I am leading the reflection on sunday to celebrate All Saints day. We use the church calender to tell the story of our faith throughout the year and this sunday we remember that we are part of a great chain of faith and celebrate those who have faithfully followed God.
Below is what I am proposing at the moment, showing this presentation (we're losing starwars music and sticking to U2/Greenday "the saints are coming"), getting folk to make a huge paperchain and telling the story of us as God's people.
All thoughts, critique, suggestions would be welcome. And if anyone can think of a prayer for the church to finish with that would be fab! Thank you...
Today we are remembering the Sunday in the church calendar called all saints day. In doing so we are joining with churches across our world to celebrate being part of the people of God and also to celebrate the great family of God who have lived in faith and therefore made possible for us to be here as Christians today.
St Paul as the clip shows talks about us being cheered on in the present by a cloud of the saints from the past. King David in the Psalms gives us another picture of this, in psalm 145 he says
One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts
It is if he imagines a flowing river or a great chain of faith, running from way back in the past, through the present and on into the future.
Symbolic activity – making a paper chain
Explain paper chain:
- Take paper strip,
- write down on it the name of a Saint, person from the past or present, from the bible or your life who has inspired and/or influenced you and your faith.
- Staple your paper in a loop and then let the person on your right loop theirs through it, and so on, when you get to the end of the row link it to the row behind you.
Whilst you are doing that, I’ll remind you of God's story, our story, of the chain of faith that he is creating just as we are creating this paper one…
God’s story/our story…
It is a story of how God chose one man and woman, Abraham and Sarah, who were childless and gave them a vision that through them they would have a family that would be more than the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on a beech.
This old couple conceived a son, Isaac, who in turn had a son Jacob, who had 12 sons. This family grew and moved to Egypt as refugees from a feminine in their own land.
That family were there for 400 yrs and in that time grew to be a numerous people, the Hebrews. The Egyptians who had welcomed them now feared them, persecuted them, enslaved them so the Hebrews cried out to their God.
God heard their cries and raised up Moses to lead them to the land he had promised them. God liberated them from Egypt and dwelt with them as they journeyed through the desert.
This people of God settled in the land and grew in number, they reached the zenith of their power in the glittering rule of King David and his son King Solomon. But after that the people turned from God, prophets begged them to return but they were ignored, the kingdom disintegrated, they were conquered, exiled, returned and were ruled over by foreign empires.
For almost 400 yrs silence from God. The prophets had promised a messiah would come to save the people and everyone was waiting, yearning for this saviour, this liberating king who would restore the people. No one expected that this would be God’s son, that he would be born as a baby, a weak human in an inglorious stable.
Jesus who was both man and God, he lived his life in obedience to the Father, and challenged people to lay down their lives for others rather than for live for themselves. Jesus who called a group of disciples together and taught them that God was still on a mission of restoring our humanity by gathering a people who would bear his family image, a God that wanted to liberate through them the poor and the oppressed, to heal the sick and to find the lost.
Jesus, was crucified by a conspiracy of the religious establishment and the Roman occupiers. But he overcame death and after three days God raised him from the dead. Jesus returned to heaven but sent the Holy Spirit to lead his church. From a handful of people in an upper room the Spirit descended as fire on them, giving them courage and the power to speak in every language of those who were passing by. St Peter stood up in front of a disbelieving crowd and preached the sermon of his life resulting in 4,000 people believing in Jesus and joining the fledgling church.
That was just the start of a fire that once lit has never been quenched From there the church met together, shared life, broke bread and worshipped together. At first it was Jewish men and women who believed the good news about Jesus the liberating King. But this revolutionary good news about Jesus was bigger than race, gender or religion. The news of Jesus as liberating King spread, across the known Roman world, people were declaring that Jesus was Lord and not Caesar, that life was about loving, giving, serving others because God had first loved, given of his own and served them.
As the church grew it faced tremendous persecution, as the transforming power of the good news spread people were killed, tortured, shunned for being Christians but still they kept on loving and serving. At the height of the plague it was the Christians who took in and cared for the sick and this radical act of love changed the perception of people until Christians were welcome and Christianity became the official religion of the empire
The church grew in numbers and diversity. The doctrines of the Christian faith set out in the creeds were formed over 400 years of prayer, debate, thought and the leading of the Holy Spirit. In the same manner the texts of what today we call the bible were chosen, old and new testament, the stories of people of God following God.
As with any gathering of people doing life together, we get to see each other at our best and our worst. Sin happens, divisions occurred, first between east and west and then between protestants and Catholics. But still the church grew, for most people it was not these heady matters but getting on with the mundane everyday life of faith in Jesus, praying, serving, loving and passing this faith on to their children.
The church though flawed as been about these people gathering together to share their faith and then going out in the world to serve their friends, families and communities. We still follow this rhythm, trying to follow God together as a community in the face of the joys, hardships and ordinariness of life.
We may not face the persecution that the church has faced in the past or still does in parts of our world today. Instead in our time we face apathy and an individualism that tempts us to follow a private and personal faith that is about making us happy as long as we don’t stop anyone else doing what makes them happy.
Our faith is personal but it can never be private. Our faith is personal but it can never be individual, we are called to be part of the people of God. If belief in Jesus was a private faith, an individualistic faith, we would not be here today. As a church we are here because of the public faithfulness and service of the saints of the church past. Our mission is to take what we have received and live it out, so that we pass on a living and loving faith in Jesus to the next generation. And in doing so, when we are history we will still be found cheering on the future generations of Christians to come who in turn will remember us as a faithful link in the chain.
One day this great chain of living faith will be united. Beginning, middle, end, all united together at the end of all time before the throne of God who is beyond time and every other limit of the ages. We will all be joined together in joyful home coming celebration; the greatest family reunion the world has ever seen taking place on a renewed heaven and a renewed earth.
Join ends of the paper chain together
Every tongue, every tribe, every nation, every age will be there, alive, resurrected, our bodies restored, recognisable and yet transformed. There we will embrace, laugh, dance, and share stories together, marvel at the interconnectedness of our lives, how are small actions inspired by Jesus blessed so many people that we never even knew about across generations.
This life of faithful love, service and sacrifice we lived on earth preparation for this new life that will echo on into eternity of this eternal fellowship, with God the Father, the Son and the Spirit and are eternal family of all the saints.
Help! - prayer needed to close...