November 6, 2016 + All Saints’ Sunday
Holy Eucharist Rite II at 10:30 a.m. sung by the Youth and Adult Choirs, sermon by Michael Corey.
Worship at Home:
Click here for the Service Bulletin; scroll to read full sermon text.
Full Service Audio:
Voluntary The Lost Chord Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)
Sir Arthur Sullivan was an English composer best known for his operas, but is remembered mostly for this work, and his hymn “Onward soldiers.” Sullivan’s brother, Fred, an actor, was very dear to him, and when he fell ill, Arthur spent many hours by his bedside. During the final week of Fred’s illness, Arthur composed “The Lost Chord”, setting a poem by Adelaide Anne Procter. The piece went on to become the biggest commercial success of the 1870s and 80s in both Britain in America. The final verse reads: It may be that death’s bright angel / Will speak in that chord again, / It may be that only in Heav’n / I shall hear that grand Amen.
Processional Hymn 287 v. 1-4 For all the saints, who from their labors rest Sine Nomine
Gloria in excelsis S278 William Mathias (1934-1992)
Sequence Hymn 620 Jerusalem, my happy home Land of Rest
Offertory Anthem Hark, I hear the harps eternal Southern Harmony tune, arr. Alice Parker (b. 1925)
Text: Attributed to F. R. Warren
Hark, I hear the harps eternal ringing on the farther shore,
As I near those swollen waters with their deep and solemn roar.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, Hallelujah, praise the lamb!
Hallelujah, hallelujah, Glory to the great I AM!
And my soul, tho’ stain’d with sorrow, fading as the light of day,
Passes swiftly o’er those waters, to the city far away.
Souls have cross’d before me, saintly, to that land of perfect rest;
And I hear them singing faintly in the mansions of the blest.
Sanctus S128 William Mathias
Fraction Anthem S166 Agnus Dei Gerald Near (b. 1942)
Communion Anthem Souls of the righteous T. Tertius Noble (1867-1953)
Text: Wisdom 3: 1-8
- Souls of the righteous in the hand of God, no hurt, no torment, comes to them now. They rest in peace. They live in heavenly joy. To those who loved them they seemed to die, they are at peace, God is their life and light. On earth as children they were chastened by Love’s rod, As gold in furnace tried, so now in heaven, they shine like stars, they live in heavenly joy. Souls of the righteous in the hand of God.
Thomas Tertius Noble was organist and choirmaster at St. Thomas Church, New York, from 1913-1943), and founder of the choir school there, which is one of two such full-time day schools for young choristers still operating in our country (many such schools still exist in Britain). Two of our parishioners have connections with this choir school – one having been a chorister there under Gerry Hancock, another having a brother who sang with Noble in the very early years. “Souls of the righteous” has been described as “an old chestnut that proves its vitality again and again.”
Communion Hymn 253 Give us the wings of faith to rise San Rocco
Closing Hymn 293 I sing a song of the saints of God Grand Isle
Voluntary Psalm 19: The heavens declare the glory of God Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739)
Full Sermon Text:
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen
Many years ago I was at a historical reenactment, there was a vendor there selling various wares. One item he had was a medal of Saint Barbara, the patron saint of artillerymen. As I was looking at it the vendor said “Oh, it comes with a warranty!” What kind of warranty I asked. “If you get hit by an artillery shell I’ll replace it at no cost.”
With Barbara and many other saints in mind – Happy All Saints Sunday.
This is truly one of my favorite days in the Christian calendar. It is the day we remember the Holy Ones of God that have gone before us.
Earlier this week, during Evening Prayer, we had a moment to reflect on the Communion of Saints 1. I recalled when I was young I asked my Mom about “the communion of saints” in the Apostle’s Creed. Not a question she was expecting and it took some time to get an answer. In time she explained “when you go forward to take communion the communion of saints are all the people behind you praying for you, especially the ones you cannot see.” What she didn’t realize was that she had planted the seed in me for a fascination for all those holy women and men that have gone before, the saints, both official and….well….not so official.
On a cork board over my desk at work, amongst the various work related memos and maps, are several prayer cards featuring saints. My work day holy companions include Saint Patrick, Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres (Lord Holy Christ of the Miracles, a Portuguese devotion), Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Junipero Serra, and several cards sent to me from a friend who is an abbot at a monastery in northern Greece. Even in my wallet you will find a card for St. Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of finding things; and I find it reassuring that since picking up that particular card I have not lost my wallet once.
This morning I want share with you the stories of two saints, two of my favorites. Chances are you haven’t heard of either one of them, that’s OK. The first is one of our ancient saints and the second would never have considered himself to be saint worthy, both are Cornishmen; and both put God first, others second and themselves last2. Finally, and very important, they were sinners.
First is Piran, a 5th century abbot in Ireland3. He is from that time of legendary Celtic saints like Bridget and Patrick in Ireland, David in Wales, and Columba who was associated with Iona in Scotland, that form a large part of our Anglican tradition. Far lesser known than these, Piran is now held close to the hearts of Cornishmen everywhere as their patron saint.
Piran, Irish by birth, began his ministry in Ireland. Legend says that he was blessed with the gift of miracles and his ministry was marked by healing the sick and raising the dead as well as founding schools and churches and tending to the needs of poor. Tribal kings, fearful of his power and influence, seized Piran and, in what may be his first lesson to us today – that no good deed goes unpunished, they chained him to a millstone, took him to a cliff, and – as lightning, rain and thunder raged – threw him into the Irish Sea.
This was not to be the end of our good abbot though! The storm calmed as did the sea. And, as the millstone hit the water, the chains fell and Piran floated away from Ireland, the millstone became a raft, and he eventually landed in Cornwall in a place that now bears his name, Perranporth.
Piran built a small chapel on the sand dunes near his landing site. His first converts were a fox, a badger and a boar. Contrary to rumors this was not the first vestry in Cornwall. Locals quickly flocked to him as word of his preaching and miracles spread. And over time Piran became the driving spiritual force for the Cornish people and even an economic force as he has been given credit for rediscovering the richness of tin in Cornwall.
Now, going back to that cork board above my desk I mentioned, I want to introduce you to the second saint. Next to my daily Holy companions there is an old picture showing a gray haired man, smiling…waving, as he walks out of a hardware store; a stack of flooring tiles under his arm. He was not a priest, monk, martyr or angel; instead he was a sailor, an artist, a husband/father/grandfather, and a proud Cornishman. I would like to introduce you to Saint Fred. OK, Fred isn’t a recognized Saint in the church, so consider this in honor of All Souls Day which is the day after All Saints Day.
Fred was born in Torpoint, Cornwall in 1919 and was the son of a sailor. He moved many times with his family before settling in Indiana and starting a family following his service in World War 2. I don’t remember meeting him for the first time, I was rather young then. But I do remember, as I got older, looking up to and admiring this wise, humble, friendly man. He was my grandfather. He taught me many things – never quit learning, have plenty of hobbies, and always have a good book handy. I think in his life he mastered the philosophy of Saint Francis – Preach the gospel and when necessary use words. He had a quiet faith, a typical Anglican. He was eager to help others, including strangers and would do so anonymously if he could. His approach to church was simple “If you miss church once it’s too easy to miss is twice, so go to church – no matter what.” A unique look at dealing with the ups and downs of life “Always expect the worst and you’ll never be disappointed.” And he taught me about faith and how to pray as he stood next to an acolyte’s candle during the Gospel reading on Sunday mornings with his oxygen tank next to him.
Fred was a true blessing and gift to all who knew him. He went back to his heavenly home about a dozen years ago or so, but he left something special behind. You see, he genuinely understood how to be a wise steward of God’s gifts. He understood that in the time he was given he had to share the gifts God had given him – faithfulness, charity, wisdom, and love – so that it was said of him “Well done good and faithful servant”.
I tell you the story of these two saints for a reason; whether it’s a 5th century abbot or a 20th century grandfather, God calls us each not to goodness, but to holiness4. You and I have the same call to holiness that Piran and Fred did. One of the beautiful parts of our tradition is that we recognize and celebrate this. And even at this very moment the communion of saints, who have given us wonderful examples of faithfulness to God, are bound together with us through Christ in sacrament, prayer and praise5. But how are we called to Holiness? What are the qualities of a saint?
In the Billy Joel song, Only the Good Die Young, is the line “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints” This one line expresses very well a misconception we sometimes have about saints – that they are somehow not sinners. The first qualification of a saint is to be a sinner. We cannot move from one to the other, they are one and the same. The difference is that in seeking the holiness of being a saint of God we also seek harmony with God through reconciliation, through the price paid on the Cross, through Christ. The saints we met today understood this and were no less prone to sin than any one of us. The legend goes that Piran was rather fond of a drink and today in Cornwall one can be “as drunk as a Piranner”. My dear grandfather had a stubbornness that is now a secure part of our family’s history. And, a saint we will soon be seeing everywhere, Saint Nicholas, once struck a fellow bishop in the face in a fit of anger at the first council of Nicaea. The council that began the work that we now know as the Nicene Creed.
Second is to accept the vocation of holiness to which we’re all called. The essence of holiness can be found in Christ’s instruction to us “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”6 And it is spelled out for us so beautifully in today’s Gospel where Christ reminds us – don’t worry about the stuff – riches, being satisfied, or whether you’re a weeping saint or laughing sinner; it won’t be easy, in fact others will hate you for it; and despite it all love, pray, bless, give.
Give…aha! You thought I forgot about the stewardship campaign! Part of the vocation of holiness involves giving with a loving heart. It is far more than pledges, although pledges are quite important. It is knowing how God has gifted us and then passing on the gift, with Christ-like love to others. We are not really the recipient of God’s gifts, we are the packaging, the caretakers. The 19th century novelist George Eliot said “’Tis God gives skill, but not without men’s hand: He could not make Antonio Stadivarius’s violins without Antonio: Get thee to thy easel.”7 This gives us insight into the wise stewardship we must practice when we seek the vocation of holiness. Piran did not work miracles for his own benefit, Fred did not encourage faithfulness in worship for his gain, and we are not called to use the gifts of God solely for our own benefit as doing so will not get us one step closer to the vocation we are called. You are gifted with time – use it to pray for your enemy, to serve those in need, or to spend with someone who is sick. You are gifted with talent – use it to sing, preach, evangelize, and teach. You are gifted with treasure – use it to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless. God has given you the gift, you are its steward, now “Get thee to thy easel”!
You and I are called to the vocation of holiness. God has given you the gifts to live this vocation. And you are not alone in this journey. Look around you, look to your right and left, look behind you your sisters and brothers, the saints of God, along with Barbara, Piran, Fred and Nicholas, are praying for you every step of the way. Through the example and the prayers of the saints we too will reach the vocation to which God calls us.
1 – Wisdom 3:1-9
2, 4 – Sheridan, William C.R., “A Gathering of Homilies” An Account of Four of “Our” Special Saints (1997)
3 – St. Piran Trust, www.stpiran.org, (2016)
5 – The Book of Common Prayer p.862
6 – Luke 10:27
7 – Eliot, George, “God Needs Antonio”, Delphi Classics (2014)