TIS 132: Holy, holy, holy
TIS 59: All people that on earth do dwell
TIS 474: Here in this place
TIS 103: A mighty fortress is our God
TIS 470: Rejoice in God’s saints, today and all days
TIS 455: For all the saints, who from their labours rest
TIS 233: I will sing the wondrous story
TIS 215: You servants of God, your Master proclaim
TIS 456: Your hand, O God, has guided
Prayers of Adoration, Thanksgiving and Confession
Holy God, we gather with the saints in heaven to offer praise and worship to you, the creator and redeemer of us all.
Christ, who suffered, and rose victorious, understands not only our joys but our heartache, our tears.
You are worshipped and adored by all the hosts of heaven; we join out thanks and praise with their song:
We join with prophets, and apostles, saints, and martyrs, they sing to you in heaven, we sing to you on earth.
O God we thank you for the cloud of witnesses who make the mysterious heaven a home for our hearts.
We thank you for the reformers of the church, including Martin Luther.
We remember those whom we have loved.
We give thanks for their devotion, love and example.
We thank you God for the saints who have gone before us.
O God, you have equipped us with the spirit of love and power so that we, too, may live out our lives here on earth, fulfilling our potential, doing your will.
But we confess that at times our lives do not express our sainthood.
Forgive us for the times when we have been hostile and unforgiving,
When we have been critical and selfish,
When we wish to receive rather than to give,
To accuse rather than excuse.
Forgive us all that is past;
And grant that we may serve you in newness of life,
To the glory of your name.
And in a time of silence, we remember other things for which we seek forgiveness.
God is love.
Through Christ our sins are forgiven
(thanks be to God).
Take hold of this forgiveness, and live your life in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Rev 7: 9-17
Psalm 34: 1-10, 22
1 John 3: 1-3
Matthew 5: 1-12
‘…for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’
John’s vision of the Lamb of God on the throne in heaven.
This Sunday falls on All Saint’s Day.
November 1, All Saint’s Day, follows on from October 31, Halloween.
Halloween: a festival which is becoming more popular in our cities.
The house at the end of our block has been dressed up with decorations for the past month.
Halloween: the eve of ‘All Hallows’, which means ‘All Saints.’ (‘Hallow’ means ‘holy’/‘to be revered’/‘holy person, or saint’)
If we were meeting in church, I would conduct something to honour the saints in the past, and the saints (the people within the congregation and within our families) who have died during the year
we are still in lockdown, so I thought I would consider, for part of the sermon, Halloween: its origins, and consider how, as Christians, we should or shouldn’t celebrate. Should we just ignore it?
Understanding its historical roots is the first step.
It is an old celebration, pre-dating Christianity, going back to the druids. It was held on the last day of October in honour of the son god and to mark the beginning of the Celtic new year.
The eve of the new year was a time for fortune telling, the appearance of ghosts and a variety of other supernatural happenings.
The high point of the ceremony was a solemn ritual conducted around the roaring flames of a giant fire.
The druids believed that the lord of death sent out evil spirits to roam the earth and attack humans on this night.
With the coming of long, dark, winter nights, these spirits persecuted and frightened humans. The only hope of escape was to come up with some type of disguise. So people wore masks and costumes to confuse and protect themselves from the evil spirits.
Around the world people inherited similar traditions:
-in Mexico and Peru people place food and drink on the graves of deceased relatives during their ‘Days of the Dead’ celebration.
-Hindus celebrate a festival of the dead called ‘Durga.’
-Ancient Egyptians designated November 17 as the day of the dead.
-the Romans held a similar festival, in honour of Pomona, their goddess of the orchard.
So what, IF ANY, is the Christian significance of this celebration?
As I mentioned earlier, ‘Hallow’ comes from the word ‘holy.’
(The Lord’s Prayer: ‘hallowed be your name…’)
-to make holy, to set apart, to honour as sacred…to ‘hallow’
Halloween means the ‘eve of All Hallow’s Day’ which is All Saint’s Day.
Throughout church history, Christian people have chosen to celebrate this season is a different way.
As early as the fourth century, Christian festivals were held in honour of ‘all the saints.’
In 615 AD the Pope reclaimed the pagan temple of the Pantheon in Rome as a church, and dedicated it to all the martyrs. The date was May 13th. By the 7th century the festival of All Saint’s Day had been established as a Christian celebration, and observed in May.
But-it was becoming such a popular celebration-with very large crowds-that food was in short supply. So in 844 AD Pope Gregory IV moved the feast from May to November 1st, because the autumn harvest provided a better food supply. It was called ‘All Hallow’s Day’ and the evening before the celebration was called ‘All Hallow’s Eve.’ (‘Halloween’is a contraction of ‘All Hallow’s Evening’)
By medieval times, the celebration of All Hallows Eve had blended Christian and ancient pagan practices.
– masked dancers, called ‘mummers’ danced around the fire in silence.
-special foods were prepared. Children wearing masks went from door to door ‘souling’- they begged for ‘soul cakes’ which were flat, oval shortbread biscuits, or little buns filled with currants and spices. If there were none, tricks were played on the guilty parties.
Does this all sound familiar?
Various vegetables were hollowed out and a face cut into it, and a candle placed inside. These were called jack-o-lanterns, from an Irish legend about an old stingy man called Jack. When he died he was not permitted into either heaven or hell, and was forced to wander the earth, carrying a lantern.
Children began to carry these Jack-o-lantern lights to frighten away evil spirits. When pumpkins were discovered in America, these were ideal for carving.
So-scary costumes were worn, jack-o-lanterns carried, special food requested, special games played, trick or treats carried out
A mixture of druid superstitions and paganism and Christianity.
What do we as Christians do with these activities these days?
I have some problems with the whole affair
-we urge children not to talk to strangers-then we encourage them to knock on stranger’s doors
I see it as organised begging.
-in a world were 2/3rds suffer from poverty , malnutrition, and polluted water supplies-we do not need to encourage children to ask for lollies.
If a celebration like this is not going to go away
What can we–as Christians-do?
We speak of it-BECAUSE it is linked to All Saint’s Day, All Hallow’s Day.
Pagan ways give way to the joy of the Resurrection and the reality of Eternal Life.
Now, let’s consider All Saint’s Day; in the past the church would have be filled with people. Wouldn’t that be a good time for a protest?
And that is what happened, because on October 31st, 1517, on All Hallow’s Eve (or Halloween), Martin Luther posted his 95 theses of protest (hence ‘Protestantism’-protest) to the Archbishop of Mainz, under whose authority indulgences were sold, and to the doors of All Saints’Church, Wittenberg (though some scholars say he didn’t do this until mid-November), knowing that the next day, these would be noticed when the crowds came to church (it was a time for the buying of indulgences; a practice that Luther detested-the idea that clergy could sell certificates to reduce punishment in purgatory for sins, and a time when holy relics in the church went on display).
So…Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, was the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
Public holidays. For the Grand Final, for a horse race, for a ‘thank you’ day. On October 31, 2017, on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it was a public holiday throughout Germany.
Could we see that happening here?
We are protestants, protesters!
This means that Protestants can celebrate October 31 NOT as Halloween in the pagan and now commercial sense (ie consuming vast quantities of sugar, dressing up) but as Reformation Day, and then the next day as All Saint’s Day.
On All Saint’s Day, we commemorate with joy the saints, men and women, who have gone to heaven and are now rejoicing with God forever.
Some people say that the ghosts-and-souls theme of Halloween is very appropriate for the eve of All Saint’s Day-for Satan is angry thinking about all those saints who slipped through his clutches!
We celebrate Christ, the Light of the world-who has already won the victory over darkness.
In honour of the living God, we give thanks for God’s gift of light, sun and warmth.
As Christians, we believe in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christians down the ages have risked their lives for this truth.
All Hallows Day-All Saints’ Day- was designed to remember the lives of well-known believers and those close to us.
It is a celebration of all the saints.
-a time when we remember not only those great believers of the past, our Christian heroes and martyrs, but also loved one and friends who have served Christ and are now in heaven.
It’s worth noting that in the Roman Catholic tradition, All Saint’s Day is followed by All Soul’s Day- a day when Christians pray for the dead.
-similar to All Saints, but with a slightly different focus.
A final word about ‘the communion of saints’.
We say this in the Apostle’s Creed.
What does it mean?
It certainly is important for All Saint’s Day.
The word ‘communion’ means any partnership, any fellowship, any experience in which people come together.
A word that is also used for fellowship with God.
Saints: not only the famous examples, the ones depicted on stained glass windows-the ones of holiness and piety,
but they are members of the church
those who have dedicated their lives to Christ-with all their very human faults and failings.
They are not so much the people who are different, as they are the people who with the help of Jesus Christ are trying to be different and to be Christ-like.
The foundation of the union between Christian and Christian is Jesus Christ, and therefore that union cannot be removed by death.
Charles Wesley wrote:
‘One family we dwell in him,
One Church, above, beneath,
though now divided by the stream,
the narrow stream of death.’
We believe that we have fellowship and communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
We believe that we can be conscious of the power of heaven around us and above us.
We believe that we have the fellowship with all the members of the Church on earth, and that the fellowship is inclusive-for all
and we believe that we have fellowship with those who have departed this life to be with God.
We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.
We march, with the saints of all times and places.
We do not walk the path of discipleship alone.
A great multitude walks with us
-encourages us, urges us on.
We are also to bear witness to the Light of the World
For All Saints Day-
‘the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.’ (John 1:5)
Prayer of the People
We pray for the world,
for those affected by Covid-19, and for their families, friends, and health professionals.
We pray for others who are ill, or burdened by life.
We continue to pray for the people of France, targeted again by a terrorist attack, in a church in Nice. As we pray today, on All Saint’s Day, we remember those 3 victims, who were martyred. May your peace, which is strongly and deeper than any earthly peace, enter the hearts of those who are grieving, and those who are shocked by this barbaric incident.
We pray for peace makers, and for those involved in keeping the peace.
We pray for the upcoming US Presidential election; may wisdom, justice, and compassion prevail.
We continue to pray for those in our own church communities, in our own families and suburbs, and country, who need our prayers.
In a time of silence, we bring them to you.
In the words our Saviour taught us, we are confident when we pray to say:
‘Our Father in heaven…’
‘Grant that I may not pray with my mouth alone; help me that I may pray from the depths of my heart.’
My God’s love fall soft upon your heads and upon your hearts.
May you see the many blessings from God during the coming week.
May Christ be your constant, unseen companion, His Spirit bringing you peace, easing any fear.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit