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Vol. 80 - No. 9
Sept 2009

WORD FROM THE PASTOR:             

Fangs a Lot!

We’re being invaded by vampires!  The Twilight series of books and movies is incredibly popular, as is the television series True Blood.   Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is recast as a vampire story in, not one, but two recent novels.  The current issue (in the week that I’m writing this) of Entertainment Weekly has a cover story  ranking the 20 greatest vampires of all time (I’m miffed that Bela Lugosi’s Dracula came in at only third, and the 1922 Nosferatu–still the scariest film of all time, in my estimation–didn’t make the cut at all). Anne Rice’s series of novels about the Undead remains popular (even though she has reinvented herself as a Christian novelist and is now chronicling the One who truly defeated death, Jesus Christ). 

The modern vampire was brewed up in the same 1816 ghost-story competition that spawned Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  Lord Byron sketched a vampire story, and his physician, John Poldori, ran with it, producing The Vampyr.  Since then, vampires have been a staple of popular entertainment–in novels and in film.   Dracula and Carmilla,   Fright Night and Salem’s Lot, The Lost Boys and Let the Right One In–the titles are endless.  Even opera has not been immune to the lure of the undead–Der Vampyr by Marschner is a lovely example of 19th century German Romanticism, while the 1994 work The Dracula Diary by Robert Moran is high on my short list of favorite contemporary operas. 

The Gospel has a tendency to sneak into the most unlikely places.  So when we encounter a vampire tale, it may be spiritually useful to ask: How can I connect this dark and strange story to the Christian faith?  Let me offer a few reflections:

...and the life everlasting...  I suspect the thing that most grabs people about vampires is that they live forever.    Indeed, that’s the biggest selling point vampires have when recruiting others–how many times has a vampire said, just before the neck bite: “We will live forever...together!”  Of course, eternal life outside of heaven is...well, hell.  And the vampire’s everlasting life turns out to be a curse rather than a blessing, torment rather than joy.

And this reminds us that the Christian vision of the future is not just living forever–because under the wrong circumstances, that could be a terrible thing!  No, our future is living forever with God–living forever with the One who is our highest joy.  We can live forever with God because Jesus Christ has defeated death decisively.    When His tomb opened up, the onlookers saw–not a sleeping corpse–but empty graveclothes, showing that the Lord has truly overcome the power of death.  And He gives this same blessed eternal life for you and me.

There is power in the blood.   The original Dracula novel quotes from Deuteronomy: “For the blood is the life...” (12:23)   Vampires have to drink blood in order to stay alive.  (One TV show depicts vampires in a kind of 12-Step recovery program, where they swear off human blood and only drink animal blood–but they still need blood).  Perhaps the vampire’s thirst is hinting at a deeper truth.  We do need blood...the precious blood of Jesus Christ shed upon the cross!  Scripture says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:23).  We need the blood of Jesus Christ to wash away our sins and give us life.

A renowned horror writer once wrote a story depicting  Christian clergy as a conspiracy of vampires–because of all our talk about drinking the blood of Christ!  Well, I’m no vampire, nor are any of the other pastors I know–but I do rejoice in receiving the Precious Blood of the Saviour in Holy Communion.  Drink of it, all of you–this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:27) His blood, and the forgiveness it brings,  truly is the source of life!

The attractive side of evil.  Some fictional vampires are repulsive–the rat-like Nosferatu in Murnau’s 1922 and Werner Herzog’s 1978 films, or Mr. Barlow in Salem’s Lot.  But most vampires are handsome devils.  There is a lesson for us to learn in this, too.  Evil often masquerades as something beautiful and attractive.  The devil baits his fishhook with alluring things.  When he approached Eve and tempted her to sin, he didn’t say: “Eat of this fruit and you will be plunged into sin and despair and alienation from God.”  Rather, he said: “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).   That’s how the Devil operates.  “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (I Corinthians 11:14)   When we see a handsome or beautiful vampire, then, it’s a reminder that evil often assumes an attractive appearance.  May God’s Holy Spirit give us discernment to look beyond those appearances.

Behold, the wood of the cross... Traditionally, vampires cringe before holy things–a consecrated communion wafer, for instance.  Above all, they are repulsed by the cross.  (A lot of the modern vampire stories remove this element–a sign of our post-Christian society.).  The image of the vampire repelled by the cross gives a clear message: the cross represents the defeat of evil.  Scripture says: “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, Christ made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”  (Colossians 2:13).  A verse from “Lift High the Cross” that didn’t make it into the American hymnals says:

This is the sign that Satan’s legions fear, and angels veil their faces to revere.  It’s interesting, too, that vampires are usually destroyed by a wooden stake.  Again, a reminder that evil is defeated by the wood of the cross upon which Christ was crucified.  Actually, as a Texan I have

to point out that, in the original Dracula novel, it wasn’t a wooden stake that destroyed the

vampire–it was a Bowie knife, the same kind of weapon Jim Bowie had at the Alamo.  But movie vampire lore almost always prescribes a wooden stake.   The wood of the cross is where the powers of evil are overcome...and if we want to be victorious over sin, death and the Devil, we need to stay close to the Holy Cross and the Saviour who gave Himself there.

Vampires are hard to avoid in modern culture.  When one creeps onto your TV screen, remember some of the things we’ve meditated on–joyful eternal life through Jesus Christ...the Precious Blood that truly gives life...the fact that evil assumes a beautiful mask...and the victory of the Jesus on the wood of the Cross.  May His Cross enable us always to triumph over evil!

God loves you and so do I! 

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