Nov 6, 2008

Five confirmed in La Caramuca

"So, when's your second communion?" That was the question from Elihu, a boy just old enough to understand that we had a "first communion" service for five confirmands, Sunday, November 2, 2008. It is a very good question, one that we are asking ourselves. Only for us it is more in the form of a prayer to the Lord to help us follow this great first step with many more.

Each confirmand received his or her own Bible with their confirmation verse written on the first inside page and signed by Pastor Krey, myself and Eduardo Flores. The confirmands and their confirmation verses are as follows:

Aaron Josué Montoya Santana:

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble" Psalm 46:1.

Adriana Karolina Talosa Mendoza:

"Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying: I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me shall
not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" John 8:12.

0311200812Dariana Estefania Talosa Mendoza:

"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" Matthew 6:33.

Noel Alexander Marquina Villamizar:

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" Joshua 1:9.

Sandro José Pérez Pumar:

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1.

We sang songs based on some of these verses, including "Dios es nuestro amparo" (Psalm 46) and "El Señor es mi luz y mi salvación" (Psalm 27). Psalm 46, the appointed psalm for the day was also the inspiration for Luther's hymn, "A Mighty Fortress".

Earlier that morning we sang both "Dios es nuestro amparo" and "Castillo Fuerte" ("A Mighty
Fortress" in Spanish) at Corpus Christi Lutheran Church in Barinas, because November 2 was Reformation Sunday according to the liturgical calendar used by the Lutheran Church of Venezuela. In many countries, Reformation Sunday is celebrated the Sunday before October 31, if the 31st does not fall on a Sunday. (Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517.)

So we had red paraments on the altar in both Corpus Christi and La Caramuca to symbolize the continuing activity of the Holy Spirit in the Reformation and in the church today through Word and sacrament. We also will have red paraments next Sunday, November 9, as we celebrate the Sunday of the Fulfillment. On most liturgical calendars, the Sunday of the Fulfillment, when the church looks forward to the second coming of the Lord Jesus to take His redeemed people into heaven, is observed on the last Sunday before the beginning of Advent season. However, according to our Venezuelan church calendar, November 16 will be All Saints' Day, a commemoration of all Christians who have departed this life, but especially the blessed martyrs. On November 23, the last Sunday in the liturgical year, we will celebrate the festival of Christ the King, which is combined with the observation of the Sunday of the Fulfillment in many churches. During these last two Sundays of the Pentecost season, the paraments on the altar will be white.

This arrangement of the church calendar, while somewhat unusual, is consistent with the tradition that the last Sundays of Pentecost focus on the end times, in anticipation of Christ's Second Coming, even as we prepare to remember His first appearance on earth during Advent.

I should also mention in regard to October 31, that Halloween is known in Venezuela, but is more of an imported, totally commercialized holiday. In fact, the Venezuelan government has tried to discourage the observance of Halloween for this reason. A more authentic Venezuelan tradition is el Día de los Muertos on November 2. Like the Day of the Dead in Mexico, the Venezuelan holiday has roots deep in pre-Columbian culture. But the Day of the Dead in Venezuela avoids some of the more occultic aspects of its Mexican counterpart. There are no skulls made of sugar and no graveside altars with offerings of food and beverages to the departed. Rather, much like Memorial Day in the United States, it is the day to lay flowers on the graves of loved ones.

Baptism of Luis GabrielSunday, November 2, 2008, also was notable for the baptism of Luís Gabriel, infant son of Lusveidis and Luís Orellana in Corpus Christi. I got to hold the bowl of water (there was no baptismal font) while Pastor Ted Krey baptized the child. I played a more active role in the administration of Holy Communion in Corpus Christi and La Caramuca, distributing the bread while Pastor Krey distributed the wine.

Which brings me back around to the question: What happens next for our little flock in La Caramuca? Pastor Ted Krey, who has been the supervising pastor for myself and vicar Eduardo Flores, will leave for the Dominican Republic at the end of this year. The good news is that I
have been extended a call from the Lutheran Church of Venezuela to serve as a national missionary in the Western Zone, with my base of operations in La Caramuca. I will be authorized to preach and administer the sacraments myself to those who need them. The date of my ordination has been set for December 13, 2008, at El Salvador Lutheran Church in Caracas.

La Caramuca Lutheran Mission will continue to depend on the prayers and financial support of our friends in the United States, as there is no large, strong congregation in the area to support our work, and the national church-body does not have the funds to support all the mission
work that must be done. There is an urgent need for Christian schools and churches here despite the widespread poverty. That is why I have taken the rather unusual step of remaining in Venezuela rather than returning to one of the seminaries in the United States and seeking a
call to the ministry after graduation there.

Our little flock

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