenly Father, we make this prayer to you, the God of all nations, who calls us each to yourself that we might aspire to holiness and service in concert with the work of the saints of the ages. To you be glory and praise and honour for all time to come. Amen.

We finish by reading or singing along to George Matheson’s hymn played here by David. You may also want to reflect on this image of the saints by an unknown artist.

O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
that in thine ocean depths its flow
may richer, fuller be.

O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
my heart restores its borrowed ray,
that in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
may brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
and feel the promise is not vain,
that morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

George Matheson