Friday, October 30, 2015

Let's Hear It for Anonymity!: Reflections on All Saints (1 November 2015)

All Saints
1 November 2015

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC
         Over the centuries Jews and Christians have wrestled with the following question:  What is the fate of righteous people who do not know or who do not affirm our religious beliefs?  Some Jews and Christians have simply expressed ignorance and left everything to God.  Others have taught that there is no salvation outside the community of faith, whether Jewish or Christian.

         Some Jewish teachers, unsatisfied with either of these positions, have taught that God made three covenants with humanity:  the covenant with Noah, the covenant with Abraham and the covenant with Moses.  While Jews are obliged to keep the covenant God made with Moses, non-Jews may be considered righteous if they are faithful to God’s covenant to Noah.

  • Do not deny God.
  • Do not blaspheme against God.
  • Do not murder.
  • Do not engage in sexual immorality.
  • Do not steal.
  • Do not eat a live animal.
  • Establish courts of law to establish justice.

Anyone who follows these commandments has a place in the world to come.

         For Christians the question about the place of non-Christians in the world to come was already front and centre in apostolic times.  In Paul’s letter to the Romans he writes, “When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves.  They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.” [i]

         In more recent years, as Christians have become more engaged in inter-faith dialogue, many contemporary theologians have tried to flesh out Paul’s thoughts.  Our own retired bishop, Michael Ingham, wrote a book, Mansions of the Spirit, in which he described three ways of understanding the relationship between different faiths:  exclusivist, inclusivist and pluralist.  But my favourite is a phrase from the writings of Karl Rahner, a German Roman Catholic theologian.  He wrote about ‘anonymous Christians’, people who follow the way of Christ, whether they know it or not, whose lives manifest the love and compassion of God and who are signs of God’s saving grace.

         ‘Anonymous Christians’.  What a good way to describe the people whom we celebrate today on this feast of All Saints.  On this day the Christian community throughout the world remember those who have followed the way of Christ, whose lives have shone with the love and compassion of God and who have embodied God’s saving grace.  Some are ‘anonymous’ because we do not know their names.  Others are ‘anonymous’ because they did not make a name for themselves that brought them to the attention of Christians beyond the limits of their own communities.

         For example, I do not think that any of you here knew Eulalia Macy, a saint of Christ Episcopal Church, in Denver.  But I knew her and I know her to be one of God’s saints whose life transformed my own.  When you look to the west wall of the parish and see the plaques that enshrine the names of those who are buried in our Memorial Garden, I know that you will see the names of some saints who made you who you are.  As we offer our intercessions, petitions and thanksgivings in a few minutes, no doubt all of us will be remembering the names and lives of people who were icons of Christ, beacons of the Spirit, the embracing arms of our God.

         In this place and in those like it all over the world, there are ‘anonymous Christians’, not because their names are unknown, but because their names are only known to a few.  But that anonymity does not mean they are unimportant nor that they have no influence.  I am convinced that the work of God is most probably undertaken by the ‘anonymous’.  Although we live in a ‘celebrity’ culture, where everyone is urged to become someone else, preferably rich or beautiful by our culture’s standards or just famous for being outrageous, I am convinced that the greatest influence on human lives is exercised by the many quiet and unassuming people of faith who will never be seen on Youtube or Twitter or any other media.  And that, to me, is actually good news.

         The good news of our celebration of All Saints is that the work of God in creating, restoring and renewing the creation is not dependent upon fame or fortune.  God’s work is most powerfully accomplished by teachers who care for their students, by parents, relatives and significant adults who care for children, by employers who are committed to bringing out the best in those who work under their supervision.  The good news of God in Christ finds its voice not in the celebrity who draws attention to herself or himself.  That voice is found in the work of volunteers who give of their time, their talents and their treasure to care for those in any need or trouble.  Anonymity is a gift; it allows us to focus on what is most important while avoiding the distractions of maintaining our ‘image’, our ‘brand’, our status.

         On this day let us also remember all those who do not identify themselves as members of our community of faith, but whose lives embody the good news we know in Christ.  While some of our Christian sisters and brothers would not name them as being one with us in the work of God, we who gather today in this place number these righteous ones among those who are working for the world that is to come, a day when all God’s people, all people, will be free.

         So let’s hear it for the gift of anonymity, a gift that sets us free to be God’s saints, God’s holy ones, for those among whom we work and live.  Let’s hear for all the ‘anonymous’, Christian and non-Christian, believers and non-believers, in whom the good news of God in Christ has been lived.  For through them, the day is coming when “ . . . the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well- aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear [and] will destroy . . . the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations [and] swallow up death for ever.” [ii]

[i] Romans 2.14-16 (New Revised Standard Version)

[ii] Isaiah 25.6-8 (New Revised Standard Version)

Monday, October 26, 2015

An Ordo for All Saints (1 November 2015)

All Saints
1 November 2015

The Gathering of the Community

The Opening Hymn

‘Blessed Feasts of Blessed Martyrs’  Common Praise #284

The All Saints Responses

For all the saints who went before us,
who have spoken to our hearts and touched us with your fire,
we praise you, O God.

For all the saints who live beside us,
whose weaknesses and strengths are woven with our own,
we praise you, O God.

For all the saints who live beyond us,
who challenge us to change the world with them,
we praise you, O God. [i]

The Hymn of Praise

‘Glory to God’  Common Praise #702

The Collect of the Day

Let us pray.

Lord of heaven’s reach and of earth reborn,
you call us from starless graves
to sing under infinite skies:
we praise your name
for those who have walked this way
unheralded and unnumbered but known to you,
their beginning, their end, their joy in life.
Give us the same grace to be unbound
and to take the step of faith, through Jesus Christ,
the Alpha and the Omega.  Amen. [ii]

The Proclamation of the Word

The First Reading

A reading from Isaiah (25.6-9)

            On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.  And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever.  Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.  It will be said on that day,  Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.  This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
Thanks be to God.

The Psalm

Psalm 24 with the refrain from Songs for the Holy One

Refrain (sung twice):  O glorious Majesty, may your presence ever be with us.

1 The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, *
            the world and all who dwell therein.
2 For it is God who founded it upon the seas *
            and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.
3 “Who can ascend the hill of the Lord *
            and who can stand in the holy place of God?”
4 “Those who have clean hands and a pure heart, *
            who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,
            nor sworn by what is a fraud.
5 They shall receive a blessing from the Lord *
            and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”
6 Such is the generation of those who seek you, *
            of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

Refrain:  O glorious Majesty, may your presence ever be with us.

7 Lift up your heads, O gates;
lift them high, O everlasting doors; *
            and the One who reigns in glory shall come in.
8 “Who is this glorious One?”
            “The Lord, strong and mighty,
            the Lord, mighty in battle.”
9 Lift up your heads, O gates;
lift them high, O everlasting doors; *
            and the One who reigns in glory shall come in.
10 “Who is this glorious One?”*
            “The Lord of hosts,
            the Lord reigns in glory.”

Refrain:  O glorious Majesty, may your presence ever be with us.

The Second Reading

A reading from the Revelation to John (21.1-6a).

            Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

            And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals.  He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.  Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

            And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”  Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Then he said to me, “It is done!  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
Thanks be to God.

The Gradual Hymn


The Gospel

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John (11.32-44).

            When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.  He said, “Where have you laid him?”  They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”  Jesus began to weep.  So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”  But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

            Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb.  It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.  Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”  Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”  So they took away the stone.  And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.”  When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth.  Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

The gospel of Christ.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

The Sermon

The Apostles’ Creed

Let us confess the faith of our baptism,
the faith we share with all the saints, past, present and future.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.  Amen. [iii]

The Prayers of the Community

Intercessions, Thanksgivings and Petitions

The Exchange of the Peace

The peace of the Lord be with you all.
And also with you.

The Holy Communion

Offertory Hymn                                

‘Let Saints on Earth in Concert Sing’  Common Praise #282

Prayer over the Gifts

Let us pray.

Holy and mighty God,
we give you thanks for the triumph of Christ
in the lives of all his saints.
Receive all we offer you this day,
and help us, like them, to run our course with faith,
so that we may come to your eternal kingdom.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. [iv]

The Thanksgiving at the Table

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

It is indeed right, our duty and our joy,
that we should at all times and in all places give thanks and praise to you,
almighty and merciful God, through our Saviour Jesus Christ. 
By the witness of the saints you show us the hope of our calling,
and strengthen us to run the race set before us,
so that we may delight in your mercy, and rejoice with them in glory. 
And so, with all the saints with the choirs of angels and the hosts of heaven,
we praise your name and join their unending hymn: [v]

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest. [vi]

Holy God, mighty Lord, gracious Father: 
Endless is your mercy and eternal your reign. 
You have filled all creation with light and life;
heaven and earth are full of your glory.

We praise you for the grace shown to your people in every age: 
the promise to Israel, the rescue from Egypt, the gift of the promised land,
the words of the prophets; and, at this end of all the ages,
the gift of your Son, who proclaimed the good news in word and deed
and was obedient to your will, even to giving his life.

In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread,
and gave thanks; broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: 
Take and eat; this is my body, given for you. 
Do this for the remembrance of me.

Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks,
and gave it for all to drink, saying: 
This cup is the new covenant in my blood,
shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin. 
Do this for the remembrance of me.

For as often as we eat of this bread and drink from this cup,
we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 
Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ will come again.

Therefore, O God, with this bread and cup
we remember the life our Lord offered for us. 
And, believing the witness of his resurrection,
we await his coming in power to share with us the great and promised feast. 
Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.

Send now, we pray, your Holy Spirit,
so that we who share in Christ’s body and blood
may live to the praise of your glory
 and receive our inheritance with all your saints in light. 
Amen.  Come, Holy Spirit.

Join our prayers with those of your servants of every time and every place,
and unite them with the ceaseless petitions of our great high priest
until he comes as victorious Lord of all. 
Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honour is yours, almighty Father, now and forever.  Amen. [vii]

The Lord’s Prayer

As our Saviour taught us, let us pray,

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.
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. [viii]

The Breaking of the Bread

Creator of all,
you gave us golden fields of wheat,
whose many grains we have gathered
and made into this one bread.
So may your Church be gathered
from the ends of the earth
into your reign of justice and peace. [ix]

The gifts of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God.

The Communion of the Community

The Communion Hymn


The Sending Forth of the Community

Prayer after Communion

Let us pray.

Lord of hosts,
we praise your glory reflected in your saints.
May we who share at this table
be filled with the joy of your eternal kingdom,
where Jesus is Lord, now and for ever.  Amen. [x]

Glory to God,
whose power, working in us,
can do infinitely more
than we can ask or imagine. 
Glory to God from generation to generation,
in the Church and in Christ Jesus,
for ever and ever.  Amen.

Closing Hymn

‘For All the Saints’  Common Praise #276 vv. 1, 2, 4, 7, 8


With all the company of heaven above,
let us go forth in praise to love and serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

[i] Janet Morley, All Desires Known, 3rd ed. (2006), 148.

[ii] Liturgy Task Force, ‘Trial Use Collects for Year B:  All Saints to Proper 34’, 1.

[iii] Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 105.

[iv] The Book of Alternative Services (1985), 428 alt.

[v] Evangelical Lutheran Worship:  Leaders Desk Edition (2006), 193 alt.

[vi] Common Praise #732.

[vii] Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 66 alt.

[viii] The Book of Alternative Services (1985), 918,

[ix] ‘The Breaking of Bread 3’ in The Book of Alternative Services (1985), 212 alt.

[x] The Book of Alternative Services (1985), 428-429 alt.