Worship Resources for October 31st, 2021—Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost, Reformation Sunday, All Saints Day

All Saints Day is November 1st, and so it may be observed on either October 31st or November 7th. Reformation Sunday is October 31st.

Revised Common Lectionary
Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost:
Ruth 1:1-18; Psalm 146; Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Psalm 119:1-8; Hebrews 9:11-14; Mark 12:28-34

All Saints Day (if not observed November 7th): Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-6a; John 11:32-44

Narrative Lectionary: Solomon’s Temple, 1 Kings 5:1-5; 8:1-13 (John 2:19-21)

The first set of reading from the Revised Common Lectionary are for those not observing All Saints Day or observing it on November 7th instead.

In the first selection from the Hebrew Scriptures, for the first half of this season after Pentecost we followed the rise of the kings of Israel, from Saul through Solomon. The second half of the season has moved into Wisdom literature, much of which is attributed to Solomon but contains other writings: poems, songs, and stories in the Hebrew scriptures. We move from Job to Ruth, who was the great-grandmother of King David, coming full circle in this season.

Naomi and her husband were from Bethlehem but had moved to Moab with their two sons when a famine came in the land. They raised their sons there, who married, but over time, Naomi’s husband died, and then both of her sons died without having children. A widow with no sons would have no one to provide for her, and the best place for her was back with her father’s family—anyone who was left. So Naomi set to return to Bethlehem, and told her daughters-in-law to go back to their father’s families. There was still time for them to remarry and have children. Though Orpah does go back, Ruth refuses to. Ruth clings to her mother-in-law and recites vows to her mother-in-law, that she is her kin, that she will not abandon her, and Naomi knew that Ruth was determined to go with her. Though the customs of the time dictated that Ruth was no longer bound to Naomi, Ruth felt something much deeper, a bond forged through common loss and grief and position in their cultures. They were family, no matter what had happened, or what would happen.

Psalm 146 is a song of praise to God, who is the one who truly reigns. The psalmist reminds the people that worldly rulers will fail them and to not put their trust in them. It is God, maker of heaven and earth, who executes justice and remembers the poor and oppressed. Worldly kings will always be tempted by the ways of the world, but God watches over the widows and strangers and immigrants, the ones who are often forgotten about, and God loves the righteous. God’s reign endures forever.

The call to prayer, called the Shema, of Deuteronomy 6:1-9 is one that every Israelite would know by heart, for God, through Moses, instructed the people to remember God’s commandment and to love God with their whole being: heart, mind, and soul. By reciting this call to prayer and commandment, by teaching it to their children, by reciting it first thing in the morning and last thing at night, by placing it on their doorposts so they would remember when they left their home and when they returned—this love for God would be centered in their hearts and lives.

Psalm 119:1-8 is the first stanza of a long-form acrostic poem, in which each stanza begins with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet. This stanza, Alef, praises God for all who walk in God’s ways, for they are blessed and know God is with them. In the second half of this stanza, the plea is from the psalmist themselves, that they might live into God’s ways and keep their lives centered on God’s commandments. They pledge to praise God, and plea for God to not abandon them.

The Epistle reading continues in Hebrews with the writer’s argument that Christ’s sacrifice ends all sacrifices in 9:11-14. Christ didn’t enter the temple made in this world, but by sacrificing his own blood, he entered a spiritual temple. Through his sacrifice, all are purified in body and soul, according to the author of Hebrews.

Jesus teaches the Greatest Commandment in Mark 12:28-34. After being questioned by other religious leaders, a scribe asks him which is the greatest commandment. Jesus quotes both the Shema (the call to prayer) of Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18, the commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself, a common pairing in Jewish teaching. The scribe answers that this is indeed more important than the offerings and sacrifices of tradition, because it’s a call to live it out, and Jesus replies that the scribe is not far from the reign of God.

The lectionary for All Saints Day begins with the vision of the heavenly banquet table from Isaiah 25:6-9. While Isaiah prophesied destruction for the people because their leaders turned astray, the prophet also knew that God would bring restoration. Isaiah envisioned God on the holy mountain of Jerusalem, a place where heaven and earth meet in religious imagery and tradition, holding an extravagant banquet. This banquet contained food and drink that satisfies. At this banquet, God will comfort us. God will destroy death, the shadow over all people, and will bring the people who have waited for God salvation.

Psalm 24 is a call to worship at the temple. The psalmist begins with praising God who made the earth. Mountains and hills were seen as sacred places, where heaven and earth met in the ancient understanding of the world, and Jerusalem was set on God’s holy hill. Those who came to the temple were called to examine themselves before entering, to be certain they had upheld the commandments before daring to enter the gates of God.

John of Patmos beheld a vision of the heavenly Jerusalem descending to earth in Revelation 21:1-6a. In this vision, God will re-create heaven and earth. John recalled the vision of Isaiah: the banquet feast is now a wedding feast, where there will be no more sorrow. The marriage of earth and heaven is done, and there is no more death. Christ has made all things new, and God declares that everything is complete, beginning and ending.

The Gospel lesson for All Saints Day shares the story of Lazarus’ resurrection, beginning with Mary’s grief in John 11:32-44. Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, did not come out of the house at first when Jesus arrived. Martha did, and Jesus asked her if she believed in the resurrection. Jesus then declared he is the resurrection and the life. However, Mary did not emerge until later, and when she confronted Jesus with her grief, kneeling at his feet, he also began to weep. From his tears, Jesus was moved to go to Lazarus’ tomb and commanded them to roll away the stone. He prayed to God and called Lazarus out of the grave. The dead man emerged from the tomb, still wrapped in his burial cloths. Jesus commanded the crowd to unbind him and let him go.

The Narrative Lectionary focuses on King Solomon building the temple in 1 Kings 5:1-5, 8:1-13. David envisioned building the temple for God, but God told him not to do it, it wasn’t for his time. Solomon instead ordered the temple to be built. Solomon had a good relationship with the king of Tyre, who was under Solomon’s authority. Solomon ordered cedars to be cut down in Lebanon—the same type of trees his father used for building the palace. In chapter 8, Solomon dedicated the temple to God, which had in its place all the sacred objects made by the Israelites when they worshiped God in the wilderness, led by Moses. God had been present with the people as a cloud in the wilderness, but now, God’s glory would dwell in the temple made by Solomon.

In John’s account of the Gospel, Jesus came to Jerusalem more than once, and it was on his first journey to Jerusalem that he drove out the moneychangers from the temple. In this most violent version of the story (Jesus makes a whip of cords), Jesus responded to the leaders questioning him about his authority that if the temple was destroyed, in three days he would raise it up. Jesus was speaking about his own body, not the newly restored second temple that the leaders had just finished construction on.

What transcends death? Love. What is the greatest commandment of God to the people? Love. What does Jesus declare the greatest commandment is: Love God and Love Others as Yourself. Kingdoms rise and fall. Temples are built and crumble and are destroyed and rebuilt. People die, and those of us left have to go on. How do we live on? Love. How do we know our loved ones are with God? Love. Love is what resurrects Jesus. Love is what conquers death and sin. Love never fails, never ends, as the Apostle Paul declared. Love is the true foundation that will never crumble, never waste away. Love is in the end what helps us move on, because we know love will always be with us. When we center God’s love in our lives, we live out that love to one another, and we trust that the love of God will endure for eternity.

Call to Worship (Psalm 146:5-7, 8c)
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob and Rachel and Leah,
Whose hope is in the LORD their God,
Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them;
Who keeps faith forever;
Who executes justice for the oppressed;
Who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD loves the righteous.

*(Another Call to Worship using Psalm 146:1-2, 6 was posted for October 10th)

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Almighty God, we have fallen astray from Your ways. We have made idols of worldly wealth and measures of success. Those of us with privilege and power have made You in our image, forgetting that You came and served among us, emptying Yourself of power and privilege to the point of death on the cross. Call us back to Your ways. On this Reformation Sunday, O God, reform our hearts, restore us to Your ways of love and justice and mercy. Reform our way of life to center You and those we have pushed to the margins, so that we might disrupt the evil of this world and cling to Your love that reigns forever. In the name of Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, we pray. Amen.

God is making all things new. God is reshaping and reforming your heart. God will bring you into alignment with God’s ways of love and justice when you do justice and practice loving-kindness in your life. You are beautifully made, loved, and restored in the image of God. Go and share the Good News. Amen.

God of the tides, God of the changing seasons, at this time of year we take notice of what is being let go of and what is clinging to our hearts. The pang of loved ones gone rests on our hearts. The weariness of the pandemic aches in our bones. As we prepare for upcoming holidays, remind us to be gentle with ourselves, to give ourselves time and space for grief and for rest. For grief, like tides, ebbs and flows, but never ceases. The longevity of the pandemic has become too familiar, something we have longed to shed but do not know when that will come. Gracious God, love us gently in this season, so we might experience Your grace and gratitude. Refresh our minds with Your wisdom by helping us recall Your scriptures and stories and songs of old. Restore us with the knowledge that even long seasons will change and unfold into something new. For You remain with us, now and always, Eternal Spirit. Amen.

All Saints Day Prayer
The writer of Hebrews, chapter eleven, begins by writing “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.” (Hebrews 11:1-2).

O Holy One, we give thanks for our ancestors of the faith: for Sarah and Hagar and Abraham, for Ishmael and Isaac and Rebekkah, for Leah and Rachel, Jacob and Esau, Bilhah and Zilpah, for Dinah and Tamar and Judah and his brothers. We pray we might grow and learn from them, from their blessings and mistakes, that have helped shape our faith stories passed down to us through today.

On this All Saints Day, we remember and give thanks for those who have guided us in our lives to You, who have been examples for us of Your love, mercy, and justice. We thank You for those for whom we learned from their mistakes, and those whose loss is still tender in our hearts. In many cultures and traditions, we celebrate and honor our ancestors. Today, we honor those who helped give birth to Your body here on earth, the church that binds us.

O God: may their memory bless us, and may we understand our tears to be holy. Until that day when every tear is wiped away and sorrow and death are no more, may we remember and give thanks, holding our hearts in gentleness. For we know that You will restore all things, bind all things, and carry us forward into eternity through the love of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

3 thoughts on “Worship Resources for October 31st, 2021—Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost, Reformation Sunday, All Saints Day

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