Welcome to worship on this All Saints Sunday, which this year lands on November 5! It is a joy and blessing that you are here!
The bulletin for this service can be found here. In it, you will find the order and words of the liturgy, the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon manuscript. As is our format for online worship, the words that you’ll need to know will appear on your screen to follow along with, and the sermon is also included on this page below the video. We hope that your worship time in this format will be meaningful in however you use to express it.
For a perhaps more enhanced experience, you are invited to light a candle in your space. And as it is All Saints Sunday, you are welcome to have more than one candle, with each light representing someone that you’ve loved and lost over the years, symbolizing their presence with you as you worship. The candles can be extinguished near the end of the service when the altar candles are put out. You are also welcome to participate in communion by preparing something small to eat and drink to be consumed at the appropriate time. Further instruction will be given during the service.
May God’s unending blessing and love be apparent to you this day and always!
O God by your love may we see you present among us. By your Spirit may we hear the truth of your promises. Through Christ may we filled by your blessing, now and forever. Amen.
Life is pretty difficult, isn’t it. It’s like no matter where you are in life, what’s going on, or how you’re doing, there’s always something that comes up and brings you down. Even if it seems like you have everything going for you, there will be something that just isn’t exactly perfect and becomes this nagging thorn in your side.
We might think that this is just true for us, because it seems like everyone else, especially those we respect, look up to, or are a bit jealous of, live perfect lives. We’d give anything to be like them, to live like them, to have no problems like them. If only we could be so blessed.
But in actual fact, no one is free from problems. No one is immune to pain. No one can escape the inevitability of hardship, turmoil, and strife. We might not be able to see it in others or ourselves right away, but I assure your, there is something.
Like, maybe you’re really skilled and hard working, but you can’t seem to hold down a job. Maybe you have all the money in the world, but the news paints you in a bad light and you’re called selfish and crazy. Maybe you’re a super dynamic and charismatic preacher but your regular hair cut person quit and your new person just can’t seem to get it quite right.
Or maybe you have a beautiful and talented family but they don’t appreciate you or even feel like you belong. Maybe you’re really popular and well liked, but you battle depression and have severe mental health issues. Maybe you live in a wonderful part of the world, full of history and culture, but you keep getting invaded and bombed because your neighbours can’t seem to get along with you. Or maybe you’re blessed with a long, healthy life, but all your loved ones and those around you keep getting sick and die, leaving you alone.
However you want to slice it, we all have problems. We all have troubles. We all, at some point or perhaps for most of our lives, don’t feel very blessed.
Because… isn’t that what it means? Doesn’t blessed mean “happy” or “lucky” or “smiled on upon by God”? Isn’t that how we label those who seem to have it all? Isn’t that how we label ourselves those few times that we think we have it all? Isn’t that how we’re taught to think by all those non-dynamic and uncharismatic preachers out there?
It’d be nice though, wouldn’t it? It’d be nice if God were to prove God’s love for us by giving us good things. But then the flip side of that would be when we get bad things, we’d start to question where we really stand with God, how God might regard us, or as a worst case scenario, whether or not God even exists.
I mean, we’ve all heard it asked how a good God could let bad things happen. We’ve all questioned our faith and the validity of God’s Word in our lives. We’ve all wondered how blessed we actually are, because so many times this God that we profess doesn’t always help us the way we want to be helped.
This is why today’s gospel lesson for this All Saints Sunday can be so confusing. We’re familiar with these Beatitudes, but we don’t always understand them. And for some strange reason, as often as it comes to us out of Matthew or Luke, even the most dynamic and charismatic sermons don’t seem to agree with what’s going on here and what Jesus is trying to tell us.
I mean, Jesus kicks off his famous Sermon on the Mount with this list of bad things that we don’t want to be or do or have, but he calls them blessed anyway. It strikes us as odd, because with our aforementioned definition of blessed, it just doesn’t jive. It doesn’t add up to us to be blessed when we’re poor or hungry or sad. It doesn’t seem like a blessing to feel weak, persecuted, or being taken advantage of. We don’t feel very blessed when we know that we’re hated and have fallen out of love.
And so it’s confusing because that’s all bad stuff, isn’t it? Feeling bad is bad. Not feeling good isn’t good. And Jesus called this blessed? Really, seeing all the hurt and brokenness in and around us can be just so very depressing and overwhelming to the point that we just say “no thanks” and try to forget about it all.
To be honest, this is what has been happening with me and this situation with Israel and Palestine. The more I read and learn about it, the more depressed I feel. The more opinions and statements I hear, the more I just want to shut my ears and not listen. At the same time, the more pain and hurt I see around the whole thing, the more I just want to fix it all and make it better.
But I can’t. I don’t have the answers. I don’t have the power. I don’t have what is needed to make this whole thing go away. What is happening over there is horrific. The violence and total disregard for life is atrocious. The sheer anger and hate that is fuelling this war needs to be called out and condemned, on all sides of the conflict.
And then along comes this passage, this Sermon on the Mount, these Beatitudes that don’t seem to help at all. There is nothing good about this war. There isn’t a best case scenario. There doesn’t seem to be any blessing, any love, any hope whatsoever.
But as I often say about scripture, this living Word of God, it speaks to us where we are. And depending on headspace, we see different things in these sacred words as the Spirit does the Spirit’s thing, which usually is surprising and mysterious. It reveals to us the truth that we need to hear.
And this time around in reading these oh so familiar text, what struck me was that Jesus doesn’t say that these folk are blessed because of what happened or is currently happening, but they are blessed because something is yet to happen. They will be comforted, will inherit the earth, will befilled, will receive mercy, will see God. The only thing that is present tense is that the kingdom is theirs now.
Isn’t that so cool? While we’ve commonly thought that being blessed is due to something that is currently happening, Jesus almost seems to be telling us that being blessed comes from what will happen, we see God’s love for us in what will be given to us, there is healing in the hope we have in God’s promises that will be fulfilled.
This is kind of a game changer for me. Because now when I’m down in the dumps, I needn’t doubt my position in God’s love, I needn’t question my identity as God’s child, I needn’t wonder about my place in God’s kingdom. Rather, I can hold onto the hope that God’s blessing for us all is yet to come, bringing healing and restoration, and revealing yet again how we are all welcomed and saved by the grace of a benevolent God.
I don’t know what you are all going through or where you are mentally or emotionally. I don’t know who needs to hear this right now. But I do know that all of you have experienced the ups and downs of life, the joys and the sorrows, the healing and pain, the life and death. And I know that through all of that, God remains present in all that you go through, surrounding you with support, community, and the host of saints of all times and places.
This is the blessing that we receive as God’s people. This connection to the unending story of faith that spans all of history, sparked by God’s steadfast and unsurpassed love that is so strong that not even death could stand in its way. This connection feeds our souls, enriches our lives, and reminds us of the value and worth of all people, blessed by the God who loves us all.
Blessed… even when they are poor in spirit, when they mourn, are meek, or hunger and thirst; blessed are those who are merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and even persecuted and reviled. Blessed are those who are disliked, marginalized, bullied, attacked, hated. Blessed are those who don’t know their own value, the depressed, the mentally ill, the foreigner. Blessed are all those who don’t have it together, those who don’t seem to fit in, those that don’t think they’d amount to anything. Blessed are they. Blessed are we. Not because of these things, but because of the hope that we all share in the promises of God, the promises of grace, mercy, and love.
On this All Saints Sunday, may we always be aware of the connection that we have with each other and our history, that we be reminded of the value and worth we have as God’s people, blessing us with the hope in God’s truth, God’s healing, and God’s gift of life. Thanks be to God. Amen.