Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lifting the Shroud

Lifting the Shroud is our worship theme for All Saints Sunday, November 4, 2012. Our focus scripture is Isaiah 25:1-10a.

Chapters 24-27 of Isaiah are full of a contrast between judgment and salvation. In places it looks very bad for all people without exception. And in other places, like verses 6-10a of chapter 25, it looks good beyond any human expectation. Perhaps this contrast mirrors our experience. Sometimes our enemies get us down and we wish the worst for them. Sometimes we ourselves are the bad guys, and we know deep down that we deserve the worst. But then there are other times when we feel the pull of God’s powerful Spirit which comes from far beyond anything our enemies can do, or even any viciousness buried in the bottom of our hearts. The pull of God’s Spirit is a pull in the direction of justice, and hopefulness, and love, and even peace.

Often times this pull comes to us as we celebrate a wedding or a Thanksgiving Dinner or a church pot luck supper! A wedding ceremony can lift up the highest ideals for love and its promise to “bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things”. It is a time when we gather with our closest loved ones, (perhaps an enemy or two), and in the spiritual presence of so many saints who have gone before. Then, too, a wedding reception with food and dance that appeals to the body as well as the soul can gather all ages into a spirit of fun and a real sense of belonging. So it’s not hard to understand Isaiah’s proclamation that the day will come when God will call all people up the mountain for an eternal feast of fine food and wine. That the day will come when God will lift the shroud of death and we will finally live together in peace. May we all be blessed to feel what Isaiah feels when he is speaks these welcome words: It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Here is a Call to Worship, a Prayer Litany, and a Unison Communion Prayer appropriate for All Saints Sunday. Please use or adapt anything that is helpful to you.

Call to Worship    From Revelation 21:1-4

L: Sisters and brothers, let us rejoice in the vision of John:
     I saw a new heaven and a new earth!
     The old heaven and the old earth and the sea had disappeared.
P: Then I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, descending from God   
     out of heaven, beautiful as a bride adorned for her husband.
L: A great voice thundered from heaven:
     “See, God is making God’s home with mortals!  
     God will live with them. They will be God’s people.
P: God will wipe every tear from their eyes.
     There will be no more death, or sorrow, or crying, or pain.
     All of this – gone forever!”
All: Thanks be to God! Alleluia! Amen.

A Prayer Litany for Members and Friends Who Died This Year
                                                                                    From I Corinthians 15

          L: We proclaim the good news with joy: Christ is risen from the grave!
               Yet some say there is no resurrection from the dead.
          P: If that is true, if Christ has not been raised, our faith is futile.
               We are not released from sin, and those who die in Christ perish.
          L: If it is for this life only that we hope in Christ,
               we are, of all people, most to be pitied.
          P: But in fact, Christ has been raised from death,
               the first fruits of those who have died!
          L: For since death comes through a human being,
               the resurrection also comes through a human being.
          P: As in Adam all die, so in Christ will all be made alive!
          L: As it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”;
               so the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
          P: It is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical.
          L: The first man was from the earth, a man of dust;
               the second man, the Lord, is from heaven.
          P: Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust,
               so we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.
          L: So flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,
               nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
          P: Hear then a mystery! We will not all die,
               but in the twinkling of an eye, we will all be transformed.
          L: The last trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable!
               When our perishable bodies become imperishable, and our
               mortal bodies become immortal, then the saying will be fulfilled:         
          P: Death is swallowed up in victory! Where, O death, is your victory?
               Where, O death, is your sting?
       All: Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory,
              through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Unison Communion Prayer 

     Eternal God, on this Memorial Sunday we come to Christ’s table keenly remembering the great cloud of the saints of our lives. Their lives have influenced us in so many ways. They influence us still. Their example, their wisdom, their faithfulness live on in our hearts. Their spiritual presence sustains us each day. Never do we face any challenge or walk through any dark valley alone. Always we are part of the great parade of those your love calls to come close to you and to join you in your work of new creation.
     This holy meal to which you invite us is but a foretaste of the great feast that goes on eternally in heaven. So we come to Christ’s table full of joy. Joy in his love. Joy in the chance to do his ministry. Joy in the knowledge that one day his love will completely fill the entire universe and all creation will join to sing your praise.
     Now we pray that you will bless this bread and cup. As we receive these symbols of Christ’s ministry, death, and resurrection, may we also receive his Living Spirit. Feed us with his life and power. Prepare us to carry on his ministry on earth in the presence and with the help of the saints above. All this we pray in his name. Amen.                  

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