It has been a very busy weekend, and it is only as I sit on a train to Exeter, preparing to thrash out the liturgy for the December 8th Pilgrimage to Coventry that I get a chance to reflect on All Saints weekend. It is a reasonable distraction as well, as I am frankly not looking forward to today. The task is hard and difficult and there is a huge danger that a committee of individually skilled, creative, liturgical people come together to produce something safe, unchallenging and a camel created by committee. Maybe I’m just being unduely negative, but my dear friends, Blesséd it ain’t.
I was invited by the vicar of All Saints, Woodham in Woking to come and help them in their patronal weekend: to preach on the Saturday evening at their high mass: a splendid affair with full pomp and circumstance: an example of what is good about the Catholic Tradition, without being too stuffy. The sermon went down well:
Sermon: All Saints Woodham, 2008
Text: Matthew 5:1-12
In the name of the +Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It gives me great pleasure to be with you tonight as you celebrate your patronal festival, and I would like to thank Fr.Iain for his kind invitation not only to preach this evening, but to turn the Mass over to me tomorrow morning, and release some of the work of Blessed, our alternative worship community from down in Gosport; a ragbag of individuals whose approach to life and worship is deeply sacramental, outrageously anglocatholic and wildly, rabidly inclusive. To see how that works out in practice, you’ll have to come to Mass twice in 12 hours! Not a problem I am sure…
Now, let us turn and consider the Saints in their Glory… the glory of heaven…
They say that Euro-Heaven is where the police are British, the cooks are French, the mechanics German, the lovers Italian and it’s all organised by the Swiss.
Euro-Hell is where the chefs are British, the mechanics French, the lover’s Swiss, the police German and it’s all organised by the Italians.
When we think of heaven, we might imagine clouds and angels, harps and halos; meeting once again our loved ones in some ethereal place. But Holy Scripture does not describe it at all like this. The book of Revelation, for example, shows that it will be filled with people wearing white robes praising God, praising and worshipping freely and gladly.
It is perhaps difficult to imagine yourself in such a context. It has the same effect, in a way, as those stained glass window depictions of people who look very holy and have soup plates behind their heads. It’s difficult to think that perhaps one day, we ourselves will be depicted in a stained glass window.
Paul, writing to the Ephesians uses the word “saint” to describe all Christian people, for Sainthood is the goal that we are called to, not necessarily how we are.
We have just heard the Beatitudes: Our Lord and Saviour identifies experiences such as poverty, hunger, grief, and persecution as marks of the blessed, and wealth, plenty, happiness, and being thought well of as marks of those who are not pleasing to God.
This makes it a difficult reading for us to hear, for these are they very things that Society, and probably by extension, we ourselves strive to achieve.
At our Baptism we are called to be and to become Saints. If we concentrate on the idea that saints are very, very good people, nearly perfect, then we will miss the point: Many saints have been very bad, while becoming rather good: think of Saint Francis of Assisi – a rich, profligate, idle young man with a penchant for war and its spoils, who became by the grace of God, a most humble, Christ-centred and gentle example of faith; think of Saint Augustine of Hippo, a womanising heretic who became by the grace of God one of the Church’s greatest thinkers and influences. His book Confessions, I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who ever (and we all do) has struggled with their faith and their past and needs to understand a little more of God’s wonderful grace.
I have been looking this week through a book describing the lives of great Christians of the 20th Century. Few of them will actually be canonised by Holy Mother Church. Although of that list, St Padre Pio was actually canonised a couple years ago, and Mother Theresa of Calcutta was beatified: the first step in the path of Sainthood by the last Pope. The lives of these modern Christians and their witness can be an example to us all, regardless of denomination ; whether we think of Thomas Merton, the Cistercian Monk whose writing reveals a closeness to the mystery of God, or Jackie Pullinger who worked tirelessly with the Drug Addicted in Hong Kong, Dr Martin Luther King, who was not only a beacon for the American Civil Rights Movement, but a powerful preacher or Bishop Desmond Tutu, whose gentle humour and powerful faith stood against the tide of Apartheid.
These people are truly great examples of Christian inspiration to us all, but however positive we may feel about ourselves, however strong our “self-esteem,” few of us would think we are good enough to be saints.
This is a wrong assumption.
Saints are made by God, they are a reflection of his handiwork, of his choosing, not ours.
We ask whether we are good enough to be saints, when we should be asking whether we are open to God enough to be saints. God will give each and every one of us the opportunity for Sainthood.
God’s grace is there for us to grow into our calling to be saints. This does not necessarily mean major miracles or feats of huge daring for the faith, but God is also the God of small things. God will not call everyone to martyrdom, but he will call each and every one of us to stand up for our faith: to witness to Christ when asked at work, in the playground or in the pub; God will not ask everyone to travel to far off lands to preach the Gospel, but he will ask each and every one of us to provide the kindly word and the warm smile to the neighbour or the marginalised.
There is some saintly ministry in this church or in this community just waiting for you, personally, to become saintly about.
Sainthood is therefore not about sinlessness, for there was only one who was truly sinless, but about openness to God. None of those people I described earlier were sinless paragons of virtue, but were real life human beings who experienced the grace of God.
Everything we attempt, we attempt in Christ, is aided by the prayers and fellowship of all those known and unknown saints who always surround us in love. In this company, we have security to do for Jesus the things we fear to do or even object to doing. We know that the Saints are praying for us, that they now reside in heaven (wherever that may be) engaged in worship and in intercession.
We never do God’s work on our own, but we carry with us what the unknown writer of the letter to the Hebrews called the cloud of witnesses, the Saints in glory. And you too, are part of that Glory.
This was followed by a lovely dinner at the Vicarage, and an overnight stay. The following morning, we celebrated what was effectively a Blesséd Mass. The only complicating factor was that while on holiday last week, the external drive upon which I have archived the whole video resources for the past 5 years shorted out. There was a slight smell of burning and the drive was dead. This means that although I have the end production videos of 90% of Blesséd’s output, I have lost all the resource files, all the clips, the stuff that goes into the videos. Gone. Forever.
There was too much data to backup, and although there might be some things on old disks, you have to accept that it is gone.
Luckily I have uploaded most of the stuff to YouTube, so I had to drag them back down, losing some quality and so I only had to remake a couple of videos. However, I am no longer in a position to tweak certain videos, and anything else from now will have to be from scratch. Western Digital have the drive now, and they might, just might, be able to sort out the electrics and save the data, but I am not hopeful. Pray that it might happen, but if it doesn’t, I am pragmatic. It has made me lazy, and I need a new burst of creativity for the next stage of Blesséd’s work, and maybe losing this stuff was just what I needed.
Still, this was the liturgy for Sunday morning:
Blesséd All Saints Woodham Outline
Theme: All Saints (White)
Video: Gathering – Smokebelch Busy Short. There is no choir procession, they are gathered in their stalls.
Video: Call to Worship
Video: Very Short Liturgical Greeting
In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit
Grace, Mercy and Peace from God, our Father,
the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit be with you all
And also with you
My dear friends in Christ, we come together this morning surrounded by that great crowd of witnesses, all the Saints. We come to share in God’s Holy and life-giving sacraments and we come to worship in ways which are both traditional, familiar and yet at the same time as challenging and controversial as when the crowds first heard our Lord preach on that Mount.
Draw near, my dear friends as we shall use all our senses in today’s worship – engage with God through our whole selves and be formed into the likeness of Christ’s Saints.
But first, we need to prepare ourselves for this holy meal, this blessed sacrament; we need to address our sins, and work them out into this dough, so that we may we work through our failings and become risen like the dough, like the son…
Video: Kneed Forgiveness
Equipment: Dough,Flour, Wetwipes
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has left power to his Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in him, in his great mercy forgive you your offences: and by his authority given to me, I absolve you from all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Lord has put away your sins, and pray for me, a sinner also
Father, All powerful and ever-living God
Today we rejoice in the Holy Men and Women
Of every time and place.
May their prayers bring us your forgiveness and love.
We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ
Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, world without end.
Plainchant Alleluia followed Standard Greeting and then by Video: Word (Shhhh)
Video: Tiananmen Square Protest
Ritual: The Gospeller leaves the Acolytes and Book and walks into the middle of the congregation and delivers the text without book or notes. The style is challenging and confrontational.
This worked really well – people were really shocked, the Acolytes, bless them, stayed rock solid as I walked amidst the congregation. It really was shocking and the high point of this mass
Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a hill and sat down. His followers came to him, and he began to teach them, saying:
“They are blessed, those who realize their spiritual poverty,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
They are blessed, those who grieve,
for God will comfort them.
They are blessed, they who are humble,
for the whole earth will be theirs.
They are blessed, those who hunger and thirst after justice,
for they will be satisfied.
They are blessed, are they who show mercy to others,
for God will show mercy to them.
They are blessed, those whose thoughts are pure,
for they will see God.
They are blessed, those who work for peace,
for they will be called God’s children.
They are blessed, they who are persecuted for doing good,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
“People will insult you and hurt you. They will lie and say all kinds of evil things about you because you follow me. But when they do, you will be blessed.
Rejoice and be glad, because you have a great reward waiting for you in heaven. People did the same evil things to the prophets who lived before you.
The Gospeller turns and returns to the Sanctuary, almost spitting out the words. I snatched the Gospel book off the Server and stormed back to the altar. Oooo, it was great!
This is the Gospel of the Lord
Praise to you, O Christ
Affirmation of Faith
Video: God Waits http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXe3pQc2Sf0
Video: Visual Intercessions
Equipment: Large bowl of sand. Charcoal. Incense. Blowtorch
Video: Airport Peace
In the dark catacombs, sheltering from persecution and the sword, the Saints met to bring Christ into their midst. They greeted their brothers and sisters in baptism with a kiss of peace, a further communion, a closer unity as community, and they share something special, unique and holy. We are the Saints of this place, and we share in that communion.
The peace of the Lord be always with you
And also with you
Let us offer one another a sign of God’s peace
For all the saints (nearly done acapella as the Organist had hated Blesséd so much he had gone home in the first 5 minutes, but the Choir Master stepped up to the job!)
I sang this hymn three times over this weekend, and frankly got quite bored with it. I love this hymn, but overkill
Pray my dear friends that this our sacrifice will be acceptable to almighty God, our heavenly Father
May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for our good and the good of all his church
Video: John 17 EP and Old Catholic Rite
Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.
The Lord be with you
And also with you
Lift up your hearts
We lift them to the Lord
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God
It is right to give thanks and praise
This is the real and eternal life:
That all may know you,
the one and only true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.
He glorified you on earth
by completing down to the last detail
what you assigned him to do.
And now, Father, glorify us with your very own splendour,
the very splendour Christ had in your presence
before there was a world.
Christ spelled out your character in detail
to the men and women you call in faith.
They took it, and were convinced
that Christ came from God,
believed that you sent him,
and Christ’s life is on display in them.
Your word is a consecrating truth:
in the same way that Christ was given a mission in the world,
so we are given a mission in the world.
our goal to become one heart and mind,
just as you, Father, are in Christ and Christ in the Father
so that the world might believe that the heavenly Father, in fact, sent his only Son.
So joining with all the company of heaven: the angel and saints, prophets, patriarchs and Our Blesséd Lady, we join in the prayers of heaven
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might
Heaven and earth are full of your glory, Hosanna in the Highest
Blesséd are they who come in the name of the Lord
Hosanna in the Highest!
Blessed are you,
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Father of all mercy and God of all consolation.
Send now the Comforter and Helper into our midst,
your Holy Spirit,
to fill these gifts of bread and wine with your life,
so that they may be for us
the X body and blood of your beloved Son.
We can no longer forget
how he became one with us in suffering and death,
he who was totally one with you,
as he came to fulfil your will.
So, on the night he was handed over,
he took bread and gave you thanks;
he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying:
Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you;
do this in remembrance of me.
In the same way, after supper
he took the cup and gave you thanks;
he gave it to them, saying:
Drink this, all of you;
this is my blood of the new covenant,
which is shed for you and for many
for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this, as often as you drink it,
in remembrance of me.
As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup,
we taste and proclaim the mystery of faith:
Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
Make us one as you are one.
Until your Son comes again,
we do as he commanded us
by celebrating the memorial
of the passion, resurrection and ascension of your Christ.
He always lives before you as our high priest,
interceding for us
and bringing his only and perfect sacrifice
before you on our behalf.
Send the Spirit on your Church,
and guide it into all truth,
so that with Our Blesséd Lady Mary, the mother of our Lord,
and all your saints,
With the people of the earth
whom you have entrusted to your Son,
we may inherit the Kingdom and share in the glory
of Jesus Christ our Saviour;
by X whom, and with X whom, and in X whom,
in the unity of the Holy X Spirit,
all honour and glory be yours, X almighty Father,
forever and ever. Amen
Video: Short Modern http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tyT7IvcxGM
We break this bread to share in the body of Christ
Though we are many, we are one body
Because we all share in the one bread
Video : Rufus Wainwright – Agnus Dei
This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Blessed are they who are invited to his supper.
Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed
Video: Prayer of the Heart – Distribution of Communion
We bring the sacrament to the people – random, haphazard. 2 x Chalices
Another risky move, but it worked, it challenged.
Te Deum – Stanford in Bb
No organist – didn’t happen. 🙁
Father, holy one,
we praise your glory reflected in the saints.
May we who share at this table
be filled with your love
and prepared for the joy of your kingdom,
where Jesus is Lord for ever and ever. Amen.
Notices and Other Such Necessities
A small homily asking them to reflect on what they experienced.
Video: Lambeth Dismissal http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14Ma-AodQ9I
As usual, Blesséd invokes the usual response – outrage and offense from some, enthusiasm and encouragement for others, inspiration to continue and for the majority – complete confusion and mystery. Such is what the Mass should be about
Video: Endmusic Polyphonic and Hymn of the Big Wheel
Then after that and a nice light lunch on the train up to London and to Camden Town in particular, to see Fr Philip North put in as Team Rector of Old St Pancras Team Ministry.
I should have brought my Observer’s Book of Priests, because the Sanctuary and Quire was filled with what must have been 75 priests from all over, all the great and the good and myself: a filled St Michael’s, Camden Town. It was so crowded that Fr Ant and I had to sit on the high altar step. No amplification, so hardly heard a damn word, but it was a lovely Mass and I pray for his ministry there. He’ll be great.
And the first thing he said to me as we hugged – “have a look inside and tell me how much you want to do a multimedia mass in there”
Oh yes. Watch this space.
It quite made up for having to sing “For All the Saints” again!
A good, busy weekend. Deo Gratias!