November 1, 2008

All Saints Day

I'm taking a brief break in my personality series to say a few words about All Saints Day. As many might know, Halloween was originally All Hallows Eve. This was the day before All Hallows Day, a.k.a. All Saints Day.

Originally, this was a day that was set aside to celebrate the day of death for all the martyrs of the church, because celebrating each individually became too cumbersome. Eventually it was expanded to celebrate all of the saints of the church when persecution died down. It became a day devoted to acknowledging the faithful in the church, and remembering the great heroes of the faith. It is a wonderful holiday to recognize what the power of the Spirit can truly do in us.

So, I wish to celebrate this day by reciting one of the entries from the book Jesus Freaks [by DC Talk and the Voice of Martyrs, (Tulsa, OK: Albury Pub., 1999)]. This is one of my favorite stories in book. '...' or {} are used to note an edit for the sake of keeping this a manageable length. For a reference, this is found starting on page 30:

Strengthened by Angels
Ivan Moiseyev, 18 years old, USSR 1970

Although he had never been there before, Private Ivan "Vanya" Moiseyev knew what awaited him at the Major's office. The Communists were endlessly calling him to headquarters for talks, trying to "re-educate" him, to talk him out of his faith in God.

It was lunchtime... As Moiseyev walked along the snowy sidewalk, he praised God for this time alone, time to sing and pray. The morning was so bright, at first Moiseyev didn't notice; suddenly, it caught his eye. A bright star began to fall from heaven... He looked up to see an angel above him, bright and powerful. Moiseyev's heart was filled with joy-- and fear... Then the angel spoke:

"Ivan, go. Don't be afraid. I am with you."

Ivan couldn't speak, but his joy was like fire within him. Somehow he made it to Major Gidendo's office, and knocked quietly at the door.

{To teach Ivan a lessen, the Major commanded Ivan to spend all night, out in -13 degree weather, in summer uniform until he renounces his faith}

That night, as the bugle sounded, Ivan made his way down the stairs of the barracks and into the snowy street. He recoiled from the icy blast of wind that burned his ears and made his eyes water. His thin, summer uniform was no help in the bitter cold. He glanced at his watch. It was one minute after 10.

Tonight, he would have a long time to pray! But for the first time since he had been in the Soviet army, prayer did not come easily. He was worried. Could he stand out here all night? What if he froze to death?...

Then he remembered the angel who had visited him that morning... Suddenly he realized the angel's words had been for tonight! Although he could no longer see him, Moiseyev knew the angel was still there with him. He began to pray fervently.

It was 12:30 when he was distracted from his prayers by the crunching of snow. Bundled in their overcoats, hats and boots, three officers were slowly making their way toward him.

"Private Moiseyev, have you changed your mind yet? Are you ready to come in and get warm?"

"No, comrade officers. As much as I want to come in and go to bed, I cannot. I will never agree to remain silent about God." ...

"Do you plan to stand out here all night long?"

"I don't see how anything else is possible, and God is helping me." Ivan checked his hands-- they were cold, but not too cold. He could still move his toes easily. It was a miracle! He looked at the officers and could see that even in their coats they were already shaking from the cold. They were stamping their feet and slapping their hands, impatient to return to their heated barracks.

"You'll feel differently in another hour"...

For the next 12 nights, Ivan continued to stand in the street outside his barracks. Miraculously, he did not freeze, nor did he beg for mercy. Ivan continued to speak about his faith to his comrades and officers. He sang about the glory of Jesus Christ in his barracks, though this was strictly prohibited. To those who threatened him, he replied, "A lark threatened with death for singing would still continue to sing. She cannot renounce her nature. Neither can we Christians."...

Oh, if only that was so for those of us in America. How easily do Christians here renounce their nature to sing. And, for us, it is not the bitter cold that threatens, but popularity and respect. We are the seeds grown among the weeds, choked out and bearing no fruit.

Ivan lived only another 2 years. On July 11, 1972, he sent a letter to his parents bidding goodbye, and encouraging them on in the faith. A few days after the letter arrived, they received his body, stabbed 6 times, severely beaten, and eventually drowned. But he hung on to his faith!

Atheists tell me that they have no interest in the gospel because they don't need a crutch to get through life. For all those out there who think that, I have one thing to tell you:

People don't die for crutches.



Praise the name of the Father: Halleluab.
Praise the name of the Son: Halleluben.
Praise the name of the Spirit: Halleluruach.

Praise the name of God: Halleluyah!

2 comments:

cawoodm said...

The "Crutch Critique" is hard but accurate. Christianity IS for losers and the spiritually lame: those of us who realise they need a crutch. That's why "...the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you."

Those who don't need a "crutch" are those who are getting left behind.

Jc_Freak: said...

I disagree. Though it is true the the "Crutch Critique" is based on a reality, that is the love that God has for the weak, and how they are drawn to Him, it is inaccurate in its conclusions.

To say that religon is a crutch is to say that that is all it is: just something to help us go through life. This is highly inaccurate. Religon is a worldview, the foundation from which we understand and interact with reality. It is all encompassing. That is can help us in times of need, it does far more than that.

The "Crutch Critique" is a stereotype, and like most stereotypes it takes something which is true but minor, and brings it to the focus, exaggerating it to the point of fallacy.