Planning -- All Saints Sunday
- Revised Common Lectionary Readings for All Saints Day
- Worship Notes
- Resources in The United Methodist Book of Worship
See the texts (NRSV), artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.
A vision of worldwide salvation On Mount Zion, God prepares a feast for all the peoples of the earth, destroys death, wipes every tear from all faces, and removes the disgrace of the people Israel.
Psalm 24 (UMH 755)
"Who shall stand in God's holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts. They shall receive blessing from the Lord." For singing the Psalm, use Response 1 with Tone 4 in F minor, or use the first and last line of the first verse of "Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates"(UMH 213) with this psalm tone in D Major: D-F#-G-A; F#-G-E-D.
Another vision of salvation God lowers the new Jerusalem from the new heaven to the new earth, a new order in which the sea, sorrow, pain, and death are all no more. "Behold, I make all things new!"
Salvation enacted Jesus calls Lazarus forth from the dead and orders the bystanders to unwrap his grave clothes and let him go free.
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In the Christian calendar, today is All Saints Day.
Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday is November 25. Advent (Year C) normally begins December 2. However, if youre looking to explore alternative ways to celebrate both Advent and Christmastide more richly, consider one of the options offered in Restoring Advent and Christmas 2012/2013.
One of these options is to begin an early and extended celebration of Advent, beginning next Sunday (November 11). The lectionary texts begin turning toward Advents end of the world/second coming themes starting next Sunday in keeping with the earliest Christian practice of a seven-week Advent, beginning after All Saints Day. For more information about celebrating an earlier and extended Advent, see The Advent Project website. And click here for a United Methodist congregation that has had a very positive experience with this.
On the denominational calendar, next Sunday (November 11) is also Organ and Tissue Donor Sunday, (National Donor Sabbath). The General Board of Church and Society is the contact organization for this special day. For more information, see www.organdonor.gov or http://calms.umc.org/2008/Text.aspx?mode=Petition&Number=575.
November 18 is Bible Sunday, the kickoff to National Bible Week organized by the National Bible Association. While appropriate recognition of the role of Scripture should be part of worship weekly, and perhaps especially on this day, the Scriptures already set for this day should take precedence in your planning.
November 25 is designated as United Methodist Student Day, which includes a special offering. Once again, while the special offering should be taken, the celebration of this day should be woven into the larger themes of Christ the King Sunday, which takes precedence on this day.
All Saints Day/Sunday
This years readings for All Saints Sunday focus less on the "saints" people whose example in this life shows us how to live as faithful disciples-- and more on what all saints are promised to enjoy through God's determination to set creation free from the power of sin and death.
At the heart of all these texts is the affirmation that Gods future also happens here and now and in all kinds of ways. These texts, and indeed this day, invites your worship planning team and congregation to reflect on and give thanks for the vision of time and history embedded in Christianity and apocalyptic Judaism before it.
This is why All Saints Day had initially marked the turn from Ordinary Time toward Advent. On this day, we see the apocalyptic vision fulfilled. During Advent, we unpack the implications of the apocalyptic vision embedded in the gospel both now and as we wait for that day.
The North American cultural imagination is deeply focused on the here and now as the only ultimate there is. At the same time, it bombards us with a vision of the utter meaninglessness and futility of any vision of the whole sweep of history, human or cosmic, and tends to reject any discussion of the age to come as a kind of meaningless if not damaging pie in the sky by and by wish-fulfillment-complex.
We have some work to do. Addressing issues of mortality and time as Scripture and the mainstream of the Christian tradition have continued to do over the centuries may now require significant intellectual effort for many in our congregations. Perhaps the church has not been clear enough about its proclamation. Or perhaps we have withdrawn into our own safer cocoons in the face of the onslaught of significant cultural and intellectual challenge to our teaching. Today of all days is a time for you and your worship planning team to burst the cocoon and invite your congregation to see, experience and embrace the butterfly that may emerge if you address the fullness of the Christian proclamation of the kingdom of God drawing near and the age to come.
Isaiah 25 prophesies a day when the temple mount would be host to a lavish feast with rich foods and the best wines for all peoples of the earth. From that day forward, death would be abolished forever and the disgrace of the Covenant people would be removed. This prophecy that informs Christian descriptions of the marriage supper of the Lamb sung by the saints in Revelation 19:7-8. It also informs Jesus own descriptions of invitations to banquets (such as Luke 14:15-24 and Matthew 22:1-14). And it is in plain view every time we pray, in the Great Thanksgiving, Make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet.
In both its original form and its Christian appropriations, the stories of the Great Banquet then evoke a response from us now. They call us beyond a vision of the world narrowed by disease, deprivation and hostility and toward the realization that Gods promise and Gods presence already enable a far richer feast with far more people, along with a narrowing of deaths power now, than we may normally imagine. Christians understand that our participation in activities that help us keep the feast here and now, whether ritual (such as Holy Communion) or otherwise (such as throwing a neighborhood party or hosting a food distribution) are both foretaste and present manifestation of the banquet to come.
Video or animation of the reading from Isaiah 25 might include a pan-in on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, where a huge feast is laid out tables and people everywhere. Closer panning reveals that these people are from all over the earth Africa, South America, China, India, all over the Middle East, the Caribbean, Europe, North America, Australia, Oceania all eating in mixed tables, enjoying the company, the food, and the wine. There are no tears to be found anywhere except perhaps tears of joy in the faces of Jewish people from across the earth who rejoice to say, "Yes, THIS is our God! This one who feeds you all! This is the One we have been waiting for! This is our God!" One way to live this text today may be to invite a gathering of congregations from multiple ethnic backgrounds to gather together for worship (with Holy Communion of course!) and a joyous meal afterward, to which you also intentionally invite and serve the poor in your community, as a way of living into and living from this text on this All Saints Day.
This weeks text from Revelation seems to move us beyond any current histories into the fullness of the age to come, a reformatting and reboot of all creation, as it were. Note that the description of this fulfillment of all things looks almost nothing like popular descriptions of heaven with individual mansions in an ethereal countryside for each and all. What Revelation describes as our promise as saints emphatically is not heaven. It is Earth 2.0, and it is a city on this planet that animates life for all. It is the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, and God coming among us to dwell with us here, having destroyed death and all other sources of sorrow.
Now listen to the last verse in this weeks reading: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last. Yes, this text is describing the age to come in its fullness. It is life in this age to come that Christians have confessed for centuries in the Nicene Creed. But we always make this confession knowing that we can glimpse and occasionally approach that life now, precisely because God is Alpha and Omega, beginning and end, and all points in between.
The reading from John 11 declares Christs victory over physical death. Everything in this story indicates that Lazarus was truly dead. His sisters and the neighbors mourn. Martha notes the smell of his decaying flesh emanating from the tomb where his body had been laid to dry. Mary and Martha (in earlier verses) each tell him if he had been there Lazarus would not have died. Skeptical onlookers consider his death proof positive that Jesus is not as powerful as his reputation might make him seem.
It appears to be to these skeptical onlookers that Jesus issues the command to roll away the stone, and then, when Lazarus comes from the tomb, to unbind him and let him go. The skeptics could now have no doubt about what had happened. Jesus involved them in a hands-on way to make it happen!
In verses not included in the lectionarys selection (45-47), some of the onlookers reported what had happened to the leadership of the Pharisees in Jerusalem. The Pharisees do not describe this as a miracle, an impossible possibility, but rather as a sign (verse 47). All of Johns gospel is structured around signs, actions of Jesus that reveal the will, work and presence of God in him. The sign of Jesus raising affirms Jesus I am statement to Martha in verse 25, I am the resurrection and the life. It foreshadows his own resurrection, even as it sets in motion the plots that lead to his execution. But perhaps above all it declares, as the other Scriptures for this day also do, Gods intention and power to destroy death once and for all.
Like nearly all signs of the fullness of Gods reign in this age, the effects of this sign were provisional. Lazarus, now alive again, would also die again. Still, the moment of his raising was the moment that also declared that death was not the final answer for him or, as Jesus taught Martha, for those who believe into him (verses 25-26), those who become his disciples.
Jesus question to Martha at that point, verse 26, remains his question to all of us. Do you believe this? All Saints Day is an occasion for Christians to affirm with her, Yes, Lord, I have put my whole trust that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.
How will you help your congregation wrestle with Jesus question today? How will you help each other affirm Marthas answer?
The raising of Lazarus has been portrayed in a number of motion pictures live action and animation but, as is often the case with movies based on the Bible, usually in a fairly stilted fashion that may come off as more cheesy than powerful. Use any of these with caution! (See the movies link at textweek.com for examples). If you are able to find an appropriate clip that you can display legally (remember, you must have appropriate licensing to display copyrighted material), you might consider using it as the reading or as part of the sermon.
Use your best sense of what might work in your setting to support, rather than distract from, the experience of the proclamation of the gospel. You may well conclude that a simple declaration of the text itself, proclaimed well in the midst of the people, is all this powerful story needs in your setting.
All Saints Day is a day of high celebration! While many congregations use this day also to remember those who have died in the previous year (actually thus conflating All Saints Day, November 1, with All Souls Day, November 2), if you do so, do so joyfully.
There are at least three places you may offer a commemoration of the dead today. You may do so as a response to the sermon, perhaps after affirming a historic creed. You may do so within the prayers of the people. Or, if you are simply listing names (so this does not become distracting), you may do so in the Great Thanksgiving, right after the words, and we feast with him at your heavenly banquet by adding with all your saints, especially (Names) whom we remember before you today.
If the commemoration is a response to the sermon, after the creed, consider lighting a candle or using a bell to toll for each person as each name is read. Consider using a brief refrain, spoken or sung, such as "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord" or "Into your hands we commend their spirits." If you have the ability to project images, you may want to create a slide for each person that may include a picture (either from a church photo directory or chosen by the family) with the persons name, dates of birth, baptism, and death, and perhaps a brief notation of the ministries each engaged in the church and the world. Family members and/or friends may be invited to participate in candle lighting ceremonies as the names of the departed are spoken.
See resources in The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992), 413-415.
Whatever else you may do, plan for Holy Communion today; and, if possible, sing the song of "all the company of heaven" (Holy, Holy, Holy) at the Great Thanksgiving. The United Methodist Hymnal, The Faith We Sing, the Upper Room Worshipbook (2006) and Worship & Song (2011) each provide multiple musical settings for Holy Communion.
All Saints Day
For a "through planned service" for All Saints' Day, see A Service of Communion for All Saints' Day or A Contemporary, Global Celebration of All Saints, Year B (New!)
- Greeting: UMBOW 414 (All Saints' Day)
- Greeting: UMBOW 453 (Isaiah, Revelation)
- Canticle: UMH 652, "Canticle of Remembrance" (All Saints' Day)
- Canticle: UMH 734, "Canticle of Hope" (Isaiah, Revelation)
- Psalm: UMH 212, UMH 755. Response 1 can be found in four-parts in the Methodist Hymnal 1935, #584.
- Prayer of Confession: UMBOW 494 (Psalm)
- Prayer: UMH 713, All Saints' (All Saints' Day)
- Prayer: UMBOW 415 (All Saints' Day)
- Memorial Prayer: UMH 461, For Those Who Mourn (John)
- Memorial Prayer: UMBOW 548, On the Anniversary of a Death (All Saints' Day)
- Memorial Poem: UMH 656, "If Death My Friend and Me Divide" (John)
- Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer: Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda
- Great Thanksgiving: 74-75 or A Contemporary, Global Celebration of All Saints, Year B (New!)
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