by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
Halloween is not supposed to be Happy. It is the night before All Saints’ Day, the glorious day when the minions of hell are reminded they lost the battle to King Jesus and his holy ones. The holy ones consist of all historical Christians and us today. Halloween has various pagan backgrounds (you can google this stuff all day long if you desire) but for authentic Christians the eve of remembering and celebrating the legacy and victory of the new people of God through Jesus’ victory over death and evil, Halloween is nothing more than that moment to watch the demons flail about, torn to bits within their own chaos and destruction.
I find it interesting that local Christians have forced our schools to stop saying Happy Halloween. Now they have Fall Festivals at school instead of Halloween parties. My guess is that none of these Christians understand nor celebrate All Saints’ Day November 1st. Yet, I will assume most would celebrate the lives and causes of Christians like Francis of Assisi (the poor), John Calvin (reformed the western church), William Wilberforce (slavery in Britain), Clara Barton (started the Red Cross), Corrie Ten Boom (saved Jews during WWII), Rev. Dr. M.L. King, Jr (civil rights in America), Bishop Desmond Tutu (against Apartheid in S. Africa).
Historical Christians have helped bring education and medicine around the world; come along side the diseased and dying, stood up against tyrants – and been martyred for it; fed and clothed the poor, refused to fight in wars – or refused to celebrate victory over political enemies, propelled the arts, stood up for the rights of unborn, stood up for the rights of the oppressed and the list goes on. (At this point some will point out the evil some Christians have committed – and they have. But in the balance, the good done in the name of Jesus far far far outweighs any wrong done in the name of Jesus. Compare at this point Christian good to the “good” atheists and secularists have done: a few names will suffice – Marx, Stalin, Mao…)
Each saint (holy one) celebrated November 1st stuffs the demons back into their holes. In the end love wins – always. In the end the Devil loses. And let us not fall into the idea that this victory has not occurred at all yet. The Apostle Paul makes this clear over and over that a new kingdom has already begun… Colossians 1:23 “the gospel… has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven…” The victory is won. But the full expression of that kingdom is not realized — yet (cf. Romans 8:18-39). But it will when the King returns. Until then, do not be scared of Halloween. But realize the demons are real and they are really in trouble – YOU, Christian, are their worst nightmare! For one night, October 31st we allow those who reign in hell to express their anguish and bitter defeat. But bright and early the new day dawns – All Saints’ Day. Sing a new song! Announce Jesus is King! Put your hand to the plow and continue to press forward with the work of the kingdom (1 Corinthians 3:12-17 – …build on the foundation of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit).
Each November 1st at our house I make sure there is no hint of Halloween left over. Every jack-o-lantern or string of lights, or cobweb is hidden or thrown out. Clean out the house of October 31st first thing on November 1st! Bring your small children into this tradition and let them understand the Eve of the Hallowed Ones is just a cheap last ditch cry of a defeated Devil – that October 31st is really the Eve of All Saints’ Day. And teach your children that they are children of the new covenant, the victorious ones, the hallowed ones, created for good works, creating the building materials to be used in the kingdom once the King returns.
“Therefore… stand firm. Let nothing move you [especially not Halloween]. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
– 1 Corinthians 15:58
by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
I realize once again that my default setting is “more efficient.” I signed up for a drawing class during the day so I could be home at night. But the class overlapped a standing meeting. As I searched for another time slot for the standing meeting, I found my self saying these words, “By taking the drawing class during the day, I thought I was being more efficient.” In other words, I want to do morein a fixed amount of time each week. The answer therefore is simple: be efficient.
Eugene Peterson says ‘hurry is a form of violence done on time.’ Henri Nouwen says the best word to describe our lives is “compulsive.” I am convinced the demons of our False Self thrive best on chaos. Noise, noise, noise. Televisions on all the time, radio on all the time, just-in-time shopping, squeezed between suburban soccer practice, church meeting, dinner (eaten in mini-vans as God created us to do – J. Ortberg), car fill up, movie rental return, run by the office supply store for a padded envelope… You get the idea.
What if time was not a commodity, which we could barter for, trade for, collateralize and squeeze? Time is a crop. This definition of time means we should think of time as something to be nurtured and tended – not “hot-housed,” synthesized or plasticized.
Perhaps the best way to describe time as a crop is to think about our prayers. We want g-d to answer our prayers fast. We fervently pray for a long time because we mistakenly believe that if we load enough time and intensity to our prayers, then g-d will be won over against his will and he will have to do our bidding. This is driven NOT by the desire to hear from the Lord, but to control g-d’s will. But if time is thought of as a crop, then WAITING is the bulk of prayer.
Think of time as crop. Now we must WAIT for the winter thaw, WAIT for the right soil moisture, prepare the soil, plant the seed, WAIT for the rain, WAIT for the right temperature, hope against hope that blight, fungus, pests and such don’t destroy our TIME plantings (what others think of us will damage our sense of peace more than any spell a demon could ever concoct).
More is NOT the fruit time should bear. Efficiency is not the fruit time should bear. What should time bear? Relationship. Relationship with g-d, SELF, relationship with family, friends, soul-mates, fellow Stuff-marters… humans.
Can we make the sun hurry? Can we make the sun more efficient in it’s appointed course? Daylight savings makes me chuckle. We shift the clock in an attempt to hurry the rise of the sun (Fall). How feeble this feels! How weak we really are! We are such pitiable “little gods,” working our little incantations upon the sun.
Waiting really is the art of living well. I am no longer convinced Patience is a character trait. No, Patience is listed in the New Testament as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). It comes as a result of the Spirit’s Presence. How then, does one gain the Spirit’s Presence? Not by contrived hurried worship or self-effused prayer. The Spirit comes on its own agenda, its own time. G-d is younger than us. Yes, g-d is young like a child enjoying every moment, lingering, dilly-dallying, playing, creating, laughing, singing, lost in minor moments from our perspective. Time belongs to g-d, he owns it, all of it. G-d needs no Efficiency, g-d needs no More.
Of course it is wrong to say g-d waits, but to us, that is what it feels like. For we are getting older, slower, maybe crankier, and we are in a big hurry. We are restless sheep who cannot lie down (Ps. 23). We are anxious (Phil. 4:6). So we commodify Time… buying and selling Time like a commodity at the Board of Trade. Time has lost its real value – or to say it in technical terms, time as lost its “nomena” or its “realness” and has just become a “phenomena” or Sign or Signifier, a symbol onlyof Relationship with g-d. No wonder prayer feels cheap and more tricksy, like g-d is a vending machine who won’t give what we paid for and demanded, and we now must “shaken ’em down.” “Give—-me—-what—-I—-want——now!”
Become a Time Farmer. Wait. Prepare prayers. Write them out by hand. Drop out something from your schedule. Throw away the stock certificates of Time and just dilly-dally more. Go slow and watch. Otherwise you and I will be only desperate predators, seeking and prowling for our next Time meal, compulsive and aggressive… angry, greedy.