Call to Worship (based on the Beatitudes):Happy are we
when our treasures cannot be counted.
Happy are we
when our knowledge is balanced by mystery.
Happy are we
when our pain is held in the arms of God.
Happy are we
when our joy comes from beyond ourselves.
HYMN 130 Ye servants of God
Living God, this is a day of blessedness,
when we take the opportunity to come together,
to the very House of God,
to give thanks for Your goodness and grace.
This is a day when we pause,
to take note,
to see and know what’s around us,
and to give thanks for Your many blessings.
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.
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.”
So, 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.
The Lord’s Prayer
Revelation 7: 9-17
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
‘Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.’
All the angels were standing round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, saying:
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honour
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes – who are they, and where did they come from?’
I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’
And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore,
‘they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
“Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,”
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the centre of the throne
will be their shepherd;
“he will lead them to springs of living water.”
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”’
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
HYMN 557 O Love that wilt not let me go
The Occupy Movement gained a great deal of attention over the years. Do you remember them occupying streets around the Parliament in Westminster? What about their blockade of Lothian Road on a busy Saturday, or the east end of Princess Street during the evening rush hour? These kinds of activities were carried out across many of the westernised countries of the world. The list of places affected goes on and on. The tactic of occupying, or blocking streets, was certainly not a new one, and it is an approach taken up by other groups. Last week we saw Extinction Rebellion occupy the main road outside the ‘Ineos’ plant in Grangemouth.
The Occupy movement pointed to economic inequality, corporate greed and wrongdoing, the need for jobs. The movement rightly identified places of injustice, places where change still is needed. Many of us will share their concerns. They are right to speak out. We need to hear and pay attention. I wonder, though, whether much will change or can change. The movement to occupy is not new. It has been the way of humanity from the beginning. Adam and Eve wanted to occupy the garden. Egypt wanted to occupy Israel. Israel wanted to occupy ‘the promised land’. Rome wanted to occupy the Jews. The Pharisees and Herodians wanted to occupy Jesus.
The desire to occupy has never ended. The desire to occupy is a desire to take over. It is often an unspoken reason for our wars. It is one thing that is held in common by the conservatives and liberals of the Church. It keeps what is effectively the two-party system of Westminster campaigning and debating. The struggle to occupy is not just limited to national or global issues. It is also personal and local. Each one of us could probably describe the ways in which we have tried to occupy situations, places, even people. It is in our marriages, our business disputes, our local communities and organizations. We learn to occupy at a young age. Watch two children arguing over a toy and you will see the struggle to occupy. Wherever you find conflict, violence, or brokenness you are also likely to find the struggle to occupy.
Everyone wants to occupy but not many want to be occupied. Before one can be trusted to occupy, however, one must first be occupied. That is, perhaps, what sets apart the saints; why their lives are worth studying, their words worth reading, their example worth emulating. Think of Mother Theresa in the streets of Calcutta. Recall the Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero assassinated for his work and words in El Salvador. Go read about Archbishop Desmond Tutu working for reconciliation in South Africa. Each one was willing to be occupied by a life other than their own and values greater than the ones of their own time and place. That is the way of saints and the way of discipleship.
That is why I am not convinced the Occupy Movement, and groups who use the same approach, will be able to change much. Both sides are occupying from the same set of values: power, control, security, opportunity, wealth. They are trying to occupy the same space. The rich have taken from the poor so now the poor will take back from the rich. The score may change but the game goes on and on. We cannot overcome evil by fighting it head on, on its own terms, but by transcending it.
Until we move to a different place, a different perspective, a different way of being we will continue to do the same thing over and over. Despite our best intentions we will continue to get the same results we always have. This is true in our families, our schools, our churches, our county, our world. The only thing that will change is who occupies.
Reallocation is not enough. Christ did not come to simply redistribute resources but to demonstrate, teach, and call us to a new way of being. We do not need another new way of doing the same old thing. We need to learn how to be different. The new way does not begin in an economic or political system, but in the human heart. That is, I think, why St. Anthony moved to the desert, St. Francis renounced his father’s wealth, and St. Julian of Norwich locked herself in a life of prayer. They wanted a new way. Throughout the ages the saints have echoed Christ’s call to a new level of being and living.
Einstein is attributed with saying, “No problem can solved by the same level of consciousness that created it.” Remember the children and the toy? Until they can rise to a consciousness of sharing, the bickering back and forth will continue. Before Einstein ever said his words, however, Jesus understood, lived, and demonstrated them. That is why he took the disciples “up the mountain,” the place that reaches toward heaven. It is the invitation to life in the kingdom.
Going up the mountain is more about an interior movement than a geographical one. Jesus was raising the disciples’ perspective, giving them a different view, offering a larger vision. He took them to a new level of being. There he taught them to be occupied by poverty in spirit, mourning, meekness, hunger and thirst for righteousness, mercy, purity in heart, peace-making, and the willingness to be persecuted for the righteousness of Jesus himself. That is a hard way of being. It is about surrender rather than control, vulnerability rather than risk, searching rather than satisfaction. It is the way of Christ. Jesus knows and has shown us that this new way of being heals the human heart, transforms lives, and reveals the blessing of God.
The beatitudes are not a to do list, eight helpful hints for happy living, or utopian ideals. They are Jesus’ core values. They define Jesus’ life and ministry. They are at the heart of his teaching, his healing, his life and death. Jesus is not telling us what to do but how to be.
The world does not need smarter, harder working, more beautiful, busier, or more successful people. The world needs people of the Beatitudes, occupied people, who speak, act, pray, and relate from the level of kingdom consciousness. That is who the saints of every age are. It is who we are to become. The saints are not God’s little overachievers. They are ordinary people who allowed themselves to be occupied by the life of Christ and his values.
If the Feast of All Saints is about remembering, honouring, and learning from the saints then it is also about examining our own lives. Where and how do the beatitudes shape our lives? How do our lives manifest the beatitudes? In every relationship, place, and circumstance we must answer this question: Do we occupy or do we allow ourselves to be occupied? Power and headlines may come by occupying but life and blessings come by being occupied.
O Lord our God,
we thank you for the many people
who have followed your way of life joyfully:
for the many saints and martyrs, men and women
who have offered up their very lived
so that your life abundant
may become manifest
and your kingdom may advance
They chose the way of your Son,
our brother, Jesus Christ.
In the midst of trial, they held out hope;
in the midst of persecutions, they witnessed to your power;
in the midst of despair, they clung to your promise.
O Lord, we thank you for the truth
they have learned and passed on to us.
Give us courage to follow their way of life.
For your love and faithfulness
we will at all times praise your name.
We pray for the millions in our world who must go hungry today,
all who are exploited and marginalized
because of their caste or class, colour or sex,
that they may not lose their hope,
and may find the strength to struggle for their dignity.
We call upon you for those who are persecuted, imprisoned, tortured
or threatened with death because of their witness to justice and peace.
For those who have “disappeared” because they dared to speak,
that their spirits may not be broken by their bodies’ pain.
We remember those who live in regions torn by tension and war,
by disaster, famine and poverty…
We pray especially for those countries whose struggle with pandemic
is more difficult than ours.
We pray for the people of the United States, as they approach their elections;
may they vote with wisdom and generosity of spirit.
We pray for the millions of refugees around the world,
that in the midst of tears and bitterness
they may discern signs of hope.
Lord, into your hands we commend our earth,
ever threatened with disaster,
and all persons and situations we have spoken about,
written down or remembered in the silence of our hearts this day.
Strengthen our will for peace and justice;
increase our faith in your kingdom
where “love and faithfulness will meet,
righteousness and peace will embrace”
and may your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven.
HYMN 738 Glorious things of Thee are spoken
God is the glory and joy of all His holy ones,
whose memory we celebrate today.
May His blessing be with you always.
May their example of holy living
turn your thoughts to service of God and neighbour
until you come to share in the joys of our Father’s house.
May almighty God bless you,
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Scripture Readings: Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV®
Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Opening Prayers by Tom Gordon; from Church of Scotland Weekly worship for today.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession from “Choose Life; Choose Peace with Justice,” in Midday Prayers for Peace and Justice on Hiroshima Day, August, 2010. Posted on the World Council of Churches website. http://www.oikoumene.org/