The Church Triumphant

Even as a Christian, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of Halloween and slide into the Christmas frenzy. However, let’s not forget that today is one of the biggest church festivals of the year–All Saints Day. The Treasury of Daily Prayer explains that All Saints’ Day, “sets before us the full height and depth and breadth and length of our dear Lord’s gracious salvation (Ephesians 3:17-19).” (pg. 871). It goes on to explain how this feast shares the Easter celebration of resurrection, the celebration of the catholic (note: not Catholic) church that we mark on Pentecost, and has the end of the church year focus on the life everlasting.

We mark on this day all the saints that have gone before us: mothers and fathers, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. Many churches also have a special remembrance of members who have died this past year. Our church has 6 members who have will be joining the All Saints celebration in Heaven for the first time this year. How blessed are they who are now in full communion with Christ our Lord, while we only get a taste of that Feast at the communion rail. However, we can also look forward to the day that we will join with the great multitude in their unending praise.

Now you’ll have to excuse me as I finish getting a certain little baptized saint ready for church. Happy All Saints Day!

P.S. The earliness of this post is brought to you courtesy of Daylight Savings Time ending. Babykins has been up since 5:30 a.m. Whee!

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All the Saints

Today we observed All Saints’ Day at church (which technically falls on November 1 but is observed on the closest Sunday following that date).  Besides remembering all the saints-those still living as well as those who have already fallen asleep in the faith–All Saint’s Day means great hymns.  One of my favorite hymns for this day is “Behold a Host, Arrayed in White” (Lutheran Service Book 676).

It’s not just the text of this hymn that makes it one of my favorites, it’s also the personal memories.  Our vicarage congregation was able to purchase LSB hymnals because of a memorial given when a faithful member suddenly died.  On the day the hymnals were dedicated, we sang this hymn because it was one of her favorites (and it was fitting, seeing how she is now a member of the host, arrayed in white).  Almost two years later, we sang this hymn on the day of Baby Girl’s baptism.

It may be strange to remember a dead woman that I barely knew when my young daughter was baptized.  However, that is what baptism is about:  faith and salvation, so that we too can join this host in heaven.

I fervently pray that I will be placed in the grave long before Baby Girl.  But I also fervently pray that she will have a blessed end and join the saints in heaven.

Behold a Host, Arrayed in White

Behold a host, arrayed in white,
Like thousand snow-clad mountains bright!
With palms they stand;
Who is this band
Before the throne of light?
These are the saints of glorious fame,
Who from the great affliction came
And in the flood
Of Jesus’ blood
Are cleansed from guilt and shame.
They now serve God both day and night;
They sing their songs in endless light.
Their anthems ring
As they all sing
With angels shining bright.
 
Despised and scorned, the sojourned here;
But now, how glorious they appear!
Those martyrs stand,
A priestly band,
God’s throne forever near.
On earth they wept through bitter years;
Now God has wiped away their tears,
Transformed their strife
To heav’nly life,
And freed them from their fears.
They now enjoy the Sabbath rest,
The heavn’ly banquet of the blest;
The lamb, their Lord,
At festive board
Himself is host and guest.
 
O blessed saints in bright array
Now safely home in endless day,
Extol the Lord,
Who with His Word
Sustained you on the way.
The steep and narrow path you trod;
You toiled and sowed the Word abroad;
Rejoice and bring
Your fruits and sing
Before the throne of God
The myriad angels raise their song;
O saints, sing with that happy throng!
Lift up one voice;
Let heav’n rejoice
In our Redeemer’s song! 

They’re Just Making This Up

I like Oriental Trading Company.  I grew up flipping through their magazine and watching my mom pick out items to buy for various events.  However, their “Fun and Faith” catalogs are becoming ridiculous–trying to force a cutesy version of Jesus to fit with any occasion and tossing out church traditions that have been around longer than any of their plastic toys.

The most recent example came in my mailbox last week.

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A catalog with an array of pumpkin-themed toys and crafts proclaiming to “Shine with the Light of Jesus”.

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Pages that have trinkets that say things like, “Batty for Jesus” and “Harvesting for Him”.

While I suppose these things aren’t evil or anything, nor am I a hardliner who believes that Christians shouldn’t enjoy the secular traditions of Halloween (how else was I going to build my candy stash as a kid?).  However, it did take me by surprise that the company has worked so hard to reinvent Halloween to make it “Christian” when there are already two church festivals that occur at the same time.

First off, as a good Lutheran I can’t talk about October 31 without mentioning Reformation.  All Hallow’s Eve was the day Martin Luther posted “The Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences”, or better known as his 95 Theses, on Wittenburg Castle Church.  Consequently, we remember Luther’s work and our assurance of salvation through grace on October 31 (side note: 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses posting.  Mark your calendars for epic celebrations).

Secondly, November 1 is All Saints’ Day.  It’s the day we remember all those who have died in the faith, from Biblical greats like Peter and Paul to loving grandparents.  It’s a beautiful reminder of God’s promise of eternal life during our struggles in this world.  Likewise, it has some awesome hymns.

With 2 church festivals on October 31 and November 1, why make Halloween “Christian”?  I suppose it has to do with marketing.  Little smiling pumpkins are cuter than a monk nailing papers to a door.  “Batty for Jesus” is catchier than “Praying for a blessed end”.  And children will always be attracted to candy and cheap plastic toys.

How do you balance Halloween traditions with church festivals?