Welcome to worship on this fine day! We are celebrating much in this service, first of course is All Saints Sunday in which we remember those that we love and have lost. We’re also celebrating 70 years of ministry as Grace Lutheran Church. And lastly (but not leastly) we are also welcoming a new member to our congregation! A full day indeed!
The bulletin for this worship service can be found here. In it will be the order of worship, the words of the liturgy with your responses in bold, the service music and words from the All Creation Sings hymn book, the other hymn numbers from the ELW, and the sermon manuscript. The words you need to know and the new music will also be on your screen, and the sermon is included on this page under the worship video. Feel free to follow along however you feel comfortable.
For an enhanced worship experience online, you are welcome to have some elements in your space. First, you can have a lit candle for the duration of the service, and any number of smaller candles (I prefer tea lights myself, but you do you) to represent a loved one in your life who had passed and you wish to honour. These candles represent our connectedness through the Spirit, even when we are separated by space, time, and even death. They can be extinguished at the end of the service after the sending hymn along with the altar candles in the church. And if you wanted to participate in communion, you may do so by having something small to eat and drink prepared, and you can consume them with the instructions given during the service.
May God’s eternal and everlasting blessing be upon you this day and always!
(I’m sorry, dear viewer, we had some irreparable technical difficulties with this video, so it is no longer available. But please feel free to read through the service in the bulletin and the sermon below to capture much of the day. I’m saddened by the loss of this video, but I know this day will remain in our memories)
O God, may your Spirit be upon us as your Word enlightens the eyes of our hearts, reminding us of life joined with you and all the saints in giving us love, joy, and hope, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
What a great day today is. Not only is it All Saints when we can remember how connected we are with those that we loved and lost, how they continue to be present among us in the Spirit represented by these candles, and how we can be inspired to look forward to an eternity with them and with God. Not only are we welcoming a new member into our congregation today, sure he might be a returning former member, but when your church is the size of ours it’s always exciting to see that people still remember that we exist. Not only are we celebrating our 70th anniversary as a congregation, that’s longer than most people in this room have been alive, and we can look back at the ups and downs of our ministry, reminisce on the good ol’ days when beehive hairdos were still a thing, and remember the effect this church had on this community. Not only do we have a bunch of special guests with us today from our bishop to former pastors and even some former members that we can connect and reconnect with like we did yesteryear. Not only are we going to have an extended goodies time with specially made cookies by my own wife who is now this big shot tv star, which is probably pretty promising. Not only did we get an extra hour of sleep so we’re all well rested and ready to go. Not only do we have this laundry list of blessings to make this day great, but we also get to listen to this sermon.
This… sermon. I admit that this is a hard one to write, as we have so much going on today that I really want to do the festivities justice. We have so many guests today that I really want to leave a good impression so maybe they’ll come back. We have so many pastors and spouses of pastors in attendance that I really need to bring my A game.
No pressure or anything though, right?
But like I always tell myself when I’m really nervous or stressed about something, by the time it’s over, it’ll be over. I just have to hang in there until that time. And that’s true for pretty much anything in our lives, right? That is just how this linear time that we live in works, that everything has a beginning and an end. Sometimes that’s a good thing, like we know this sermon will eventually end and with it, my nervousness and stress. But sometimes it’s a bad thing, like we know this day of celebration of our 70th anniversary will eventually end, and who knows how many more milestone anniversaries this we have in us, our communities and congregations all around, Lutheran or not, are headed towards closure, and even our time here on this planet will someday cease.
Well, this got real bleak real fast.
But I’m not saying anything that we don’t already know, it’s just that we don’t always look at life this way, or at least we might not say it out loud. Because we know, as the saying goes, “all good things come to an end”. We know that what goes up must come down. We know that sometimes in life we get blessings, and sometimes we get woes.
And that conveniently brings us to today’s gospel lesson, Jesus’ beatitudes out of Luke. We’re most likely familiar with the beatitudes that come out of Matthew, as I think that shows up in our lectionary more often for some strange reason. But unlike those in Matthew, these beatitudes, these “utmost blessings” as it can be translated, that we get in Luke are paired with a bunch of woes. And not “woes” as in “whoa, nice one” but more like “whoa, bad one” because these woes, almost like curses, totally contrast the blessings that precede them. Which I guess doesn’t come as a surprise seeing as how the blessings and the woes in themselves seem to contradict what we consider blessings and woes.
I mean, we don’t see it as a blessing when we’re poor, hungry, sad, or hated. We avoid those things like the plague, or coronavirus as it were. We do everything in our power to stay away from them, and we work hard to obtain what Jesus calls woes. You know, being rich, well fed, having a good time, and popular and respected. Those are basically all our life goals, in fact, some of those are our goals for this very service and celebration.
So what is Jesus trying to tell here on this All Saints Sunday? Because this doesn’t really sound like good news in that we have to get bad to get good and when we get good we get bad. It doesn’t sound like we can ever make it in life or any kind of celebration would be worth it knowing that it’ll just end anyway. It doesn’t sound like life could ever be fair or would finally let up and put us on the easy path of only blessing and no hardships.
Well, it doesn’t sound like that because it won’t ever be like that.
We will never be free from endings. We will never be free from death. We will never be free from woes.
I mean, we won’t be free from them happening in that they will happen. They are absolutely unavoidable. Looking at these candles that we have lit up here and even looking back at our congregation’s last 70 years of existence proves that. We’ve loved and lost so many, we’ve had pillars of our community fall, we’ve had our fair share of difficult times.
And that’s the thing, in that Jesus reminds us that we are blessed. Even when the chips are down, when conflict arises, and death occurs, God remains faithful and true and holds us in our sorrow and brings healing to our brokenness. Blessed are you, hurting soul, for God’s love continues to shine in and around you and lifts you up and will end your suffering.
But when times are good, when we are celebrating and enjoying life and maybe eating delicious cookies, all that isn’t meaningless but Jesus does warn us that those times will end as well. And so we are humbled by knowing that life doesn’t actually let up, that times of good fortune don’t make us better than others, and prosperity does not and cannot define us. Rather, those times are fleeting so we mustn’t put too much of our trust in them to define our joy, to bring us peace, or even to save us.
And in the middle of all that, God is present, lifting up the lowly and humbling the haughty and bringing us all together into community as the one body of Christ. It’s in this body is where we find support in our difficult times and celebration in our joys, knowing that through it all we aren’t defined by these moments and days, but by the grace and mercy of God that saves us not from things happening, but from their effects on us and our eternity.
For God is with us through the good and bad. God is with us, through life and death. God is with us in our longevity and endings, recreating us and reforming us as God’s own beloved people.
In a few moments we will be welcoming back a former member and perhaps recapturing a bit of the past. This is most appropriate on this day of celebrating the saints of the past as well as our anniversary, many years of which many of us have been a part of. But in these celebrations and joys of what was, may we look forward to what God might bring and see the blessing in all that is to come. For while everything in our world and in our lives comes to an end, God’s grace, mercy, and love will remain eternal and steadfast in this community and congregation and in all the world. Thanks be to God. Amen.