Sunday 1st November 2020

22nd Sunday after Pentecost

 

This weekend brings many things to remember and to celebrate. Saturday is Hallowe’en, Sunday is marked as All Saints Day. We are also beginning a week of prayer for Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF).

What do we know about Halloween?

Halloween or Hallowe'en (a contraction of Hallows' Even or Hallows' Evening) also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows' Eve, or All Saints' Eve, is a celebration observed in many countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows' Day. It begins the observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.

One theory holds that many Halloween traditions originated from ancient Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain, which may have had pagan roots and that Samhain itself was Christianized as Halloween by the early Church. Other scholars believe, however, that Halloween began solely as a Christian holiday, separate from ancient festivals like Samhain.

Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (or the related guising), attending Halloween costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns, lighting bonfiresapple bobbingdivination games, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories, as well as watching horror films. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows' Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular, although elsewhere it is a more commercial and secular celebration. Some Christians historically abstained from meat on All Hallows' Eve, a tradition reflected in the eating of certain vegetarian foods on this vigil day, including apples, potato pancakes, and soul cakes.

All Saints is another festival marked by the Church – saints are maybe not so popular in the Presbyterian Church in the same way as they are with our Anglican and Roman Catholic brothers and sisters – but they are important nonetheless – the famous ones, but also those who are known only to God as they do his will and spread the gospel.

We remember the Mission Aviation Fellowship who work across the world bringing education, medical supplies and the Word of God to some of the most remote parts of the world. www.maf-uk.org

 

Call to worship

Lord God, this is a day of blessedness

When we take the opportunity

To come together with others to worship you,

And to give thanks for your goodness and grace.

 

Hymn

CH4 557 O Love that wilt not let me go

1.      O Love that wilt not let me go,

I rest my weary soul in thee:

I give thee back the life I owe,

That in thine ocean depths its flow

May richer, fuller be.

 

2.      O Light that followest all my way,

I yield my flickering torch to thee:

My heart restores its borrowed ray,

That in the sunshine’s blaze its day

May brighter, fairer be.

 

3.      O Joy that sleekest me through pain,

I cannot close my heart to thee:

I trace the rainbow through the rain,

And fell the promise is not vain,

That morn shall tearless be.

 

4.      O Cross that liftest up my head,

I dare not ask to fly from thee:

I lay in dust life’s glory dead,

And from the ground there blossoms red

Life that shall endless be.

 

Prayer

This is a day when we pause, to take note,

to see and know what is around us,

and to give thanks for Your many blessings Lord.

We are blessed with life,

the living, breathing life which is Your gift to us.

We are blessed with creation,

the beauty and wonder of which is beyond our comprehension.

We are blessed with love, the ability to give love,

and the joy of receiving it.

We are blessed with the Church,

with the Community of God’s Faithful People,

with whom we are bound and in which we have our place.

We are blessed with the Gospel,

with the Salvation won for us by Your Son, Jesus Christ.

Living God, we are richly blessed,

and so, we pause and give thanks for Your goodness and grace.

But above all and beyond all, in all and through all,

we are blessed by Your Love –

a challenging love; a rebuking love;

a healing love; an accepting love;

a forgiving love.

So, we are blessed again when we can confess our fallings,

and hear Your words of love, “Arise sinner, and sin no more.”

As Your cloak of blessedness is cast around us once again,

may we be drawn closer to You in the warmth of Your Spirit.

As the light of Your blessedness shines upon us today,

may we rise, wakeful and watchful,

to share that blessedness with those around us.

As the peace of Your blessedness restores our very soul,

may we rest in You,

knowing our blessedness is deep and secure.

These prayers we bring You, in and through the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

And we continue our prayer with the words of the Lord’s Prayer…

Our Father who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

The power and the glory,

For ever and ever.

Amen.

 

Readings

! John 3: 1 – 3

Matthew 5: 1 – 12

 

Reflection

1 John 3: 1 – 3

This is a call, in a pastoral letter to Christians, to remember the privileges and possibilities of the Christian life, and the obligation to live as pure a life as is expected of God’s people. In New Testament terms, this is very similar to the approach of the Psalmist. John is saying what the Psalmist said: If you are God’s people, if you are to be numbered among the “saints”, then you should recognise that and live accordingly.

 

Matthew 5: 1 – 12

This is one of the most beautiful, poetic and meaningful of New Testament passages. It has been called The Christian Manifesto, as it sets out not only the expectations of followers of Jesus but the result – the blessedness – of such expectations being fulfilled. The word “blessed” which is used in this litany of Christian attributes is the Greek word makarios. This is the word which describes which William Barclay in his commentary as “that joy which has its secret within itself, which is serene and untouchable, and self-contained, which is completely independent of all changes and chances of life”. In John 16:22, Jesus talks of the “joy which no man takes from you.” This is the blessedness of being immersed in Jesus, and which all the forces – chances and changes – of the world cannot threaten. It resonates with George Matheson’s beautiful words in the hymn, “O Love that will not let me go:” O Joy, that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee: I trace the rainbow through the rain, And feel that promise is not vain, That morn shall tearless be.

The greatness, therefore, of this manifesto of the Christian life, these ‘beatitudes’, is that they are not romantic or vague glimpses of some future joy, or pleasure, or beauty. They are not even promises of some future glory – be that a this-worldly view or the expectation of a heavenly future. They are of now! They are the out-workings of present sainthood. They are triumphant shouts of blessedness, an insight into the lasting joy that nothing in this world can ever take away.

 

Prayer

Today our prayers of Intercession are based on the reading from Matthew.  

As we pray we remember especially MAF and the work they do, also those caught up in the latest terrorist attack in France. 

God of all blessedness, we turn to You now with our prayers for others,

seeking Your blessing on all for whom we pray.

You tell us: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

So we pray for those whose spirit fails them,

that they might be strengthened in their faith;

for those whose poverty is physical,

that they might have an equal share in the fruits of Your kingdom;

for those whose outlook on life is poor,

that they might have a glimpse of hope and purpose.

You tell us: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

So we pray for all who are cast down by grief –

from recent losses or a deep-seated sorrow over many years –

that they might know the comfort of hope,

the comfort of love, the comfort of new life.

You tell us: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

So we pray for leaders and followers, for big people and little people,

for the proud and the humble,

that in acceptance and grace, we might work together for the good of all.

You tell us: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,

for they will be filled.

So, we pray that we, who seek to live in that very righteousness,

might indeed be filled with wonder and joy in this very place.

You tell us: Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

So, let us forgive others that we might know and understand

the true meaning of forgiveness.

You tell us: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

So, make our hearts pure with us, that we might know Your love all the more.

You tell us: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

So we pray for all who work for peace:

peace in relationships; peace in communities;

peace in politics; peace in places of conflict;

peace for the body, mind and soul ...

that all might see themselves and others as God’s children.

You tell us: Blessed are those who are persecuted ...

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

So we pray for the broken and despised,

the marginalised and the downtrodden,

the victims and the dispossessed,

the refugees and the homeless ...

this kingdom, our precious kingdom, belongs also to them.

And as we pray for others,

we pray also that You will hold us always in communion with the Saints of all the ages,

those who have been blessed and whose memories,

example and closeness bless us,

even at this present time.

In Jesus’ name we pray.

Amen

 

Hymn

CH4 738

1.      Glorious things of thee are spoken,

Zion, city of our God,

He whose word cannot be broken,

Formed thee for his own abode.

On the rock of ages founded,

What can shake thy sure repose?

With salvation’s walls surrounded,

Thou mayest smile at all thy foes.

 

2.      See! The streams of living waters,

Springing from eternal love,

Well supply thy sons and daughters,

And all fear of want remove.

Who can faint while such a river

Ever will their thirst assuage –

Grace which, like the Lord, the Giver,

Ever flows from age to age.

 

3.      Saviour, since of Zion’s city,

I through grace, a member am,

Let the world deride or pity,

I will glory in thy Name.

Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,

And all boasted pomp and show:

Solid joys and lasting treasure,

None but Zion’s children know.

 

Blessing  

Go now, with the blessings of the saints and angels.

Go now, with the blessings of the people in this place.

Go now, with the blessings of the whole people of God.

Go now, with the blessings of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

to keep you in blessedness, now and always.

Amen