October 31 Worship
Updated: Nov 1
Hello Union Church Presbyterians,
Worship this Sunday, October 31 will be in-person and streamed on YouTube to view at home. We will share prayers, songs, and reflections.
HOW TO VIEW ON YOUTUBE: YouTube broadcast will begin at 10:25 am.
For ALL devices: https://www.youtube.com/user/NewburghPresby
ORDER OF WORSHIP
Union Church, Newburgh NY
October 31, 2021 10:30 am
TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
USHERS today are Dan and Karen Olson
Thank you to all the volunteer ushers who signed up for November and December. Ushers still needed for Christmas service. If you would like to usher, contact Dan and Karen Olson.
FELLOWSHIP TIME HOSTS today is Christian Ed to celebrate the end of the autumn harvest. We are looking forward to seeing everyone there!
Hosting can be simple. Host with a friend! Use the signup chart in the Fellowship Hall or call the office (845) 562-0954.
REMINDER: PER CAPITA is $38.83 for each member. Union Church greatly appreciates the support of each member paying their per capita. Thank you!
SUNDAY SCHOOL: Please complete a registration form and return to the office. For more info, call the office (845) 562-0954.
OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD is right around the corner. Packing Party Sunday, Nov 7. Information will be posted on the Union Facebook page. For more info, contact Yvette Pickard.
THANKSGIVING: Sunday, Nov 14 at 4pm, the Greater Newburgh Interfaith Council will hold a Thanksgiving service at Union.
DEACONS and THANKSGIVING: The Deacons are working with Loaves and Fishes this year to provide both monetary and food support for Thanksgiving—and asking the congregation for assistance. Last year, Loaves and Fishes helped 700 local families celebrate and fed over 3,000 people. It costs about $50 per feast. If you want to donate a check, please make it out to “Union Church,” write “Loaves and Fishes” in the memo and leave it in the tray at the back of the church. If you want to donate food, they need gravy, mashed potato mix, cranberry sauce, rice, and stuffing mix. Dry goods can be left with the Food Pantry, make sure to mark it for Loaves and Fishes. Donations due by Nov 19.
HANGING OF THE GREENS Sunday, Nov 21 after service. The Joshua Tree will also be in place for giving.
FOOD PANTRY: NEXT OPEN Monday, Nov 8 and Wednesday, Nov 10 from 9:30-11:30 am.
Serving LOTS of people! If you would like to help, contact Kathy or Debby.
ORDER OF WORSHIP
**PLEASE STAND IF YOU ARE ABLE
PRELUDE Souls of the Righteous by Gordon Young
Carla Loy Song, Soloist
CALL TO WORSHIP (Adapted from Psalm 146)
Leader: Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! PEOPLE: I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long. Leader: Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God, PEOPLE: who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; Leader: The LORD watches over the strangers; he gives food to the hungry. He sets the prisoners free; PEOPLE: The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD!
God of heaven, You not only provide more than we need in our harvest, but You send the Gospel to the ends of the earth and Your messengers to every nation: Send Your Holy Spirit to transform us by the good news of everlasting life in Jesus name, Amen.
MESSAGE FOR CHILDREN OF ALL AGES
**OPENING HYMN Give Praise to the Lord Blue #257
CALL TO CONFESSION
We read in Romans that all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. Even before a word is on our tongues, God knows it, and welcomes our honest confession and true repentance. Let us then with the confidence of the children of God confess our sins.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Lord of all, we confess the many ways we fail to follow your commandment to love you and our neighbors. Forgive us, we pray, for forgetting that everyone is worthy of our compassion. In your mercy, amend what we are and shape us into the people you call us to be. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen. (A moment for silent personal confession)
ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
We need not fear God’s judgment but rather rejoice in the Lord’s saving grace that frees and transforms us. Believe the good news, in Jesus Christ we are forgiven! Amen!
**PASSING OF THE PEACE
**APOSTLES CREED (Traditional)
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell; The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; The Holy catholic Church, the Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body, And the Life everlasting. Amen.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
Prepare our hearts, O God, to accept you Word. Silence in us any voices but your own, so that we may hear your Word and also live it; through Christ our Lord, Amen.
OLD TESTAMENT Micah 4: 1-4. Debby and Paul Hill
NEW TESTAMENT Revelation 7: 9-17
GOSPEL John 11: 38-44
SERMON Praying with the Saints John Redman, CRE
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE & THE LORD’S PRAYER
We gather in your all-seeing sight better to understand each other as we each go about our journeys with you, and to reach a greater understanding of your infinite love, knowledge, and power. Look at all of us as we are and as this assembly of souls, and we ask you Father to look most especially over those we name here, for their own healing and relief
Gracious God, keep in our hearts all those whose names you already know and who ask for healing in their own quiet ways, and let us join to pray as Jesus taught us, saying:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
OFFERING OF TITHES AND GIFTS
The offering plate is at the rear of the sanctuary and let us all consider what we have been blessed with and how we can best share it with those in greater need, even as we gift our church for its greater work to the Glory of God and the undying Grace of Jesus.
OFFERTORY Behold a Host Arrayed in White Carla Loy Song, Soloist
PRAYER OF THANKS
Gracious God, accept our gifts in tribute, they be put to good and purposeful use in assisting those in greater need even as we seek to serve you and our community and the greater world. This we gratefully pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
**HYMN OF PARTING For All the Saints Blue #526
May the God of peace sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and safe and may the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you both this day and all days to come.
POSTLUDE Toccata from Suite Gothique by Leon Boellman
INVITATION TO FELLOWSHIP TIME
It’s not only All Saint’s Eve, or all Hallows Eve, as what became to be known as Halloween, but it’s also the 504th anniversary of Martin Luther’s ultimate Halloween trick. I don’t mean that he covered the church in toilet paper, but figuratively and theologically he did just that when he nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Catholic church in Wittenberg, Germany.
These articles argued that the Church was wrong in so many ways, about 95 of them, but most particularly in the selling of indulgences that forgave sin, that would allow you or your relatives to escape from Purgatory and head toward Heaven, a bribe to God if you will.
But October of 1517 not only marked the beginning of our Reformation, it was also a year of plague, a plague that had ravaged the European population for more than three years, only one of several plagues that decimated Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries, some of which had been brought to Europe from trade with Africa.
As this plague still raged for almost another 10 years, Martin Luther wrote this to a friend:
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death because of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me, and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above.”
Does any of that sound a bit familiar as we readjust the straps on our masks? And Reformation Sunday has a larger significance to some of our Protestant relatives. The Lutherans will display red paraments, the cloth banners on the pulpit and lectern on this Sunday, something we Presbyterians only do on the Sunday of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit arrives in worship. To them, this signifies that the Holy Spirit visited on Martin Luther and his 95 Theses.
Never mind what our friends down the road may be doing this Sunday, let’s think for a moment how through this pandemic in a way we are experiencing a reformation of sorts, a transformation in the way we gather, worship, and ultimately understand faith and our mission.
Anything ring familiar here? Some things just never change, do they? But among the events that the Reformation brought about, also remember the centuries of divisions that resulted when Christianity was split from 2 denominations (Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox) into as many as 25,000 today. And these divisions have caused violence, chaos, oppression, abuse, suffering and death for 500 years.
Reformation Sunday is a day of two realities. Of promise, hope and freedom, contrasted by division, conflict and oppression.
So where are the saints in all this? True, we have less reverence for those canonized saints of the Catholic tradition, just as Luther had little deference for the selling of indulgences and the preservation of holy relics. More on that one later. First, let’s look at what that newer Reformation has brought us here today in a mere two years: In how we worship, how we gather and build community as a church, and how we begin to our understand our attitudes of racism and oppression, to the re-working of our social safety nets, and to how we will care for a suffering climate.
On All Saints Day, our protestant tradition has been that we gather to pray in thanksgiving for those who have gone before us in faith, and we pray to God that we too may join the saints and heavenly hosts in the always ongoing great high feast. As the theologian T.D. Wright noted: “We recognize today, that our worship is not something that we create, but rather something we are invited to join with the heavenly hosts. We are like thirsty pilgrims who approach the always flowing river of heavenly worship and we wade into the water again and again, week after week, briefly pulling back the veil between heaven and earth until one day we too will be swept up into the great worship of all the saints and we too will join the heavenly hosts.”
The noted Christian scholar and writer C.S. Lewis, who wrote a lot more than his Chronicles of Narnia was often in debate with his friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien about this praying to or with saints.
Would it surprise you to know that Tolkien was a devout Catholic, and that it was his encouragement that prompted Lewis to become one of the 20th centuries most acclaimed religious authors? It might also surprise you that Tolkien was seriously disappointed when Lewis converted from being a staunch atheist to a -- perish the thought --an Anglican, not a Catholic.
On praying with the Saints, Lewis wrote:
“You may say that the distinction between the communion of the saints as I find it and full-fledged prayer to saints is not, after all, very great. All the better if so. I sometimes have a bright dream of re-union engulfing us unawares, like a great wave from behind our backs, perhaps at the very moment when our official representatives are still pronouncing it impossible. Discussions usually separate us; actions sometimes unite us.”
On a personal digression, when my wife was singing opera in Europe, I tried to get over there as often as I could, usually with the cheapest fare I could find. It happened that I could get a good fare to London and combine it with a business conference in the UK, and better yet, my old religion professor from college was on sabbatical and reading at Oxford. I arranged to meet up with him at Oxford --can you believe that we did all this by letters in the mail back then? –
So, after landing at Heathrow, I got a train to Oxford, which as a university has more than a dozen ‘colleges,’ and we had lunch and a delightful afternoon touring Oxford. That evening we were each having a pint at a pub on the edge of the campus, staring at an empty table in the corner, where according to local legend, was where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien drank sherry and argued about religion and theology, and presumably, about how saints are revered or recognized. And nobody ever sat down at that table.
These are the saints, not to whom we pray but with them we pray. That’s how C.S. Lewis looked at it, and perhaps that’s why he chose the Anglican path, not Tolkien’s Catholic one.
And how does this All Saints tradition translate to what we find now as Halloween?
As the end of the Middle Ages saw the Reformation, our forebears sought to reshape the feast of All Saints. Rather than praying to the Saints, then praying for all souls, we protestants have come to recognize that saints are not special or holy people, but that all those who have died in faith are made Saints by God’s Holiness poured out for us.
In many ways this Halloween tradition mirrors the practice of medieval Christians making pilgrimage for All Saints. Dressing up, lighting candles, journeying on the road was all part of the belief that spirits would often wander the earth until All Saints Day, and the costumes would be to scare away vengeful haunting spirits, and the candles, often lit in each room in a house or doorway that would guide good spirits home. And the tradition of carrying a lit candle as one journeys has somehow morphed into a bag to collect as much candy as a six-year-old in an Avengers costume, or as one of those girls in “Frozen” can carry.
But back to our discussion of Reformation. It’s not surprising that the Reformation also takes place against the backdrop of discovery in the New world, and as what we have come to think of those who wished to come here and worship their own beliefs were also the same ones who were sent off by their ruling powers to be well-rid of them.
How better to get rid of groups you don’t care for than to suggest they take ships across a strange and threatening ocean to a new world, far away from you?
And from the Gospel of John, we have the shortest verse in the New Testament: “Jesus wept.”
As Jesus stands there, tears running down his face, He commands that the stone be rolled away. As John’s Gospel is more spiritual allegory than history, Jesus declares that death is not the end as he calls, not just Lazarus, but each one of us from our tombs.
In our Reformed tradition we don’t look to the saints in the way our Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox friends do. Instead of venerating those outstanding figures of Church history, we celebrate that Jesus calls on each of us as saints.
As we gather on this All-Saints Eve, with hearts full of both grief and thanks, we discover a God who is deeply and powerfully and intimately involved in the affairs of mortals, who sheds real tears for Mary, Martha and Lazarus out of love.
We discover a God who cannot help but love us. A God who cannot help but love us in our grief and a God who cannot help but make all things new in our world.
Then we can see this passionate and loving God weeping with us AND calling us out of our graves into new life. And suddenly, those great promises of resurrection, those promises of a new heaven and a new earth collide into us.
They collide and smash into us as the creator of all things stands before us and says, “See, I am making all things – including you – new.” And in that newness, know that I share these thoughts and words with you today by the Love of the Father, the Grace of the Son, and the Healing Power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Blessings! Union Church
John Redman, CRE 44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh NY 12550
Mobile: (914) 474-0722 Phone: (845) 562-0954 Fax: (845) 562-0955