Sunday, October 24, 2010

Shelter for some but not others

Guest blogger, Stan Nussbaum, takes us on a journey through the messianic year calendar.

Welcome to the journey of our Messiah through the year with Dr. Nussbaum.

Oct. 24 – Shelter for some but not others

”By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. . . Some died by stoning, and some were sawed in half; others were killed with the sword."
Hebrews 11:33, 39 (NLT)

We are approaching one of the two ancient Christian festivals that has become twisted and corrupted beyond all recognition—Halloween. (The other is Mardi Gras, the day before Lent begins.) Halloween (Oct. 31) should be a night of remembrance of the lives, witness, and deaths of millions of Christians martyrs. Instead it is demon, ghost, and zombie night. Its signature phrase, “Trick or treat,” is a bully’s threat, if we think about it. Why build that into a celebration?

Many churches now sponsor alternative fun nights to help families distance themselves from the ghoulish trappings of the day. That may be good, but let’s go one better. Let’s reclaim Halloween and put it back where it belongs in the big picture of the Messianic Year. Wouldn’t our society try to reclaim Veterans Day if it became perverted into a day of candy and spook-houses?

It is well known that Halloween (Holy Eve) is the night before All Saints Day. It is not so well known, at least by evangelicals, that All Saints Day did not begin as a celebration for all the lesser “saints,” those not important enough to warrant a personal festival day. The origins are far more serious.

In the earliest centuries the church celebrated a memorial day on each anniversary of the martyrdom of a prominent believer. As martyrdom increased, the calendar got too full. Not wanting all these martyrs to be totally forgotten, the Church added a new holy day for all of them together. In English we know this as All Saints Day but the label, “All Martyrs Day,” would give us a clearer picture of the original meaning.

The eve before such a day would naturally be a holy time (Hallow-eve), a somber time of remembrance and reflection on the courage and sacrifice of so many. It would also be a natural time for one of the mysteries in the Season of Shelter to come into our minds. Why do some heroes of the faith find shelter and others die as martyrs?

This is the question posed by the two verses quoted from Hebrews 11 above, and in fact by that whole chapter. Up to the middle of verse 35, nearly everything is a success story. People like Noah, Abraham, and Moses went through incredible trials but emerged with their faith rewarded and their lives intact. From the middle of verse 35 through verse 40 (the end of the chapter), everything is persecution and martyrdom. It is ghastly. If it were a movie, it would be X-rated due to violence.

The mystery in Hebrews 11 is that the victims at the end of the chapter are not described as having any less faith than the successful people earlier in the chapter. The point is just the opposite. They had the same faith, just not the same shelter. The first group already received what God promised them (v. 33); the second group has yet to receive it (v. 39). But God puts equal value on the faith of both groups.

Faith is something we must have without knowing which group we are in—those rewarded soon or those rewarded later. But we know what we need to know—sooner or later, our faith will be rewarded. And we know that meanwhile we belong to the Messiah’s movement along with all the sheltered people and all the martyrs. Surely one evening a year is not too much to spend respectfully remembering them.

Welcome: Lord Jesus, you are the Messiah worth dying for. We will welcome you here every day until you welcome us there.

Affirmation: I will never trivialize the day of memory of those who left their shelter in order to die for the Messiah. For me, Halloween will be Holy Eve.



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