Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….
Blessed are you, God of our salvation.
As we turn to you in prayer,
be with us and reveal to us your ways
From your self-revelation in Jesus
teach us how to live in ways that honor you:
by humbling ourselves;
by being content with what we have
rather than striving for more;
by caring, and cooperating,
rather than competing in unhealthy ways.
Teach us, giver of all goodness,
to be strong in your strength
for the sake of the gospel.
Help us honor your prodigal grace,
by living as doers of peace
in this world you love. Amen.
let us begin today’s worship
CALL TO WORSHIP
L: As we gather, we remember that we are not alone!
P: We gather with the saints,
who live in the presence of God,
singing praises to the God of our salvation.
L: From every nation, race, clan and culture,
God’s people gather to worship
P: To God and to the Lamb, all honor, glory,
wisdom, thanksgiving, strength and power.
L: Blessed be God, now and forever! Amen!
For All the Saints #299
5 When Jesus[a] saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely[b] on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The word of God for the people of God!
Thanks be to God!
Sermon Today we Lift up death:
Today we celebrate dia de los muertos – the day of the dead which coincides with all saints day and all souls day.
These Holidays have their origins as far back as ancient Egypt where they believed the spirits of the dead returned each fall to visit the living and they welcomed these spirits with lights and food. These traditions spread to Rome and eventually found their way into Christianity.
The Official day of the dead, officially named All Souls Day in the Catholic Church, is celebrated on November 2, the day after All Saints Day. Although, not recognizable as such in its current hyper commercial incarnation, Halloween – a time of visitation by the dead -- is part of this tradition.
Of course at the center of this tradition lies the dark and gloomy figure of death. Why should we invite this fearful figure into our midst, which we would rather not get to know? Why make Death more distinct and palpable? The poet Rainer Maria Rilke described the task of the poet this way: “to confirm confidence toward death out of the deepest delights and glories of life; to make death, who never was a stranger, more distinct and palpable again as the silent knowing participant in everything alive.” This is an invitation to befriend death to become familiar with the transition from this world to the next which is part of life and not to be feared.
In not so distance a time we lived with our elderly and our infirmed. They were in our homes and it was the younger people’s responsibility to care and look after their elders and or infirmed. When one passed the family was all around the person, offering prayers and mourning. The woman would then gather wash and dress the body for viewing. People from the community, friends, and loved ones would come to the home to pay their respects to the dead and the living. They would bring food to be shared and often drink as well. They would reminisce about the person’s life and have a good time all the while the body was in the living room.
Death was a common and expected experience.
Nowadays death is often removed from us. It occurs in hospitals and or nursing homes. Yet when given the choice most people state they would like to die at home with loved ones around. We, as a society, have made death something to fear, to only whisper about. We often find ourselves at a loss of words. Many of us do not even like to walk into hospitals, nursing homes, and especially not mortuaries. Why is that? Well, they remind us, not of those we lost, but of our own mortality. Yet it is a fact of life and it is a part of life. It is the ultimate goal of life.
I had a professor who would say “I hate to tell you this but it is not a matter of if you die but when.” You know for some young people that is a hard thing to hear. When someone is in their mid-twenties they are still of the mind set we are going to live forever.
Well guess what . . . you are.
Just not the way you think you will.
The Day of the Dead is a creative response to one of the most important questions in human life: what does my death mean? This is a question born of fear -- our fear of the ultimate unknown. What brings this fear, of course, is our experience of the deaths of those who populate our lives.
Each of us wants to know, not only what one’s own death means, but also what meaning to make of the deaths of those others. We ask these questions from many different vantage points in relation to death – young or old, healthy or sick, working with death in our jobs or rarely seeing it, but no matter. Questions about death are something we all have in common.
The theologian, James Carse, tells the story of one family’s answer to these questions. He met them at a lakeside vacation retreat. They said they were attending a group meeting with a channeler of communications with the dead – that they did this regularly to be connected to a family member who had died, and who had been the central figure in the life of the family.
They spoke of the missing member in the present tense, as if he might show up at the lake later in the afternoon to take a dip with them. Carse happened to ask them how long they had been doing the channeling with the one who died. Twenty-nine years, came the calm answer. He was stunned by this distance, but for this family, their missing relative was as present to them as Carse’s nine-year-old child was to him --. He described the family this way:
“These were people who had sought to have death taken away – and death was taken away. Death was now but one event in an unbroken cycle of events, and therefore no longer death. Death no more ended anything in their lives than a leap from the diving board ended the swimmers’ play. Life and death had merged into a timeless whole that nothing could disturb. I could not help feeling that when they got what they asked for, it was not death that ended; it was their lives that had ended. I could not know them where they lived. I could only look on with an indulgent smile. I sat next to them that afternoon – but twenty-nine years away.”
This family that Carse describes had not mourned. Had experienced no loss, no separation, no sadness. They were stuck, Stuck in the death of a family member for 29 years, never moving on, never letting go, never healing.
There is a process that one must move through in order to remain healthy and sane. Dr. Kubler-Ross was the first to put the stages of grief into a context. Now these stages here as described are for one who has received a diagnosis but they translate to all grief they just manifest a little differently.
The progression of grief is:
1. Denial – "I feel fine."; "This can't be happening, not to me." Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. This feeling is generally replaced with heightened awareness of positions and individuals that will be left behind after death.
2. Anger – "Why me? It's not fair!"; "How can this happen to me?"; "Who is to blame?" Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Any individual that symbolizes life or energy is subject to projected resentment and jealousy.
3. Bargaining – "Just let me live to see my children graduate."; "I'll do anything for a few more years."; "I will give my life savings if..." The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, "I understand I will die, but if I could just have more time..."
4. Depression – "I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"; "I'm going to die... What's the point?"; "I miss my loved one, why go on?" During the fourth stage, the dying person begins to understand the certainty of death. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This process allows the dying person to disconnect oneself from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed.
5. Acceptance – "It's going to be okay."; "I can't fight it, I may as well prepare for it." In this last stage, the individual begins to come to terms with his mortality or that of his loved one. One moves back and forth jumping through these stages at various times it is not a simple progression but a process never the less.
It is interesting to note that toward the end of her own life Dr. Ross stated there should be another stage. Frustration when one is ready to go but remains living.
These stages of grief apply to any and all kinds of loss whether it be for the family home due to a catastrophe, loss of a pet or the ending of a friendship. We move through these stages in one way or another for they are all a form of death.
Let’s go back to the question: To ask what our death means is to ask what it would be like to live life as if there were always an ultimate deadline on the horizon – because in fact there is. We should treat time as precious and the perishable commodity this means being alive should be treated as something of great value.
Our experience of mortality thus focuses our attention on the question of the value of our lives. We want to know, do our lives make a difference? Do they matter? What we long to know is not whether they matter just for the fleeting few moments – historically speaking – that we are onstage.
But rather, do they matter in a way that is lasting. This is a question not only about what is valuable, but more importantly, about how our lives become valuable. If having a life that matters means having a life that is valuable, where do we get the value? Certainly part of the answer is that we create it from within ourselves. Yet the greatest value came more than 2000 years ago.
There is a song that is a favorite of mine it tells the story of as a child one enjoyed imaginary friends and walking and playing with them but as the man got older he had lost his way. The song of “Christopher Robin” by Kenny logins, in which the lyrics say help me if you can I need to get back to the house at pooh corner by 1. But I've wandered much further today than I should and I can't seem to find my way back to the Woods.”
I like this song for it reminds us that we must have that child-like wonder. The child like wonder to hear the words of today’s Gospel. When Christ tells us we are blessed when we;
are poor in spirit, that is when the kin-dom of heaven is ours.
We are blessed when we mourn, because we are comforted.
When we are meek, we inherit the earth.
When we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we are filled.
When we are merciful, we receive mercy.
When we act pure in heart, we see God.
When we work to be peacemakers, that is when we are called children of God.
are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, then ours is the kingdom of heaven.
Today we celebrate the communion. Christ stated I live because of the creator so whoever eats this bread will live because of me. That is the Value of our lives. So valuable that Christ allows us to participate in life through him and the creator with the spirit. Christ is our way back to the woods. We have to shed all disbelief and often, what we do believe in order to get back to the message of Christ’s salvation through the table and through our lives.
It is Jesus’ assurance that there is new life, a new covenant to be given by him through his resurrection. It is through Jesus’ resurrection this promise is fulfilled! This covenant so strongly made in the love and the life that he poured out that it snapped time. Hear me, Time itself was changed. .the laws of physics broken for each time . . . wherever, whenever we enact this simple meal of bread and fruit of the vine, we are there. We are there and Christ is here renewing that covenant. We have to put away our adult hood; we have to put away our skepticism we have to get back that childhood awe and amazement and take on a simple belief.
Jesus loved us so much that he made a promise in a small upper room. He willingly handed himself over to the roman guards and allowed himself to suffer and die only to rise again on the third day. They say the earth shook, the curtain in the temple rent, the light was so bright that when the stone was rolled away the guards fled in fear. Time snapped and the promise made at a simple meal 3 nights before, became alive and transcendent in the resurrection!
It carries on constantly day in and day out around the world; the love that was promised is promised again manifested and made real. It is the value of our lives and our transition. For through the Bread of life, through Jesus the Christ, one day we will transition from this life of faith into a life of knowing. Do not doubt it. It is really a simple thing to believe. In Mathew 18:3 it says we must become childlike. That simple faith, that simple way of believing, must become true in us again.
Santa, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy, yes even Winnie the Pooh; we rationalize and outgrow these tales. But I tell you the tale of the last supper, the redemption of the cross, and the resurrection we cannot afford to outgrow. We need to believe in a love so great that it can fill us, sustain us, and carry us through any adversity, any disappointment, and even the heart ache of loss of loved ones.
Today day we celebrate all saints day, the day of the dead, all souls day. We honor those who have honored us with their lives. By living with Christ, we are called to live life to the fullest for when we transition from this life to the next, we will be prepared to know love and live in the fullest of the covenant of the bread of life that is Jesus the Christ.
Listen to this poem and pray it with me;
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom
goes on as fruit.
Let this poem be a candle that your soul holds out to you, requesting that you find a way to remember what it is to live a life with passion, on purpose. There is only enough light to take the journey step by step, but that is all any of us really needs.
When you have the courage to shape your life from the essence of who you are, and who God is in you, through you, you ignite, becoming truly alive, alive in the Love and Life of Christ. I pray these words today find their way to your heart and comfort your soul, amen.
i Mood, John. Rilke on Death and Other Odditites. Xlibris, 2007.
iii Kübler-Ross, E. (2002). On death and dying ; Questions and answers on death and dying ; On life after death. New York, NY: Quality Paperback Book Club.
iv House at Pooh Corner [Recorded by 1014204750 780250769 K. Loggins & 1014204751 780250769 J. Messina]. (1971). On Sittin In [Vinyl recording]. Columbia studios: Jim Messina. (1971 April)
A call to prayer
This is a time of sharing.
A time of lifting, lifting up our hearts
In gratitude and supplication.
What joys do you have to share,
What needs weigh on your heart?
Bring them here in community that we may all lift them up to God.
Please write your joys and concerns in the comment section and I will lift them up after this hymn
HYMN #11 Bring many Names
Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us
Our Creator, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kin-dom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen
Invitation to the Offering
God is with us each day offering so many blessings. Now let us offer bring gifts in an attitude of praise and thanksgiving. May our gifts and the lives that they represent serve the mission of our church today in the spirit of those we call saints who have gathered in faith before us. AMEN.
Holy God, thank you for the great cloud of witnesses
that surrounds us as we worship.
Their diversity reminds us of your infinite grace
to all your creatures.
Thank you for the vision of a world at peace:
paradise restored, where no one hungers,
no one thirsts, and no one is wanting.
You guide us to the source of living water
and invite us to drink deeply of your love.
Your magnificent generosity
evokes our deepest thanks.
And so receive these offerings,
that we may join that great cloud of witnesses
as we share our gifts with others. Amen.
Celebration of Holy Communion
(Please if you have not already prepared elements for communion do so. Remember that even an English muffin can become a sacrament, even a cup of water or tea can become a remembrance of God’s redeeming love)
For Holy Communion this morning,
I invite you to lend Christ your table.
We recall that once a long time ago Jesus gathered with his friends in a room. Men, woman, children, free and slave, Jewish, roman, tax collector and priest all gathered as friends to celebrate a feast.
We do not know all the conversations that were shared. We do not know the menu of the day. Yet by faith we proclaim these words.
The Communion words sent to the church at Corinth.
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed
took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks,
he broke it and said,
“This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
Sharing of the Elements
Leader: Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Bread of Heaven.
Unison: We are one in Christ in the bread we share.
Leader: Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Cup of Blessing.
Unison: We are one in Christ in the cup we share.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Let us pray in thanksgiving for this meal of grace,
rejoicing that, by the very method of our worship,
we have embodied the truth that Christ’s love
is not limited by buildings made with human hands,
nor contained in human ceremonies,
but blows as free as the Spirit in all places.
Spirit of Christ, you have blessed our tables and our lives.
May the eating of this Bread give us courage to speak faith and act love, not only in church sanctuaries, but in your precious world,
and may the drinking of this Cup renew our hope
even in the midst of pandemic.
Wrap your hopeful presence around all
whose bodies, spirits and hearts need healing,
and let us become your compassion and safe refuge. Amen
The office is open for regular hours
We are accepting donations for the kidz cupboard and the food pantry
I am available for one on one virtual visits or phone calls if you need any prayer we will be together again one day, but until then remember you are the hands and the feet of our lord in this world and in this world of no physical contact we can still smile, wave, chat, check in
#43 Love Divine All love excelling (time stamp 12:36)
Lord, we have listened to your word for us this day. We are grateful for the love of Jesus who takes our burdens and lightens our spirits. Be with us today as we leave this place. May we continue to place our trust in you, for it is in the name of Jesus that we pray. AMEN.
May the Spirit of God, who is above all and in all and through all,
fill you with the knowledge of God’s presence in Earth
and the pulsing of Christ within you.
Go in peace!
Serving Christ and loving all creatures!