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Special Litany for All Saints Day included at the end of this post!
Revised Common Lectionary (including All Saints Day Readings): Joshua 3:7-17 or Micah 3:5-12; Psalm 34:1-10, 22 or Psalm 43 or Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37; 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13 or 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12 or Matthew 23:1-12; Revelation 7:9-17
Narrative Lectionary: Elisha Heals Namaan, 2 Kings 5:1-14 (Matthew 8:2-3)
Our first thread of the Hebrew Scriptures moves on from Moses to Joshua leading the people into their new home—once again, they must pass through the water, this time the Jordan. And while we read this story through the eyes of the Israelite writers, we must be aware of the peoples who were displaced by the Hebrews entering the land. As we approach Thanksgiving in the United States, we are reminded what happens when we only hear one version of the events and take that as history. We do not know what the Canaanites, Amorites, Jebusites and others would say in telling us their version of the events; it may be similar to the Native Americans story that is often ignored and forgotten. Nonetheless, we look at these ancestors of our faith in their faith, in crossing the threshold, that the same God who led them out of slavery would lead them home—but we do so with a critical eye and acknowledgment of the loss that others experienced by this interpretation of the events.
Our second thread follows the Prophets as they speak out against injustice in their day. Micah calls out his colleagues in this passage, who are concerned only with their own well-being instead of the well-being of all the people and God’s desire for the people. They are content with passing off their desires as God’s will rather than listening to God and the cries of the people in need around them. Micah also calls out the religious and politically corrupt leaders who are in it for the money, and not to follow God’s ways and seek out the well-being of those around them. Because of this, the consequences of their poor political decisions and abandonment of the people in need around them—and therefore the abandonment of God—will lead to the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile.
Psalm 34:1-10, 22 is an alternative reading for All Saints Day. The psalmist sings praises and blessings to God who delivers the people. The psalmist will boast only in God and their pride is only in what God is doing for them. The psalmist calls upon the listeners to follow God in humility, as they are doing, for they are nothing without God, but they put their faith and trust in God.
Psalm 43 sings of seeking out the God of justice, and that the psalmist will follow God’s light and truth. The psalmist will sing of God’s truth and rejoice in the hope of God’s deliverance from oppression and evil. The song ends with hope and trust in God, though the psalmist is still waiting for God’s deliverance.
Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37 sings of God’s deliverance of the people’s ancestors, from the time of wandering in the desert. God provided for them, and provides for the people now—filling the hungry with good things, satisfying the thirsty, providing water in the wilderness. God leads those who are wandering to their home, to their destination and rest.
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13 contains a short passage of encouragement from Paul to the church in Thessalonica, reminding them that he and his companions have been like parents to them, nurturing this church during difficult times and encouraging them, and that now Paul and others are encouraged by them. Paul is most encouraged by the fact that they have accepted the teachings received by them not as human words, but as the way of God.
1 John 3:1-3 is a beautiful reminder for All Saints Day that all people are God’s children, and that this has not been revealed yet to the world, but when it is, those who follow Christ will be like him. In this letter, God is revealed to be love, and that in order to love God one must love their brothers and sisters. All are our brothers and sisters; all are God’s children.
Matthew 5:1-12 is the alternative Gospel reading for All Saints Day, the Beatitudes. These blessings are given during the Sermon on the Mount, blessing the poor in spirit, the meek, and the peacemakers who are children of God. To follow Jesus, one must take on humility rather than having pride in their own position in society (see the next Gospel lesson!)
In Matthew 23:1-12, Jesus speaks against the establishment, against being part of the institution, because the leaders have become interested in their own egos being satisfied rather than in following their own teachings. Jesus tells the people to listen to what they say, but to remember that they have one teacher, and that following God is a life of humility, not selfish pride and gain. Following God is about serving others, not serving one’s own self and desires.
Revelation 7:9-17 is an alternative reading for All Saints Day. The vision of the communion of saints from every nation, every tribe, and every language shows that all people are God’s children, and that even in the vision of the heavenly kingdom, diversity is prevalent, necessary and beautiful. There is a multitude no one can count. All people are God’s children, and in all our diversity we are called to praise God, on earth as it is in heaven.
The Narrative Lectionary begins with the story of Namaan being healed by Elisha. Namaan has leprosy, which in Biblical times required that a person afflicted with the skin disease be separated from the community. Elisha is found to heal Namaan, but instead of coming to him, Elisha just tells him to wash in the Jordan River seven times. Namaan cannot believe this would be so simple, or that the Jordan is anything special, but his servant convinces him that if it was something hard he would have done it, so why won’t he do something that is easy? Namaan concedes, washes in the Jordan and is clean.
Matthew 8:2-3 contains a portion of a story of Jesus healing a leper. However, Jesus doesn’t heal the leper, instead he makes him “clean.” Jesus makes sure that the leper is restored to the community. Healing, when it comes to Jesus, is also about restoration of the oppressed in the community.
We are all God’s children. Any of us who think they are more important than others have missed the point. Jesus was the most important of all, but gave himself up for us, living among the poor, the prostitutes and tax collectors, welcoming children, and dying alongside criminals. To truly love God, we must become like Christ, living for others and loving others above ourselves. This doesn’t mean that we become a door mat, but rather we join in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who face injustice around the world, recognizing that all people are God’s children, but those who suffer from injustice and oppression are the ones that we must join with and speak up for, lest we seek our own desires of security and comfort above the ones who are in need the most. This is something that seems so simple: to love God, we must love all our brothers and sisters; yet it is the hardest thing for us to do.
Call to Worship
We come to worship God, who has made us and knows us;
We come to celebrate God’s presence among us!
We come to follow Jesus, who leads us to New Life;
We come with joy, knowing in Christ we have eternal life!
We come to listen to the Holy Spirit, who calls us forth;
May we enter this worship knowing the Spirit is alive among us! Amen!
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Healing God, we confess that we live in unhealthy ways. We put our own desires above the needs of others in the world, even above our own needs. We consume more resources than we need; we save up enough for ourselves into the future but fail to see the daily hunger and homelessness around us. Forgive us for our selfish ways, and help us to seek You in our daily lives, so that we might serve You in the world around us, every moment, and love our brothers and sisters as we love ourselves. In the name of Christ, who calls us into restoration, we pray. Amen.
Blessing/Assurance of Pardon
You are not broken, not to the point that you cannot be made whole. God works through all of us, and God is working in you, to bring healing and wholeness. Restoration is always possible. Renewal is always possible. Forgiveness is always available. Love always is present. Live with this Good News.
Grand Designer, who hung the stars in the sky, swirled the planets into being and motion, and breathes life into our bones, You are present in all that we are, in all that we see, in all that we breathe and feel and know. Guide us in this life to seek deeper relationships with all of creation, with others and with You, our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. May we recognize our interdependence in understanding more fully Your love for us and for the universe You have created by loving more deeply: all of creation, all of humanity, and all of ourselves, all of who we are, created in Your image. In Your precious and Holy names we pray. Amen.
Litany for All Saints Day
For all the Saints who have gone before us,
God, we give thanks for our ancestors in the faith.
For all the Saints who have been beloved to us,
God, we give thanks for our loved ones who have passed on.
For all the Saints who have left us too soon,
God, we mourn their passing, and they remain in our hearts.
For all the Saints who have exemplified the faithful life,
God, may we learn from their ways and follow You.
On this day, we name all those who are in our hearts:
[speak aloud the names of the saints in our hearts]
For all the Saints, God, we give thanks to You;
On earth, in heaven, we are one, we are Your children.
We thank You for those who have gone before us.
May we forgive those for whom we did not have an opportunity to forgive.
May we know that we are forgiven for our own sins.
May we know that we are loved by the same God, from this life into eternity.
In the name of Jesus the Christ, who lived, who died, and who lives eternally.
Amen and Amen.