“These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Revelation 7:14
A saint is a holy person, someone set apart from what is common or unclean. When Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the doors of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany, on All Saints Eve 1517, he struck his first blow agains the idea of saints as those who had made themselves holy through good works. All have fallen short of perfect obedience to God’s will (Romans 3:23), yet all have received the new life in Christ through baptism with water and the Word (John 3:5). The true saints are those who have been declared righteous in God’s eyes through the righteousness and innocent suffering and death of Jesus Christ. We are justified by faith in this promise, and not by our merits, and this faith itself does not well from within us, but is given by the Holy Spirit.
One Lord, one faith, one baptism
Dubraska Rachell Alexandra Santana received the new life in baptism on October 13, 2019. Ephesians 4:1-6 was the appointed epistle lesson for the 17th Sunday after Trinity. For her, as for all, baptism was the invitation to the wedding feast that the Lord speaks in the day’s gospel reading (Luke 14: 1-11). It is not the only instance that He spoke of the kingdom of God as a banquet or wedding party.
But St. Paul makes another comparison. If Christ is our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7), baptism is our crossing of the Red Sea from slavery to Egypt (1 Corinthians 10:1-2). But we still have our pilgrimage through the desert with miraculous food and drink to sustain us (1 Corinthians 10:3-4).
To continue in the Word
Anyi Vanesa Garrido received the body and blood of our Lord in the Eucharist on October 27, 2019. On that Sunday, we celebrated the anniversary of the Reformation with our brothers and sisters from Corpus Christi Lutheran Church in Barinas, and Christ is Love Lutheran Church in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. Raimundo Brito, pastor of Corpus Christi, led the service of the Word. I led the service of the Lord’s Supper and the rite of public confession and first communion for Anyi. Eliezer Mendoza, pastor of Christ is Love, preached on John 8:31-36. Starting in the Garden of Eden, Pastor Eliezer said, Satan has twisted God’s Word into a lie to keep us enslaved to sin. But the pure Word brings forgiveness and freedom from the power of the devil. Thos who continue in the pure Word and receive the sacraments as He commanded remain His true disciples.
But what of those who have crossed the Jordan River ahead of us to enter into the Lord’s promised kingdom? “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) For this reason, Lutherans honor them on All Saints Day. As early as fourth century A.D., long before the medieval cult of the saints, the ancient church set aside a day to honor those who died for the faith under 300 years of Roman persecution. Later, all who had died in the faith were remembered.
Trick or treat?
For western European Christendom, November 1 has been the official date of All Saints Day since 835 A.D, with the observance starting the night before, as with Christmas. Because of the emphasis on remembrance of the departed, many different customs and beliefs associated with death and the hereafter have become associated with All Saints Day. Because of Spanish cultural influence, the first two days of November are when Venezuelans lay flowers on the graves of loved ones. Given the prevalence of witchcraft and all types of occultism in Venezuela, it is a little surprising that’s all there is. No altars and offerings to the dead as in Mexico’s Day of the Dead. On the other hand, Venezuelans who have been delivered from genuine experiences of the demonic are repelled by the foreign holiday of Halloween and regard it as purely satanic.
Halloween as we know it is, as a matter of fact, largely a concoction of North Americans in the 19th and 20th centuries. People of a more secularized and rationalistic age began playing with the superstitions and folklore that immigrants brought from their homelands, and some made-in-America legends as well. However, it is not a good idea to play at being a witch in a time and place where witchcraft is serious business. I like to say that what concerns me about Halloween is not where it came from, but what it has become. The original Christian significance has been almost entirely forgotten, and there is an unhealthy focus on death and the demonic. I do not condemn the harmless carving of pumpkins (or the resultng pumpkin pie), but I do think it is better to remember the Reformation on All Hallows Eve and honor the blessed dead on the following day.
Prayers for Chile and Ecuador
We continue to pray for natives and Venezuelan expatriates in Chile and Ecuador. The eruption of street violence in Santiago, Chile, was unexpected because of Chile’s reputation as one of the more prosperous nations in South America. The Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile, including former members of the Lutheran Church of Venezuela who have moved to Chile, have been instrumental in sending needed medical supplies to Venezuela. James Tino, director of Global Lutheran Outreach and former missionary to Venezuela, now serves as a missionary pastor in Chile. So does Adrian Ventura, former pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Maturin, Venezuela, and the first national pastor that I ever met.