When Death is Swallowed Up: A Service of Remembrance - Isaiah 25, Revelation 14
This "Service of Remembrance" can be scheduled at the most convenient time during the changing of the year to fit the worship calendar of your congregation. It may be on Old Year's Night, or the last Sunday of the year, or the first Sunday of the new year.
Theme of the Service
Because it is called a "Service of Remembrance" most will assume that the theme of this service is to honor those who have passed away during the past year. However, the theme is bigger and broader than that. While we honor their lives, and remember their service to us, we also think more deeply about the significance of death, how it has been conquered by Christ in his death, and what it means for us to possess victory over death. The remembrance of those who have passed away, therefore, becomes the occasion for us to focus on the gospel of God's conquest of death in Jesus Christ and what that means for our current living.
WE GATHER IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD
Prelude: "For All the Saints Who Showed Your Love," Purcell, Willan
or "Sing with All the Saints in Glory," Burkhardt, Cherwien
The Welcome and the Call to Worship
*The Opening Litany:
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
A thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.(from Psalm 90)
*Songs of Praise and Thanks: "Sing With All the Saints in Glory" (Gather Comprehensive 442)
"For All the Saints Who Showed Your Love" SNC 195
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you in the name of the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Spirit.
GOD SPEAKS THROUGH HIS WORD
Our Prayer for Illumination:
Merciful God, our Creator and Redeemer,
as you knit each of us together at the beginning of our life,
so you also draw us together to be one Holy Church, the body of our Lord.
Grant us humility and gratitude as we remember your saints.
Grant us courage and grace to follow their path of faith and devotion.
And above all, stir up our faith that we may know that our Lord Jesus Christ
has conquered death
and has given eternal life to all who believe.
Speak clearly from your Word this day.
In the name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you,
now and forever. Amen.
The Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 25:6-9
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!
The Gospel Reading: John 11:32-44
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!
The New Testament Reading: Revelation 14:13; 21:1-4
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!
Sermon: When Death Is Swallowed Up
The Prayer of Application
WE RESPOND TO GOD'S WORD
Remembering Those Who Have Gone On
(During the singing of the next hymn we remember those who
have passed away, especially those who have passed away in the
past year. See the
The Prayer of Thanksgiving
*Song: "For All the Saints" (st. 1-5) PH 526, PsH 505, RL 397, SFL 195, TH 358, TWC 751
*Our Affirmation of Faith: The Apostles' or Nicene Creed
*Our Confession of Sin:
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you
with our whole heart and mind and strength.
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
In your mercy forgive what we have been,
help us amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be,
so that we delight in your will
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your holy name.
--from the Book of Common Worship, 53
*The Assurance of God's Pardon
*Song: "For All the Saints" (st. 6-7)
The Offertory Prayer
The Offertory: "For All the Saints," Hobby
WE SHARE IN THE LORD'S SUPPER
The Great Thanksgiving
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give God thanks and praise.
Song: "Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!" (st. 4) PH 138, PsH 249, RL 611, RN 204, TH 100, TWC 2
or "Santo, Santo, Santo/Holy, Holy, Holy" SNC 259
The Words of Institution-Matthew 26:26-29
The Prayer of Approach
Our Participation in the Bread
Our Participation in the Cup
The Prayer of Thanksgiving.
*Song: "Alleluia! Jesus Is Risen" SNC 150
WE DEPART IN PEACE
Go in peace. Serve the Lord.
*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!
Postlude: "Alleluia! Jesus Is Risen," Powell
*you are invited to stand
The theme of death will inevitably run throughout this service, reinforced by the remembrance of those who have passed away and by the Scripture readings. It becomes the task of the sermon to give greater explanation to the Christian view of death and the hope that we have in the face of death.
The Old Testament passage from Isaiah portrays the scene of a banquet, which is intended to portray an eschatological scene of the feast of God when he restores all his people and brings the final consummation. You may explore the richness of this feast, but focus most of your attention on the phrase in verse 8: God will "swallow up death forever." Here is an Old Testament prophecy of the final conquest of death.
The Gospel reading is from the story of the raising of Lazarus and provides a specific example that illustrates how death can be swallowed up by the power of Christ.
The two passages from Revelation provide further comfort and hope about the conquest of death. Chapter 21 paints the picture of the New Jerusalem that Christ will bring. At that time "there will be no more death" (v. 4). Revelation 14:13 combines all these insights and applies them to the personal experience of those who die in the Lord. They have not merely been defeated by a vicious enemy, or finally been conquered, but are "blessed": in a state of rich fulfillment. Even their works and deeds follow them into this new life in which death has been "swallowed up."
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church, Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)
Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult
- The organ prelude music can be found in the following sources:
- "For All the Saints Who Showed Their Love" [OLD HUNDREDTH], arranged by Henry Purcell inA Collection of Thanksgiving Music, edited by John Holler and published by H.W. Grey  (M). An additional arrangement can be found in Ten Hymn Preludes, set 1, by Healy Willan and published by Peters 6011  (E-M).
- "Sing with All the Saints in Glory" [HYMN TO JOY], arranged by Michael Burkhardt in Hymn to Joy, published by Morningstar MSM-10-729  (E-M). An additional arrangement by David Cherwien can be found in Postludes on Well-Known Hymns, published by Augsburg 11-10795  (E-M).
- The offertory music on "For All the Saints" arranged by Robert A. Hobby can be found in For All the Saints, published by Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7537-1  (E-M).
- The postlude on "Alleluia! Jesus Is Risen" can be found in Sing a New Song by Robert J. Powell, published by Augsburg 11-10766  (E-M). You may choose one of the variations arranged here for the postlude and use one or more of the others as music during the passing of the elements at the Table.
- This "Service of Remembrance" is an appropriate way to mark the transition from one year to another. It is healthy for the church to take note of those who have passed away during the past year. As noted at the beginning, this service can be held on any one of a number of scheduled times: the last Sunday of the year, Old Year's, New Year's, or the first Sunday of the new year.
- In the Welcome and Call to Worship, we encourage you to explain the intent of this service so it is clear in the mind of the worshipers. If it has been publicized that those who have passed away will be remembered, other family members may be present who are not normally there. You may want to extend a word of welcome to them.
- Announce this service several weeks in advance, and ask the members of the congregation to provide the names of people who are special to them who have passed away during this year. Your bulletin or worship sheet can include a listing of all these names, with a note that we are remembering their lives with great gratitude to God.
- The three Scripture readings are designed to reinforce each other, each building on the theme of Christ's conquest of death. It would be helpful to introduce each reading with a one-sentence summary of the setting of the passage, such as, "We are reading from Isaiah 25, a description of the great banquet of God"; "We are reading from John 11, the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead"; and "We are reading from Revelation 14 and 21, which contain descriptions of Christ's final victory for his children."
- The part of the service in which we remember those who have gone before us can be observed in different ways. You may want to have a person (or several people) read aloud the names that are listed in the bulletin; do this before singing "For All the Saints." An appropriate litany that includes the reading of names can be found in SNC 194 ("A Cloud of Witnesses"). Or perhaps you could invite worshipers to come forward and light a candle in memory of someone from their family or circle of friends who has died; this can be done during the singing. You should also offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the people mentioned.
- The service of remembrance continues with the affirmation of our faith-a creed that expresses our oneness with the body of Christ in all generations-and with the service of confession and pardon that centers us in the hope of the gospel. The last two verses of "For All the Saints" most clearly express our hope for the day of Christ's return; thus they are sung at this point in the service. The vision of this approaching day provides a rich conclusion to the expressions of remembrance.
- The sacrament of the Lord's Supper is here in outline form. You can complete it on the basis of your local customs and liturgies. It can be a very rich experience to remember those who have passed away and mark the changing of the years by centering ourselves in the unchanging and timeless gift of salvation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.