Visit our new site at

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - with all the company of heaven

This coming weekend is likely to be a busy one in most liturgical churches, I guess...In the valley and on the hill, we will keep All Saints on Sunday morning, but move to the more reflective and elegaic tone of All Souls in the afternoon, as we welcome back families we've met through funeral ministry...and on Monday there will be the full All Souls Requiem for the departed. I know that in some places, the focus of All Saints carries within it all the faithful departed, the saints of our own communities - and that might be something to work with in preaching.
Of course, you could be using the provision for Proper B26, which would take you to some quite different place in your preaching.
I don't want to conflate the two festivals of All Saints and All Souls (though the lectionary seems intent on encouraging this), but having preached the Revelation 21 reading at at least three of my recent tide of funerals there is alot I could say about John's wonderful vision of restoration and new hope, of the water of life pouring out for the thirsty...But there is a huge attraction in preaching Isaiah, with his promise of a feast for all people, - presaged as it is by the Eucharist. I might, perhaps, simply tell the story of my First Mass, of that sense that when we reached the Sanctus I was joined at the altar by all my own communion of saints, those whom I'd known and loved, and those from long ago whose lives and words had encouraged me on my journey. I might invite my congregation to pause and reflect on those with whom they are connected as the priest says
"Therefore with angels, and archangels and all the company of heaven..."

In fact, at church in the valley it's an All Age Sunday, so we might just find ourselves dishing out endless cardboard halos with the reminder that we are all called to saints...but there must be some better ideas.
Over to you, my friends.


  1. I've got the odd quandary of preaching at our regular service, then at a funeral in the afternoon..and the grieving widower has already said he wants me to preach on how his dead wife was one of the saints (although he chose the John reading about "in my father's house, there are many rooms").

    I may actually compare Jesus' healing of blind Bartimaeus in last week's reading from Mark with his raising of Lazarus in John this week. Not sure where I'll go with it yet, but that's the itch I'm scratching for now.

  2. I've been on maternity leave, and this will be my first Sunday back. I find myself looking forward to getting back into the pulpit, but anxious too. I'm out of practice! And it will be hard not to have my mind on my baby and on the services instead.

    Anyhoo, I do look forward to All Saints every year. I love uplifting how we are all connected, the living and the dead, through our Savior. And the Isaiah text is such a treasure trove of images! The gospel is such a long reading, I'm playing with the idea of involving the congregation in a reader's theater way of proclaiming it. Get them involved and participating in the Word, instead of eyes glazing over as we go through so many verses.

  3. I am not going with the All Saints readings but will reference the day, as well as a late reference to REformation Sunday as I deal with Ruth's statement of fidelity to Naomi.

    It will be the first of a short series on visioning.

    My early thoughts are here

  4. I have always wanted to hold an all Saints service which had not been done in my last two congregations. So now that I 'have the power' ha ha, we will have an AS service sunday. I'm using Ps. 24, Rev.21 and the John passage. At least so far. I'm using the 3 sections of Ps. 24 to divide the service into past, present, future but not hard divisions. We'll see if I stay that way as things develop. My early thoughts are here.

  5. Doing Ruth and looking for all the help I can find. I am trying to make myself do more Hebrew scrips as a challenge to my preaching.

  6. How did November come so fast? I completely forgot it was All Saints!

    Still don't know if I am preaching this week or next as quarterly preaching/presiding assignments aren't out yet. That's a good one to play with in case, though.

  7. The Rev. Dr. Wil GafneyOctober 27, 2009 at 7:55 PM

    I'm using the Wisdom of Solomon lesson and the gospel to talk about the ordinary-ness of the saints. "We Are the Saints."

  8. Two Wolves
    by unknown
    An elder Cherokee Native American was teaching his Grandchildren about life. He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me… it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
    “One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
    “The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
    “This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”
    They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
    The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

    And we know which one the Saints feed

  9. Hmm, I dont really think I know the difference between all saints and all souls for we reform folk. Ready to be educated!

    This Sunday will be the Shortest Sermon Evah, as it is communion with the children serving bread they have baked, there is an extra litany of remembrance with candle lighting in memory of loved ones, and commissioning of stewardship visitors.

    And somehow trying to do justice to both The New City and our pal Lazarus. My sermon title is "Unwrapped" but that's all I got so far. I'll check in later in the week when I have something actual to contribute to the conversation....

  10. I'm going with All Saints, as we have an annual candle-lighting liturgy for all of the families whose loved ones have been memorialized over the past year in our congregation.

    Plus, we have communion.

    And, we're worshiping with another congregation (thankfully in our own sanctuary!)

    So, like Jennifer, my reflection will be the shortest one Evah!!

    At this point, I have NO idea where I'm going with the theme.

  11. Going for an all saints theme but stumped by the choice of Lazarus as a gospel: I'm Reformed enough to want to say we're all saints, yet we're not allowed a 'get out of tomb free' card like Lazarus.
    Is this a nod in the direction of saintly incorruptibility or am I missing something?
    Seems like we're all a bit short of it this week...I'll try & pop back if/when I feel I've got somewhere! I'll be thinking about your 'Unwrapped' title, Juniper.
    Meanwhile prayers for all us poor earth-bound preaching saints...

  12. A question for Dr. Wil:

    Do you think on an All Saints Sunday I could get away with a brief mention of vampires and humanity's ongoing search for a means to eternal life?

    I was thinking about the centuries of fascination and the current interest in all things vampire in terms of our fear of what lies beyond this life. We don't ever want to find out, so we would rather have eternal life here, even if it means the classic problems of "movie" vampires (only allowed out at night etc...)

    Not sure if I can pull that off on a day when we're remembering the saints among us, but I'm wondering if the connection is surrender. If we embrace the Mystery that is death and trust that God's love embraces our dear departed, then we lose that need to grasp after mythical ways of living forever.

    Any thoughts? Anyone? (I directed the question toward Wil because of her expertise in this area, but am happy to hear any opinions)

  13. Not sure what Wil thinks but this academic theologian/priest thinks the vampire theme sounds great, Sue.

    Juniper, in Catholic tradition which originated it All Saints refers to everyone in heaven, esp. those that don't get a specific name or feastday, so includes our personal holy dead as well. All Souls, the next day, is devoted to all faithful departed and especially to praying for people still being healed/purified in purgatory that they may be fully transformed and come to heaven. Hence the traditional liturgy has strong elements of the requiem mass. But folk custom, eg in Mexico for Dia de los Muertos, sometimes divides it more official holy people on all saints and personal holy people presumed to be in heaven on all souls.

    Obviously this will be translated and adapted depending on denominational and personal theology about purgatory and intercession for and by the dead. I like to emphasize its positive aspect, a hospital or twelve step program not temporary hell, which CS Lewis thought was intuitive Christianity--that if we don't deal with our stuff here we deal with it there, make amends, realize things, pray for those we have hurt in life, etc.(the "holy souls" were both prayed for and asked to pray for us). Very healing and powerful esp. for dealing with people that have hurt us or others in grave ways and passed on and for generational cycles of abuse, addiction, etc. A real manifestation of the communion of saints. I have found
    much healing in praying for people like this, arguing stuff out and/or apologizing to them, etc. And it is one feature unfortunately left out of the sentimental standard funeral as instant canonization leaving people with tangled relationships with the deceased in a lot of pain....I sure hope people pray for me, cause I am going to need it, as well as celebrate my gifts when I die!

  14. The Rev. Dr. Wil GafneyOctober 28, 2009 at 7:00 PM

    Sue, I like the vampire angle!
    Ruth, I'm focusing on Lazarus - more Martha and Mary - as exemplars of sainthood: being friends with Jesus, including giving him a piece of your mind for being late. As far as the resurrection of Lazarus, I'm saying something like: There's no point in the life of a saint where we're too far gone to experience the love and life-giving touch of God in Christ Jesus. That may not be our everyday reality but it is part of our common story. Jesus bears our griefs even when we rage at him. A sometimes we receive an unimaginable transformation.

  15. Thanks Wil and Sophia, I'm still working on the angle there, but I like what I have put together so far. I'm glad I have a few days to reflect and pray on it.

  16. I'm with the Ruth crowd though we will name and remember our loved ones through candle-lighting as part of communion (we name, remember and feast with our saints).

    We've spent the last 4 weeks in Job as it has paralleled a division in our church and the loss of friends. We will turn to Ruth for hope in moving forward as we too covenant to follow God together, even if it means entering strange territory and embracing the unfamiliar.

    I hurt for the pain my congregation has been through...and those who continue to inflict it as they try and get their way, even if from a distance. Please include these wounded souls in your prayers.

  17. Dear RevSis,
    we will be in prayer for your people who choose hurting others over love. may God's amazing peace fill them all. and that peace protect you

  18. I love All Saints, but I'm not thrilled with the RCL readings, so I've opted to use the readings from the BCP lectionary which has Matthew 5:1-12 as the gospel. I don't usually do this, but I'm drawing on a sermon I used a few years ago playing off one of my favorite hymns "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God"--which will make (I hope) a nice segue into our All Saints Celebration Sunday evening.


You don't want to comment here; instead, come visit our new blog, We'll see you there!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.