Holy Cross Cemetery in Gniezno, Poland
Let Us Worship Together!
Our Saviour is incredibly pleased to have you join us for live in-person worship inside the Nave and Sanctuary on Saturday, November 5 at 5:30 pm (casual with Voices of Praise), and Sunday, November 6 at 8:00 am (simple service) and 10:30 am (traditional with choir and/or organ music). The Saturday evening and Sunday 10:30 am services will will also be online via Facebook Livestream!
Join your prayers with the community! During the live stream of the service, you are invited to type into the Facebook chat any prayer requests for those you want included in the prayers of intercession. (As always, you may also send your prayer requests by Wednesday the week ahead to email@example.com.) Please do this at the beginning of the service so that we can write them up and hand them to the pastors before the prayers start.
(Fast forward to 6:18 in the recording for the beginning of service)
Sunday 8:00 am — First Light Service
Sunday 8:45 am — Fellowship
Sunday 9:00 am — Sunday School for All Ages
Sunday 10:30 am — Traditional Service with Choir and/or Organist: Download Sunday’s Worship Bulletin & Watch Service Here
(Fast forward to 3:08 in the recording for the beginning of service)
Altar Flowers for this weekend’s services were donated by Barbara & Virgil Brown on loving memory of their sons Jon, Brett and Jim.
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If you would like to donate flowers in memory, honor or celebration of a loved one or special date, please sign up on the chart in the church office hallway or call the church office at (540) 347-3224 with your information.
Readings and Psalms:
Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
22nd Sunday after Pentecost, Year C — All Saints Sunday
When you think about it, All Saints Day is a weird holiday. I mean, the celebrations are weird. In Nordic nations, they visit the graveyard at night, and place candles beside every weathered tombstone. In Britain, since the old days, and in our country more recently, it is a time for devil-costumes and ghost stories.
And no wonder. This is a day for calling the dead to life again. Remember, old churches were also burial-places, with beloved pastors and members lying under every flagstone on the floor. In the old world, the dead were never far from the altar – but on this day, we gather to tell stories, both of the most illustrious saints, remembered all over the world, and of those known only here, in this community – our very own beloved dead.
Weirdest of all, perhaps, was the custom – widespread in the Middle Ages — of remembering those we loved, and speculating upon their eternal destiny. Was Uncle Harry in Heaven, enjoying endless presence of God, or was he elsewhere, experiencing something … less pleasant?
It’s a weird holiday. And which of today’s lessons, do you think, is the weirdest choice for All Saints’ Day? On one hand, there is that passage from Daniel, about monsters from the sea. Our lesson cuts the weirdest bits, the descriptions: an eagle with human feet, a bear with tusks, a four-headed flying leopard, and a ten-horned beast with iron teeth. Weird stuff, and a little hard to see what it has to do with the saints, or much of anything else.
On the other hand, there is that Gospel, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain. Blessed are you, he begins – and continues with a list of things that make a person holy. But what a depressing list! The blessed are poor, and hungry, and sad; they are hated and defamed. More depressing yet is the moral advice. If you are a saint, says Jesus, love your enemies; if somebody hits you once, don’t strike back – let him hit you twice. If he steals your coat, give him your shirt.
That is all so very “holy” that I am afraid nobody I know can live up to it. Maybe once in a lifetime, but regularly, every day? No. So why read that on All Saints? Are we to believe that the Christians of ye olden times were heroes, and we are failures? Well, no, they weren’t and we aren’t.
So which reading is weirder – the sea monsters, or the impossible task list?
More to the point – what does either lesson have to do with either our remembrance of the blessed dead, or with living our own lives?
I can’t be sure, but I do have an idea.
We preachers customarily divide God’s Word into two modes, or ways of speaking: command and promise, or as we usually say, Law and Gospel.
The command is “thou shalt,” a guide to “godly and virtuous living.” It is a beautiful vision, but sometimes it can also be discouraging. Because the Law shows us the good life, but also reminds us how far from it we really are. If God’s Word were only law, our spiritual life would be endless drudgery and inevitable defeat.
And beautiful as the Lord’s teaching today may be, I submit to you that it is, in the end, the Law.
So what then is the Gospel? God’s promise of love and forgiveness, God’s desire to bring us back, no matter how far away we wander. And where in these All Saints Day readings do we hear the Gospel, beloved?
That’s right. You guessed it. In the story about the sea monsters.
Specifically, the Gospel is in one word of one sentence: “But the Holy Ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, forever, and forever.”
There: the message of hope, is in one word: receive. God’s Holy Ones will receive the kingdom. We will not win it, by struggling against those strange beasts, whether they are worldly empires, or perhaps our own temptations. We will not win the kingdom, nor will we purchase it. Not win, nor purchase, and we most certainly will not earn it with our personal goodness — because we simply are not good enough.
No, we will receive it, like a child under the tree at Christmas, like a farmer standing in a dry field when the rain begins to fall. We will receive the kingdom as a gift.
To be a saint then, to be one of the blessed, to be one of the Holy Ones of the Most High, does not mean that we have earned a prize, but that we have been given something we do not deserve. And the saints we remember today – Augustine and Ambrose, Mary the Mother of Our Lord, or those dear to this community, like Carol Gilliam or Jim Wood – they were not people of special virtue, they were not all poor, hungry, cheek-turning, shirt-giving models of superhuman virtue, who won their daily battle with sin. The weren’t, and we aren’t.
No. They were, and we are, something better: friends of Christ, who on the Cross won that victory once and for all, and who shares the winnings with his church. It is not we who defeat the monsters that rise up against us, but Christ – and yet because he loves us, it is we who are called holy, and we who receive his kingdom, and who possess it – forever, and forever, and forever. Amen.
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