Hymns and Lessons for All Saints (Cycle C)

This Sunday is All Saints Day. During the Processional, worshipers who will have brought votive candles from home will join the Processional to commemorate a loved one who has died. During the Processional, worshipers will carry their lit candle to the altar, place the candle on the altar, and speak aloud the name of the person who has died and for whom they still grieve.These people, whose names are spoken at the altar, are among the saints. They may no longer walk among us here on earth, but their lights still shine before the throne of God.

This extremely moving act of worship, brings the entire worshiping congregation before the throne of God on All Saints Day. All Saints Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of November. On this day each year, the Church remembers all those who have gone before us in the faith and are now in Heaven. We do this in the fundamental belief that there is a powerful, prayerful spiritual bond between those in Heaven (the Church Triumphant) and those of us who are still on our pilgrimage here on earth (the Church Militant.) Holy Trinity also honors and remembers those who have died “from this congregation” since last year’s All Saints Day by naming their names before God in the Prayer of the Church.

We do these things every year on All Saints as a way to remind ourselves that we do grieve, but not as those who have no hope. God created us to live in eternity with Him; He paid the price for our sins by Christ’s death on the cross, He claimed us as His own on the day of our Baptism, and He will never let anyone who has been entrusted to His care slip through His fingers. As we pray in the Prayer of the Day: “Almighty and everlasting God, You knit together Your faithful people of all times and all places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You.”

William Shakespeare said “I have longings of immortality in me.” So do we all. Praise be to Jesus who, by His death, took away the sting of death. May He grant us so to follow in faith where He has led the way that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in in Him and wake in His likeness … as have generations of saints before us.

The Processional is “For All the Saints”: (As always, subscribers to my blog will need to click on the title of the blog to see the YouTube videos of the hymns.)

The words are: 1) For all the saints who from their labors rest, all who by faith before the world confessed, Your name, O Jesus, be forever blest. Alleluia! Alleluia! 2) You were their rock, their fortress, and their might; You, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight; You, in the darkness drear, their one true light. Alleluia! Alleluia! 3) Oh, may Your soldiers, faithful, true, and bold, fight as the saints who nobly fought of old and win with them the victor’s crown of gold. Alleluia! Alleluia! 4) Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine, we feebly struggle, they in glory shine; yet all are one within Your great design. Alleluia! Alleluia! 5) And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song, and hearts are brave again and arms are strong. Alleluia! Alleluia! 6) The golden evening brightens in the west; soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest; sweet is the calm of paradise the blest. Alleluia! Alleluia! 7) But then there breaks a yet more glorious day the saints triumphant rise in bright array; the King of Glory passes on His way. Alleluia! Alleluia! 8) From earth’s wide bounds, from oceans farthest coast, through gates of pearl streams in the countless host, singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: Alleluia! Alleluia!

In the Prayer of the Day we pray: Almighty and everlasting God, You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You.

The scriptures for All Saints are Revelation 7:9-17; Psalm 149; 1 John 3:1-3 and Matthew 5:1-12. Today’s lessons are much loved! 1 John 3:1-3 reminds us that although we are God’s children already, what we shall some day be is not yet known; what IS known already is that someday we shall see God “as He is.” In Revelation 7:9-17, we are shown “that great multitude which no one could number” standing before the throne of God clothed in the righteousness of Christ (which is what the white robes are); the truly blessed saints of God. Finally in Matthew 5:1-12, in the dearly beloved Beatitudes, Jesus teaches the crowds — and all who have gathered around Him through the centuries — that true blessedness doesn’t depend on health, earthly prosperity, or even earthly happiness. True blessedness depends on belonging to Jesus Christ, the Blessed One Himself. Until that day comes when we take our place among that “host arrayed in white” we live by faith in Jesus. This means that no matter how bad things may get, no matter how much we may mourn or hunger and thirst for righteousness in the present, we know that the day will come when everything will all work out just as Jesus has promised. How do we know? Because He is risen! In this life, we will know tears of pain, tears of sorrow, tears of disappointment and despair. But the Lamb in the midst of the throne is even now our shepherd. He will guide us to springs of living water, and the day will come when God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. In the meantime, we must let it be enough to know that Jesus has come to pour out forgiveness and eternal life on each one of us. We can let our future affect our present. And for that reason alone, we ARE blessed.

The Hymn of the Day is the lovely “Behold the Host.” Originally a Norwegian folk song, this was arranged as a hymn by Edvard Grieg. The words refer to St. John’s vision of heaven, (Revelation 7:9-17, which we read today) where people from all nations and races are together in peace and happiness: the host arrayed in white. The instrument the musician is playing is is a Mobius Megatar in uncrossed parallel fourths. (I just thought you might wonder about it.)

The words are: 1) Behold the host arrayed in white like thousand snowclad mountains bright, that stands with palms and sings its psalms before the throne of light! These are the saints who kept God’s Word; they are the honored of the Lord. He is their prince who drowned their sins, so they were cleansed, restored. They now serve God both day and night; they sing their songs in endless light. Their anthems ring when they all sing with angels shining bright. 2) On earth their work was not thought wise, but see them now in heaven’s eyes; before God’s throne of precious stone they shout their vict’ry cries. On earth they wept through bitter years; now God has wiped away their tears, transformed their strife to heav’nly life, and freed them from their fears. For now they have the best at last; they keep their sweet eternal feast. At God’s right hand our Lord commands; He is both Host and guest. 3) O blessed saints, now take your rest; a thousand times shall you be blest for keeping faith firm unto death and scorning worldly trust. For now you live at home with God and harvest seeds once cast abroad in tears and sight. See with new eyes the pattern in the seed. The myriad angels raise their song. O saints, sing with that happy throng; lift up one voice; let heav’n rejoice in our Redeemer’s song!

The Distribution Hymn is the much beloved “Shall We Gather at the River” And I do love this version!

The words are: 1) Shall we gather at the river, where bright angel feet have trod, with its crystal time forever flowing by the throne of God? Refrain: Yes, we’ll gather at the river, the beautiful, the beautiful river; gather with the saints at the river that flows by the throne of God. 2) On the margin of the river, washing up its silver spray, we will walk and worship ever, all the happy golden day. Refrain: 3) Ere we reach the shining river, lay we ev’ry burden down; grace our spirits will deliver, and provide a robe and crown. Refrain: 4) Soon we’ll reach the shining river, soon our pilgrimate will cease; soon our happy hearts will quiver with the melody of peace. Refrain:

The Recessional Hymn is “O God Our Help In Ages Past” This glorious hymn was inspired by the only psalm we have by MOSES: In Psalm 90, Moses prays, “Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or You brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God.” (Psalm 90:1) Later in the same Psalm, Moses prays “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12). Just think of it! In liturgical worship, we are given the chance to pray together with Moses. How great is that?

The timing of this version of the hymn isn’t exactly the way we sing it, but the whole video is so beautiful I couldn’t resist it (even though the video wrongly points out that this hymn was based on a “Psalm of David”.)

The words are: 1) O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home: 2) Under the shadow of Your throne Your saints have dwelt secure; sufficient is Your arm alone, and our defense is sure. 3) Before the hills in order stood or earth received its frame, from everlasting You are God, to endless years the same. 4) A thousand ages in Your sight are like an evening gone, short as the watch that ends the night before the rising sun. 5) Time, like an ever-rolling stream, soon bears us all away; we fly forgotten as a dream dies at the op’ning day. 6) O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, still be our guard while troubles last and our eternal home!

This one has the timing we use. And it’s pretty good, too.

I hope to see each of you at worship this week! (And don’t forget your candle!) 

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