Service of the Word for All Saints Sunday, 1 November 2020

Prelude

Improvisation on SINE NOMINE
Composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams, improvised by Adrian Boynton.

Led by Revd George Mwaura

Introit: Holy is the true light

Holy is the true light
and passing wonderful,
lending radiance to them that endured
in the heat of the conflict.

From Christ the inherit
a home of unfading splendour,
wherein they rejoice with gladness evermore.
Alleluia!

George Herbert Palmer (1846–1926)
CCL31580

Opening Phrases

In the beginning, God spoke into darkness,
and the Word brought forth light and life.

Creator God let your Word speak to us.
Into our emptiness, may your light shine.

For six days, God spoke.
The heavens were filled with wonder,
and the whole earth was transformed.

Creator God use us as you continue your work and may our lives reflect your glory.

Amen

Greetings and Welcome

My sisters and brothers, greeting in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A very warm welcome to this virtual service wherever you may be.
Wherever you may be reading; wherever you may be tuning in.
Wonderful that you can join us as we fellowship together.

Shall we pray …

Opening Prayer

Living God, even as we are gathered virtually today around your Word, your Word lives on: it breathes, it encourages, it pleads. It urges us towards love and greater unity as your church. As we listen to your Word today, may we hear the words in our hearts that call us towards love of one another, self and stranger, because your Word is an invitation towards an ever-greater hospitality.

Amen

Hymn: For all the saints who from their labours rest

For all the saints who from their labours rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesu, be for ever blest.
Alleluia, alleluia.

Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might,
thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;
thou, in the darkness, still their one true light.
Alleluia, alleluia.

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
we feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
Alleluia, alleluia.

The golden evening brightens in the west;
soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest:
sweet is the calm of paradise the blest.
Alleluia, alleluia.

Alleluia, alleluia.

But lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day;
the saints triumphant rise in bright array:
the King of glory passes on his way.
Alleluia, alleluia.

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast
through gates of pearl streams in the heavenly host,
singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Alleluia, alleluia.

W. Walsham How (1823–1897)
CCL31580

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Confession

Living God, we thank you for the communion of saints
through which we are mysteriously united in Christ
with those who have walked before us and with us in the faith.
Although they now rest from their labours in your heavenly realm,
we continually draw upon their indelible and living examples of excellence and holiness

With them we pray in one accord, Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Preserve the vivid lessons of their deeds of heroic trust, healing compassion and sacrificial love.
Inspire our hearts to dare to follow in their fearless footsteps.

Impart to us the heavenly perspective of eternity that they now enjoy.
Help us to gaze steadily toward your face as they did before us,
resisting evil and humbly depending on you to strengthen and preserve us in the days of testing.
We know you as God of Justice and we who call ourselves your children
have left often the doors of justice quite shut
– preferring words to action.

So merciful Lord, we have done wrong. May we pick up justice
and hold it in our hands as we turn back to you Lord.
Support us, O God, in our justice, and in our turning towards justice,
so that we may live up to the expectations of you, Lord, and those saints who have gone before us.

We ask in Jesus’ name,

Amen

[Please take a moment and make your personal confessions to the Lord.]

Kyrie

Prayer of the Week

Gracious God, we know that in coming towards you, you came towards us first.
You called us by name, bringing us deeper into you, into community, into love.
We thank you for this the gift.
And now, we hold our hands humbly, offering you what we have,
knowing that you receive what we give: even when it is very little, in Jesus’ name.

Amen

Bible readings

Micah 3: 5–12

Read by Nerys Steeds

5 This is what the Lord says:

‘As for the prophets
who lead my people astray,
they proclaim “peace”
if they have something to eat,
but prepare to wage war against anyone
who refuses to feed them.
6 Therefore night will come over you, without visions,
and darkness, without divination.
The sun will set for the prophets,
and the day will go dark for them.
7 The seers will be ashamed
and the diviners disgraced.
They will all cover their faces
because there is no answer from God.’
8 But as for me, I am filled with power,
with the Spirit of the Lord,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression,
to Israel his sin.

9 Hear this, you leaders of Jacob,
you rulers of Israel,
who despise justice
and distort all that is right;
10 who build Zion with bloodshed,
and Jerusalem with wickedness.
11 Her leaders judge for a bribe,
her priests teach for a price,
and her prophets tell fortunes for money.
Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say,
‘Is not the Lord among us?
No disaster will come upon us.’
12 Therefore because of you,
Zion will be ploughed like a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,
the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.

NIV®

This is the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Hymn: Blest are the pure in heart

Blest are the pure in heart,
for they shall see our God;
the secret of the Lord is theirs,
their soul is Christ’s abode.

The Lord, who left the heavens
our life and peace to bring,
to dwell in lowliness with men,
their pattern and their King;

Still to the lowly soul
he doth himself impart,
and for his dwelling and his throne
chooseth the pure in heart.

Lord, we thy presence seek;
may ours this blessing be
give us a pure and lowly heart,
a temple meet for thee.

John Keble (1792–1866) and others
CCL31580

Matthew 5: 1–12

Read by Krou Assoua

The Beatitudes

1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.

He said:

3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 ‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

NIV®

This is the Gospel of Christ.
Praise to Christ our light.

Sermon

By Revd George Mwaura

Matthew 5: 1–12

All the Saints!

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all your saints past and present be acceptable before your throne of divine mercy.

Amen

A few years ago, a group of Christians from the United States visited war-torn Nicaragua. While there, a young man from the church was killed by the Contras guerrillas. This left the group confused and full of questions. The following Sunday, a Memorial Service was held. From the altar the priest said, ‘The peace of the Lord be with you’, and people from the Nicaraguan congregation began to embrace the Americans saying, ‘peace’. These people, who had suffered in so many ways, were passing the peace of Christ. During the Communion Service there was a pause. The congregation went silent. Then someone called out a name and in one voice everyone shouted, ‘Presente!’ Another name was called out. Once again, the response was, ‘Presente!’ During the service at least twenty names were called out and each time the same response: ‘Presente!’ The pastor leading the American group of Christians did not understand what was happening until he heard the name Oscar Romero. Then he realised that all the names being called out were those of persons who had died. From that moment on he joined in shouting, ‘Presente!’

‘Presente’ or ‘Present’ is used by schoolchildren to answer roll call. At the Lord’s Table we use the word present to mean in our midst or present with us. And just before we pronounce the Sanctus we say, ‘And so, with your people on earth, and all the company of heaven we praise your name and join their unending hymn.’ Shouting ‘Presente’ in this Worship Service was a way of proclaiming the reality of the communion of saints. Although those persons named had all died, their presence and influence were still felt.

Today is All Saints Sunday, and we remember those persons who have influenced our faith development and whose presence is still felt in our lives, even though they are no longer with us. All Saints Sunday is the church’s Memorial Day, a time to remember and give thanks to God for those who have died in the faith. With these thoughts in mind, walk with me, now, to a mountain where Jesus is teaching. He begins with a list of Beatitudes. These Beatitudes form a picture of the life of a saint. On this All Saints Day let us consider three of the more difficult of these Beatitudes to see if you and I might qualify.

First and foremost: saints are people who live lives trusting God

Blessed are the poor in spirit,’ said Jesus, ‘for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ Please be aware that Jesus is not extolling the virtues of poverty; far from it! He is extolling the virtues of faith in God. God is our ultimate source of security. We think if we have enough money and enough possessions, we will be in control of our lives. We will be protected and have security. But people who have lost their business and jobs in this pandemic know that control is an illusion. People who have experienced devastating illness and lost loved ones know that there is no security. There are times when only faith in God will pull us through.

A few years ago, I ministered to a woman who had been given a terminal diagnosis. She was a wonderful woman of deep faith in God and her commitment to her family. She never complained about her pain or about her life being cut short at the age of fifty-two. Throughout her suffering, she would say, ‘I thank God for my family and my life.’ Even though she knew she was going to die soon, she radiated the joy that comes from placing her total trust in God. Each morning her husband would say to her, ‘This is the day which the Lord has made,’ and courageously, she would respond, ‘Let us rejoice and be glad in it!’ That is saint-like faith living life trusting nothing other than God.

Second, saints are people who submit their will to the will of God

‘Blessed are the meek,’ said Jesus, for they will inherit the earth. In the original Greek, meek meant literally the tamed or the broken. Say, for example, a broken wild horse. A wild horse is of no use to anyone, but a meek or tamed horse can carry children. Meekness is a matter of submission to God’s will. But submission is something some of us are not particularly good at. You may be familiar with the amusing story of the schoolboy who appeared greatly upset when he came to the Principal’s office and requested to use the phone. ‘Can I help you with something?’ the Principal asked. The little boy explained, ‘Yesterday I forgot my sweater at school. This morning my mother told me not to come home without it. I cannot find it anywhere. I want to call her and ask her where she wants me to go!’

For many of us life is one long battle for control. First with our parents, then with our teachers, then with our employers, even with ourselves. That is the humbling effect of a bad habit. We discover we cannot even control ourselves. We have only one hope: to yield to God’s control. When we can do that, we can rest assured that God will take care of us. There is a lesson here for us. We can surrender our wills to God’s will knowing that God loves us and that wherever he leads us, he will be with us. We do not have to enter the dog houses alone. Saints trust in God and God alone. Saints submit their will to God’s will.

Finally, saints are people who, no matter what happens to them, they stand firm in their faith

Jesus knew as he addressed his disciples on the mountain top that the day would come when they would be persecuted for believing in him. Jesus knew that living the kind of life that he outlined would be difficult. In his final Beatitude Jesus tried to warn the disciples that the Christian life is sometimes exceedingly difficult. ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.’ When those things happen, and they are bound to happen at one time or another, Jesus said, ‘Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.’

All through the ages there have been saints who have suffered because of their Christian convictions. They took unpopular stands, but they remained strong in the faith. They did not waver in the face of adversity. John Wesley, the eighteenth-century founder of Methodism, said that the Feast of All Saints was his favorite festival in the church year. It was the one time, more than at any other, when the great chain of witness, from the earliest worshippers of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, was emphasised and brought into the present through remembrance. On All Saints Sunday, more than at any other time, I too feel surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Such persons are examples for us. They offer us a word of hope. They endured, and so can we.

We have all known a few saints in our time. Some of them are now with God. They were not perfect people, but they fit these three criteria: trusting, submitting, standing firm. They blessed my life, and they blessed all who knew them. And on this All Saints Day I would like to say one thing in their behalf. ‘Presente!’

Amen

Musical Reflection: O Quam Gloriosum

O quam gloriosum est regnum
in quo cum Christo gaudent omnes sancti
amicti stollis albis
sequuntur Agnum quocumque ient.

Intercessions

By David Moore

Good morning.

The theme running through our prayers this morning is that of lament. What does lament mean?

Here are the words of a song by Peter Sharrocks.

The last line of each verse is repeated – so it may help to keep your eyes on that, repeating it out loud if you so wish. There are four verses.

Lament 2017

We sing our heartfelt praises, we raise our voices high,
disguising our uncertainty,
and truths we can’t deny;
war persists, injustice
divides us to our shame,
a million people plead in prayer,
in vain, in vain, in vain,
in vain, in vain, in vain.

Our confidence is shaken, we’re wondering where You are
when high rise flats go up in smoke,
become a funeral pyre?
Grief and anguish smoulder,
the death toll is so high,
a burning question rises,
Oh why? Oh why? Oh why?
Oh why? Oh why? Oh why?

Where is your fidelity, Eternal Love and Life –
your peace in broken neighbourhoods,
your end to earthly strife?
Our splintered hope we cling to,
where else are we to turn
to counter disillusion,
and kindle joy again;
and kindle joy again.

Reveal the bigger picture, wheat/tares together sown,
disaster is not everything,
from seeds new life will grow.
Despite the contradictions,
praise lifts our breaking hearts,
energises appetite
to build a better time,
to build a better time.

Lament confronts the contradictions we experience and can make the affirmation of an all-powerful, merciful God appear ridiculous …  but more than that, lament also confronts God with our contradictions, our complaints and our accusations. It demands a response.

For Christians, God is defined by Exodus and by Resurrection. The end of and probably the purpose of the lament is irrational, but somehow it can carry a renewing resolution in praise.

Each of our prayers ends with:
To the God who calls and accompanies

Your response is:
We open wide the doors of prayer.

Once more:

To the God who calls and accompanies
we open wide the doors of prayer.

Nudge us and remind us, good Lord, that we all are pilgrims, and though we may stay here in Milton Keynes for ever, you insist on calling us to change, to discover and to shed the outworn skins of our past so that we become capable of embracing the strange wonders of the new.

To the God who calls and accompanies
we open wide the doors of prayer.

May the lament we used for the dead and traumatised continue its work by turning over the topsoil of our hearts and exposing those deeper longings for a world made right.

To the God who calls and accompanies
we open wide the doors of prayer.

We continue in prayer for the deceased, the dispossessed and traumatised by the uncertainty of the present time; may our praying keep us alert and positive and willing to act and if necessary sacrifice.

To the God who calls and accompanies
we open wide the doors of prayer.

We pray for families preparing to bury their dead in these tense trying times; we pray also for all those who sit and wait by hospital beds; for the injured for whom life will never ever be the same again.

To the God who calls and accompanies
we open wide the doors of prayer.

We pray for all in public office, that they may find the inner resources to be open and compassionate and practical, with a vision of the ‘greater good’; without need to deflect, defend or pretend.

To the God who calls and accompanies
we open wide the doors of prayer.

As always, we carry in our hearts a great diversity of need including the weight of the prayers written and left in the Chapel each week. Although these prayers remain unknown to us, we do nonetheless enfold them in the care and concern of this community of faith.

To the God who calls and accompanies
we open wide the doors of prayer.

We include in our prayers a thanksgiving for those who pioneered this place, those who dreamed the practical vision, brought it to fruition and then in hope handed it into our care. May almighty God grant us the courage, the fidelity, the wisdom and a willingness to really go the extra mile in grasping the challenges of today with excitement, imagination, discipline and the joy of the disciples of Jesus.

To the God who calls and accompanies
we open wide the doors of prayer.

In the name of Jesus we have prayed.

Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom,
the power and the glory

are yours now and for ever.

Amen

Hymn: Sing for God’s glory

Sing for God’s glory that colours the dawn of creation,
racing across the sky, trailing bright clouds of elation;
sun of delight
succeeds the velvet of night,
warming the earth’s exultation.

Sing for God’s power that shatters the chains that would bind us,
searing the darkness of fear and despair that could blind us,
touching our shame
with love that will not lay blame,
reaching out gently to find us.

Sing for God’s justice disturbing each easy illusion,
tearing down tyrants and putting our pride to confusion;
lifeblood of right,
resisting evil and slight,
offering freedom’s transfusion.

Sing for God’s saints who have travelled faith’s journey before us,
who in our weariness give us their hope to restore us;
in them we see
the new creation to be,
spirit of love made flesh for us.

Kathy Galloway (b. 1952)
CCL31580

Blessings and sending out

God of power and light, you have called us into light and friendship.
Send us now more of your light, with power of love and friendship
so that we may set examples like the saints before us.

And may the blessings of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
rest and remain upon us all until we meet again to praise and worship God.

Amen

Postlude

Finale from The Music for the Royal Fireworks
HWV 351 composed by Georg Friederich Händel, arr Noel Rawsthorne

All the music recordings for this Service can be found at https://www.cornerstonemk.co.uk/music-videos-for-sunday-1-november-2020/.