Unsung Saints Devotions fro Lent 2021

Holy Saturday

Hebrews 4:1-16

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,

“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”

although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,

“They shall not enter my rest.”

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Mary Ann, Baptismal Banner Maker

Mary Ann and Henry were parishioners in Waco, Texas. They were originally from the little, mostly German town of McGregor, where so many boys and girls grew up together in Zion Lutheran Church and would marry. They would go off to the war and to college and then settle down in larger cities and towns. Waco, about the size of Wilmington, provided far better employment opportunities than their little hometown, and, even later, their children would, after college, often find their way to even larger metropolitan areas. Within three generations in Lutheran congregations, one could see the American story of an agrarian economy giving way to an industrial economy and then more to a high-tech and service economy.

For years, I have asked parishioners to bring worship bulletins from the churches they visited on vacation or at holidays. It was a reminder to worship weekly, of course, but it was a way of finding out what other congregations were doing. Sometimes, there were good ideas they were anxious to share. Others, there were comments like, “You don’t know how good it is to be back home at our church, Pastor!”

Mary Ann and Henry had made a trip to see children and grandchildren, and she came back with pictures she wanted me to see. There had been a Baptism in the congregation they visited, and Mary Ann was quite impressed with what the Women of the Church there had done. They had made a small purple felt baptismal banner, placed it on a wooden dowel with a heavy colored twine attached at each end as a hanger, and given it to the parents of a newly baptized child to be placed on his or her nursery wall. In white letters with a gold descending dove, the banner had the child’s first name and these words from Isaiah 43:1, “I have called you by your name; You are Mine.”

Mary Ann asked if I thought it was a good idea, and, if so, might the Women of the Church begin to make these banners. I immediately agreed. In advance of each Baptism, the women would make the banner at a monthly meeting and place it in the nave on a pole beside the baptismal font and the paschal candle. The parents of the newborn and the rest of the congregation were so delighted, many began to ask for banners for the children who had been previously baptized. My youngest son, Joshua Paul, who turned four just after I began serving St. Matthew, Waco, received a banner for his bedroom.

This evening, we will celebrate the Easter Vigil by remembering the story of salvation and renewing our baptismal vows. I will think of so many unsung saints as Christ’s Church hears the Easter Gospel from John 20 and sings Martin Luther’s Easter hymn, “Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands” (Christ lag in Todesbanden). As I joyfully splash water on the heads of the faithful using an evergreen branch, I will think of Mary Ann, who was 60 when I became her pastor in 1988. She died on February 26 just two days shy of her 92nd birthday.

The preacher of Hebrews reminds us, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (13:14). A 14th century Gregorian chant declares: “Media vita in morte sumus” (In the midst of life we are in death). It concludes: “O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.” And the promise of our Baptism into His saving death is: “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

Dear Father, thank you for Mary Ann and all the dear unsung saints who help us to remember the promise of our Baptism. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Put forty-six pennies, nickels, or dimes in a bowl or box today to help to provide food for the local food bank to share with the poor.

St Matthew's Pastor Sam Zumwalt

Pastor Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Wilmington, NC

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.