This past Monday was All Saints Day. For many the day came and went after the big celebration of “All Hallow’s Eve”, or Halloween as we know it. While history has recognized All Saints Day as the bigger of the two days, Halloween has been stripped of its spirituality and returned to a time of dress up and candy grabbing. While Halloween’s origins were not originally Christian, eventually the day was tied directly to All Saints Day. It was celebrated by the Church on November 1st and was a day to prepare for All Saints. Nonetheless, the pendulum has swung back in the secular direction. And it appears to have done so because we have lost sight as to the importance and meaning of All Saints Day.
Such is the case because a growing number of churches do not even recognize All Saint’s Day anymore. While some have thought it to be a dreary day celebrating the dead, others have accused the Church of venerating or worshipping human beings. Many churches in fact do not recognize any saints whatsoever. The origins of such feelings can be traced back to Protestant and Catholic debate over praying to the saints, particularly when it came to helping loved ones in Purgatory. Protestants rejected the notion of Purgatory; and as such, many churches neglected recognizing saints.
And yet, there were many who found All Saints Day to be a powerful moment of Grace. John Wesley, though he encouraged individuals not to “invoke the saints” in prayer, called All Saints Day a “festival I truly love.” It was a celebration he looked forward to each year. He, along with many other Christians, didn’t see the celebration of All Saints Day as a time of veneration or worship of the saints. Rather, he saw it as a time to celebrate the transformative power of grace.
Laurence Hull Stookey, in his book, Calendar, writes, “To celebrate All Saints Day is nothing other than to celebrate the transformative power and grace of Jesus. One does not become a saint by their own determination but by the grace and power of God.” Saints aren’t saints because they were so perfect in deed and action. Saints reflect the glory of God because God has been active in their lives. I imagine there have been moments in your life when you have witnessed another person love sacrificially or offer grace and mercy where you’ve come to see it as a holy moment. Such was not accomplished because that person was “great.” It was accomplished because God was at work in their lives. Thus, to celebrate All Saints Day is to celebrate the real working of God’s presence in the lives of humanity.
This Sunday we will remember the saints who have passed this year as well as take time to remember those who have passed beyond this year. Many of them were not perfect, but they evidenced the grace of God in their lives. As such, they were holy. Moreover, may it encourage us to rely on the grace of God to transform our lives as well!
Halloween is celebrated this coming Sunday Evening, October 31, 2021.
Halloween is the contraction of All Hallows’ Eve, a holiday observed on October 31, the evening before All Saints’ (or All Hallows’) Day. In much of Europe and most of North America, observance of Halloween is largely nonreligious.
This time of year is unlike any other in many respects. Every shopping center and grocery store is filled with all sorts of candy, costumes, and colorful decorations. Over 14 Billion Dollars will be spent on Halloween this year. In a few short days children will parade up and down the streets going to houses decorated for the occasion. They will be disguised as their favorite characters chanting “Trick or Treat” and holding out plastic bags or molded plastic pumpkins in hopes of collecting vast amounts of candy.
I was reading up about Halloween, and I ran across a sermon by Scott R. Bayles and I thought he had some suggestions we might want to consider.
He was thinking that while we have been encouraged to use holidays such as Easter and Christmas as opportunities for outreach, he would suggest the same thing for Halloween. So, he shared a Practical Perspective of Halloween:
"In my opinion, the worst thing Christians can do on Halloween is turn off the lights, lock the door and pretend no one is home. Jesus said that his purpose in coming to earth was to “seek and save the lost.” That’s our mission too. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Let your lights shine before men in such a way that they will see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16 NASB).
So, let’s heed the words of our Lord and Savior and let our lights shine—both our spiritual lights and porch lights—on a day that is typically known for its darkness. Let me offer some suggestions on how to use Halloween to glorify God:
1. Don’t turn out the lights and ignore it. Halloween won’t go away. So, if you don’t support this holiday, determine to turn a negative into a positive.
2. If you’re staying home: buy some candy, answer the door and when you put candy in the children’s bags include some information about the church.
3. If you have children, don’t take fun away from them, go “Trick-or-Treating” with them. And take some Halloween church handouts to give out along the way. I mean, think about it: how often can you go door to door on a day when almost everyone will answer the door with a pleasant attitude?
4. Instead of playing scary music, play Christian music really loud.
5. Have a Halloween party and instruct everyone to come as a Bible character.
6. Buy a pumpkin and carve a cross in it, placing a candle inside to symbolize that Jesus is the light of the world.
7. PRAY! Pray for the safety of the children who will be out on that night, but more importantly pray that the Gospel will go out that night as well—and that through God’s word some lost soul might come to know Jesus.
I hope that you leave your lights on Sunday evening and maybe try some of the ideas mentioned! There will be some Halloween church invitational handouts available at the church services on Sunday for you to pick up and share in your trick or treating.
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”—1 Corinthians 10: 12-14
Mother Theresa is supposed to have said, “I know God won't give me anything I can't handle. I just wish he didn't trust me so much.” I’ve heard countless people say, “God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle”. It’s a positive, life-affirming statement. Whatever our circumstances, we are going to turn out fine. It’s also a misreading of the Word of God and the nature of God. It’s even a dangerous thought.
Buried in the notion that “God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle” is a selfish pride that can be harmful. A falsehood that, perhaps, you are supposed to handle your troubles. That when you feel like your burdens are more than you can bear, then maybe God isn’t keeping His end of the bargain.
That’s the Devil’s work, my friends. Not the doubting or the despair—that’s human. It’s the sin of mistrust; a sin of believing when things are at their bleakest, we should look inside ourselves for the strength to carry through.
I’ve lost both of my parents; in different circumstances and at different times of my life. My father, a Little Rock police officer, was in a car accident when I was eight years old—on his day off; heading to his favorite fishing hole. Of all of the worries we had because of his job, they were nothing compared to the reality of just how fragile and dangerous everyday life can be. There were many nights I stared at my bedroom ceiling and tried to understand the “why” and more importantly the “what next”. This wasn’t a “God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle” moment. Everyone in the family was being crushed by more than we could handle.
Thirty-seven years later, my mother succumbed to an ugly, evil cancer that had tormented her for the better part of seventeen years. She didn’t pass away suddenly or unexpectedly. The day she was admitted to the hospital for her final, brief denouement was the beginning of a twelve-day vigil that everyone knew was the end. We had been preparing for her passing for almost three years by then. But those twelve days—sitting with her as she lost consciousness and then lingered —it was far, far more than we could handle.
If we look at the scripture, Paul doesn’t promise us that “God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle”. Paul teaches that God won’t let us be tempted beyond our ability to resist. That when we are tempted, God will give us the tools necessary to find our way out of temptation.
One of the great temptations we face is that we can handle the trials of the world. The truth is we can’t. God doesn’t want you to handle it. Rather, he wants you to NOT handle it—to give it to Him to handle.
As I stared at the ceiling as a child—as I sat by the hospital bed years later—I can tell you that I had the strongest tool in my kit; I heard the voice of God whispering over and over, “I’ve got you. This will be ok. I’ve got you.”
The world in its natural state is more than we can handle. We have all seen people crushed and beaten down by it. Some days we ARE those people. When we are, it only shows that we’re fighting the wrong fight. Have faith that God and God alone is strong enough to shoulder our weights and worries.
Thanks be to God!
Extravagance. I have been thinking about this word a lot lately. What does extravagance mean to you? What comes to mind when you think of extravagance? The dictionary defines extravagance as "lack of restraint in spending money or use of resources." Lack of restraint…
I don't have restraint in many areas. Lack of restraint in how much chocolate I eat or how much t.v. I watch. Is that the same thing as the extravagance we talk about when discussing God's extravagant grace?
The Bible tells us many times that God freely gives us grace and extravagant grace. God's grace is lavished on us. This past weekend at the Women's Retreat, we discussed some of Jesus' miracles. He was feeding the 5000, turning water into wine, and raising Lazarus from the dead. What Jesus did is extravagant. Twelve leftover baskets of food, 180 gallons of wine, waiting until Lazarus was dead. As I began to reflect on this weekend, I began to remember more miracles and how those show extravagances as well. Catching so many fish that the nets broke, calming a storm with His voice. Why did Jesus have to offer such extravagance?
I don't know about you, but I get so wrapped up in my world sometimes that I often don't see what is going on all around me. I am beginning to wonder if Jesus using such extravagance was to show a point, or get people's attention. So many times the disciples would question Jesus. Maybe during these miracles, He was extravagant to show that He was the only One who could make those things happen.
God doesn't just give us grace but extravagantly gives us grace. So much grace that we don't know what to do. We continue to sin and fall short and mess up. We continue to turn our eyes from Him. God still lavishes us with His grace through all His wisdom and understanding.
Christian Education Coordinator
This past Sunday I thoroughly enjoyed and was moved by our children’s participation in the worship service. From one of our older elementary kids praying to our kids mimicking the hand motions during communion, it was a blessing to see them be part of leading the worship of Jesus. I was kept on my toes with their questions as well! I was blown away by their questions and the depth of insight that they led us into in our conversation. I’ll have to say, Stephanie Dunn, our Christian Education Coordinator had a great idea when she suggested this sermon of Q & A. Over and over again throughout the service, I heard Jesus’ words in Matthew, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these (Matthew 19:14),” in my head during the service.
In Jesus’ days, children were barely noticed. At times they were just considered property. And yet, Jesus opens the door for them to have a place of honor and privilege to sit at His feet. I imagine they were disruptive. Afterall some of the disciples tried to shoo them away. And, I imagine, they didn’t understand what was “proper” or “right.” Yet, what Jesus saw in them was the potential to know God and love God. He saw in them a hunger for knowledge, love, and community.
I witnessed the same on Sunday. I was captivated by the eye contact each child had as they asked questions, and I answered as part of the sermon. Many never diverted their attention from a word that was coming from my mouth. I saw a hunger in their eyes to hear words about God, to learn, and to be listened to. It was awe inspiring.
Jesus’ words have reverberated in my mind throughout the rest of this week. “Let the little children come unto me...” I’ve been thinking that a child may not just be one who is a certain age, but could be any person just entering into the life of faith. Jesus came to the hungry, the vulnerable, the sinful, the weary, and said, “You have a place.” As I’ve let those words sit with me, I’ve wondered what children have I prevented from coming to Jesus? Whether it’s my attitude, assumptions, selfishness, or more, I know at times I’ve not allowed some of God’s children (whether aged 3 or 33) to enter into His presence. I have to be a spiritual adult which means having the same mind as Christ Jesus. I have to be willing to imagine once again what it’s like to see a spiritual child walk into church for the first time or join us online for the first time. I have to realize there is a great hunger of God in those who’ve yet to step foot or just have stepped foot in our congregational life that may need feeding. Such may require me to move to the side and let them sit at Jesus’ feet. It may require hearing Jesus’ rebuke to not hinder them or require me to help them find Jesus. All this means the bearing of a cross to move my desires out of the way so that another’s spiritual need can be met.
This week I find myself grateful for the lesson our kids have taught me. Let the children come and may we assist in whatever way we can to help them find the joy we have uncovered in Jesus Christ.