Did you know there are ELEVEN published verses to the hymn, "For All the Saints?" I didn't either, until I looked it up on Google last night. Eleven verses. These words, all eleven verses of them, were written by an English bishop specifically for this day in the church calendar - All Saints' Sunday. And Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote the magnificent melody we began our worship with today - a melody considered by many to be the greatest hymn tune written in the 20th century. He gave this strong unison line the title, "Sine Nomine" - which means "without name," because it was crystal clear to everyone in the English speaking church that this tune was written for this set of lyrics. In our six-verse collection, we are missing the verses extolling the martyrs, the evangelists, and the apostles. We're also missing a verse encouraging soldiers fighting the fight of faith. And then there's this one which we don't sing:
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest.
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
which immediately precedes the far more familiar:
But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day.
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on his way.
"Alleluia, alleluia," indeed! Such a picture! Let us go to prayer this morning with the picture of that heavenly evening and daytime in our imaginations:
O King of Glory,
How truly magnificent you are.
To think that we -
21st century members of your body -
are numbered with those who will one day rise triumphant, clothed in bright array to sing your praises with the saints of all times and places - well - it just boggles the mind.
We praise you and we thank you for Jesus, who makes the promise of our own resurrection real, and who came from you and the Holy Spirit to show us how to live, and breathe and have our being centered in the Triune God.
O good and gracious God, will you hear now our silent prayers, confessing our complete unworthiness to participate in such glory! Oh my, what glory!
We are so thankful that salvation,
transformation and ultimately
resurrection itself are not dependent upon our worthiness - but only upon your grace. Thank you for hearing our confession and for forgiving our sin.
We are also thankful that you invite our prayers on behalf of others and ourselves, that you have designed us for real and deep and honest communion with you. We gather in this room today to worship you together - to once again seek your face and to live your gospel. Hear our prayers for the world now, LORD - our prayers for this world, right here where we live - and for that world out there - that world that you love and that we worry about, and that so needs
a whiff of hope,
a glance at peace,
a shirttail of grace to hang onto in the winds of adversity.
So we lift aloud names and situations that are heavy on our hearts today, O Lord,
confident that you will hear and answer,
and with each prayer mentioned, we all will say - "Hear our prayer, O Lord."
So now we're ready to receive you in bread and cup. These plain and ordinary things we bring to the table today - including ourselves, Lord! - will you bless them, and us - miraculously marking bread, juice, people as sacred and set apart and holy.
And then may we, your people, strengthened and encouraged by our shared meal,
may we carry your holiness with us to the world in which we live and work and play.
For Jesus' sake. Amen.