Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Halloween-Reformation-All Saints

The transition from October to November carries a mixture of observances, Halloween, Reformation, and All Saints Vigil and Day. Halloween is the observance that most people know and practice. I was amazed to see how far some people go in decorating for Halloween. Some houses were decorated as much as they were for Christmas. My drive-by photo did not turn out well, but here is one house from last night:

In times past I objected quite strongly to Halloween because of the ungodly associations of the observance. And I still do not desire to accentuate it or participate in it. Nevertheless, we do buy candy to give to the eager little faces that come to the door.

I do enjoy the children. Stephanie likes to watch me with the children, preferring to watch me over greeting the children herself.

I suppose that this is why people enjoy Halloween. “It’s for the children!”

Nearly everyone enjoys the variety of costumes from which often somewhat trepid yet expectant little faces peer. Last night I especially enjoyed the one tiny little fellow, barely knee-high, who indicated after I gave him a bag of M&Ms, “I want that one.” So I gave him that one, too. “What’s the difference?” I queried. He didn’t know. The two bags were exactly the same.

Earlier in the week, my next door neighbor, 91 years old, decided to replace the light in his carport so that it would stay on when the children would come. After attempting the feat and experiencing instability on the stepladder, he called me to do it.

He was looking forward to the children coming to the door.

I, myself, do not look forward to Halloween. Yet when the children come to the door, I enjoy the encounter.

I was especially amazed at the politeness of the children this year. None of them acted greedily. In past years some children would try to grab handfuls, sometimes multiple handfuls. But this year that did not occur. Not even once.

As much as I enjoy the children, I still experience angst. So many of the costumes are of vampires and other such ghoulish nature. Yet even most of these are “cute.” Still, it leaves me hurting to know how the devil and the world use the cuteness of the children to weaken our senses regarding the appalling nature of these things. I am always wanting to speak the Gospel to the little visitors, and their lurking parents in the shadows.

But the Gospel is not to be pressed upon anyone. This is not the way of our gracious God and Father. While the Gospel is powerful beyond anything else known to us, it is nevertheless, a gift. It is offered in a way not unlike the manner of the Halloween treats.

Oh that the churches would learn this. Just as the children do not need to be coerced or tricked into receiving candy and treats with eager and joyful hearts, so also the Gospel is to be offered. If the Gospel were truly offered in its purity, with all of the sweetness of God’s inestimable grace, mercy, and peace, in the complete unity of the Una Sancta, people would have a very different perception of “Church.”

Interestingly, the children and parents needed no special invitation to come to our door last night. Generally only one thing really mattered. They needed to see the light shining both at the door and from within. Then, of their own desire, they came to the door and knocked, using the liturgical chant of the festival.

It seems funny, that in such circumstances, no one objects to the lack of spontaneity or to the lack of personal opinion. Every person who came to our door used the same historical liturgical chant. It is one that they did not invent or choose, but simply learned as the chant to be used on this occasion. Moreover, each and every person came with the exact same expectation, to be served by the lord of the house or the appointed server. They all expected to receive a treat without offering anything whatsoever for it, simply by the gracious disposition of the one ordained as the serving one.

Sadly, the Halloween liturgy is a sick one. No one even gives any thought to what is being said. “Trick or Treat!” is the chant. It means, “Give us a treat or we will play a dirty trick.” No pays any attention to this anymore, even though it once had a very serious part in the ritual. If people treated these words seriously, how many guns or clubs would be brought to the door instead of treats?

Yet, is this not reflective of how many people approach other matters? Is this not the way that many people make demands regarding government programs? Is this not the way that many approach what they consider to be the Church? Do people not very often come to “worship” with a demanding attitude, demanding that things be done their way?

And in the churches that still use the historic liturgy or something that resembles it, how seriously do people consider the words and what they declare? Do they really even understand what the householder is giving? Do they really understand what they are coming to receive and the means by which the gifts are given? Do they really even come with the same expectation of what is to be received?

This is what the Festival of the Reformation is. It is a festival of thanksgiving for the reclamation of the true identity of the Church as the House of God to which the Holy Spirit calls by means of the Gospel, enlightens with His gifts, and sanctifies those gathered so as to keep them in the one true faith of Jesus through which forgiveness of sins is imparted and everlasting life in God’s Holy Communion is restored. The Festival of the Reformation is the celebration of the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit to accomplish this in every time and place. The devil, the world, and our sinful flesh continually turn the holy things of God into mere symbolism and worse, turn these blessed means of grace into requirements by which the souls of men become enslaved. Rather than being set free by the absolute and unadulterated Truth, people become enslaved to their own corrupt attempts at goodness and righteousness. But the Reformation is God’s continual call to the repentance that the Holy Spirit works. God continually works through the few who preach the Gospel purely to restore His gifts to the Saints.

All Saints Day very appropriately teaches us the effect of the Lord’s Reformation. All Saints Day teaches us the unity of the Church through unity of the doctrine of the Scriptures, by which the Church stands unmoved from the foundation of the preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. All who have ever trusted in this preaching, all who now hear it in the faith worked by the Holy Spirit, and all who ever will hear and abide in the faith it declares, are united in the one body of Christ. They confess the same faith and gather to receive the same gifts. They are truly one in Christ.

Halloween, Reformation, and All Saints Day, really stand as representatives of what occurs daily in the world. Halloween happens each and every day as the human race looks to things that are not of God and of the Life that is known only in His Holy Communion. The Human Race stands apart from the Truth of God and seeks gifts through other ways. But each and every day the Lord continually calls out with His Gospel through His saints who daily walk in spirit, confessing the true faith, gathering into the name of Jesus to receive the Sacraments of forgiveness and life. Each and every day is All Saints Day, as those whom the Holy Spirit has called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified are kept in the one true faith, united and kept whole with Jesus Christ until the day that He comes to take His saints out of this world of deception and terror and turmoil to live in the blessedness of the resurrection.

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1 comment:

Mr. Mcgranor said...

I had a great Reformation Day.