Tears, Triumph, and Thanksgiving: A service for the first Sunday in November

A few years ago, our church sponsored a weekend retreat dealing with death and dying. During the retreat, two people spoke about losses they had suffered years earlier; a father spoke about the sudden loss of a son, and a widow about the slow death of a husband. The Christian community remembered the events as over and past, but it was clear that the memory of both deaths was very present in the lives of the father and the widow.

Someone asked them what our congregation could do over the long haul to minister to the grieving. Would it be helpful to have, for example, one day a year when we remember those of our community who have died? They said yes, it would. So our worship committee prepared a service for All Saints Day, the first Sunday in November, traditionally set aside to celebrate the lives of those departed who are now with the Lord.

The focus of the service is on giving thanks for the lives of loved ones who are no longer with us. That list extends beyond close friends and family members to include, for example, writers whose works have had an important influence on a member of the congregation. During a time for testimonies, one member gave thanks for C.S. Lewis, because his writings had helped her in her life of faith.

Before the final hymn, people are invited to come forward and light a small candle as a token of thanksgiving for a life remembered. By lighting the candles from the Christ candle, we acknowledge that the eternal lives of the saints find their source in the redeeming work of Jesus.

—Carol Vriend Fetter, member of Church of the Servant,
Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Tears

As the deer longs for streams of water, so we long for you, O God.

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord almighty!

My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Happy are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.

Happy are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before you in Zion.

As the deer longs for streams of water, so we long for you, O God.

Silence

Hymn: "Precious Lord, Take My Hand"
[PH 404, PsH 493]

Triumph

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised, incorruptible.

Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:

Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?

Then the dwelling of God will be with us, and God will live with us. God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?

Proclamation

Prayer

Eternal God, you hold all souls in life; give to your whole church in heaven and on earth your light and peace. Grant that we, following the example of those who have served you in the past and are now at rest, may at the last enter with them into your unending joy. Through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Scripture Reading, concluded with This is the word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

Meditation (followed by a time of silence)

Hymn: "Children of the Heavenly Father"
[PsH 440, RL 585, TH 131]

Thanksgiving

Evening Prayers

Hymn: "fesus, Remember Me"
[PH 599, PsH 217]

You are God: we praise you.

You are the Lord: we acclaim you.

You are the eternal Father:

All creation worships you.

To you all angels, all the powers of heaven, cherubim and seraphim, sing in endless praise:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might; heaven and earth are full of your glory.

The glorious company of the apostles praise you.

The noble fellowship of prophets praise you.

The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.

Throughout the world the holy church acclaims you, Father of majesty unbounded; your true and only Son, worthy of worship; and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.

You, Christ, are the King of glory, the eternal Son of the Father. When you became human to set us free, you did not despise the virgin's womb.

You overcame the sting of death and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.

You are seated at God's right hand in glory. We believe that you will come and be our judge.

Come then, Lord, and help your people, bought with the price of your own blood, and bring us with your saints to glory everlasting. Amen.

Offering

Hymn: "Sing, Choirs of New Jerusalem," verses 1-3
[PsH404,TH271]

Benediction

Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Minister pronounces the Benediction.

Doxology: "Sing, Choirs of New Jerusalem," verse 4
[PsH 404,TH 271]

Postlude

The hymns in this service were selected from the most recent editions of the following hymnals: The Presbyterian Hymnal (PH), Psalter Hymnal (PsH), Rejoice in the Lord (RL), and the Trinity Hymnal (TH).

This service is available on computer disk. See inside cover for more information.