given on Sunday, October 30, 2016
Scripture connection: using the NLT
I Thessalonians 5:14-17
14 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.
15 See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. 16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying.
2 Thessalonians 3:1-3
1Finally, dear brothers and sisters,[a] we ask you to pray for us. Pray that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you. 2 Pray, too, that we will be rescued from wicked and evil people, for not everyone is a believer. 3 But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.[b]
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
11 So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. 12 Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.[a]
Reflection: From kids to saints: God is there
Here we are at the end of October and we are still feeling like summer, but the calendar clearly states that summer is over. The calendar shows us that in this particular week, we are marching straight into November. The seasons are changing and in this one week we go from kids to saints in just 24 hours—well, so it seems.
Tomorrow, October 31, is Halloween (as if I needed to say that). This is a holiday that has gone from simple trick or treat runs from one house to another into an insane retail extravaganza. Halloween seems to be one of those timeless holidays that is no longer just a kid’s event, but now includes all ages—from kids to the parents to the grandparents and even the great-grandparents. One day on the calendar traditionally for the kids takes us into a day for the saints.
As October slips away into November, the “All Hallows’ Eve” becomes “All Saints Day.” Googling Halloween and All Saints Day brought some interesting pieces into the conversation:
- Hallow is really a term for Saints.
- John Wesley was fond of All Saints’ Day.
- All Hallows’ Eve became Halloween.
Growing up on the farm, eight miles out of town, Halloween was not a significant day for me. In fact, my mom felt it was wrong and only allowed my brother and I to get involved in minimal ways, such as attending the 4-H Halloween party. Yet, she strongly supported us in the UMYF’s efforts to “trick or treat for UNICEF.”
Mom’s discomfort for Halloween came from the ‘glorification’ of the witches, ghosts, devils and other such non-Christian images that seem to promote un-Christian behaviors. Part of her discomfort might have been due to the long-held belief that Halloween began as a pagan tradition. Googling Halloween and reading Wikipedia’s entry might have eased her mind:
It is widely believed that many Halloween traditions originated from Celtic harvest festivals which may have pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain, and that this festival was Christianized as Halloween. Some academics, however, support the view that Halloween began independently as a solely Christian holiday.
This explanation certainly shows how Halloween and All Saints Day really can take us from kids to saints all in 24 hours.
One of our personal saints is Earlene George. I cannot separate Halloween from Earlene. When she asked if she could have a Halloween event at the church for the local kids, I hesitated. I had to let go of all the negative feelings I had about celebrating Halloween, especially at church, as she moved into action.
When I walked into the church fully decorated for Halloween, I simply had to scream—and then laugh, giggle, and join in the fun. No one witnessing the kids walking in and experiencing all the fun and goodies could question the value of this unusual ministry. Halloween is for the kids, but the night transforms into “All Saints Day” at midnight.
The UMC denomination does acknowledge All Saints Day as a time to remember and to honor the ‘saints’ of our church, local and global, who are no longer present with us. An article by Joe Iovino on the UMC.org website explains Wesley’s attitude toward the holiday:
November 1 is All Saints Day, a sometimes-overlooked holy day in United Methodist congregations. It is not nearly as well known as the day before, All Hallow’ (Saints’) Eve, better known as Halloween, but is far more important in the life of the church.
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, enjoyed and celebrated All Saints Day. In a journal entry from November 1, 1767, Wesley calls it “a festival I truly Love.” On the same day in 1788, he writes, “I always find this a comfortable day.” The following year he calls it “a day that I peculiarly love.”
My mom might have enjoyed the Halloween a bit more if she realized the connection to All Saints’ Day. Halloween may be for the kids, but it also connects us to the saints in our lives that we honor the very next day.
Wesley did caution us about holding saints in too high regard:
The Articles of Religion that he sent to the Methodists in American in 1784, include a statement against “invocation of saints” (Article XIV—of Purgatory, Book of Discipline paragraph104). Wesley did not see biblical evidence for the practice and discouraged Methodists from participating. However, he also advised against disregarding the saints altogether. [Iovino]
Even though this week we are talking about Halloween and All Saints Day, there is more to the story. God is with us all the time, and as we open the doors to serve the kids in the community, we are also demonstrating the saint-like behaviors that God has commissioned us to do.
Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonians are filled with guidelines on how to live and these guidelines are for everybody—from the kids to the saints. In fact, those who live by the guidelines are often considered to be saints in the eyes of those who witnessed the Christian behaviors.
In I Thessalonians 5:14-17, the list of behaviors can be a checklist for us to live by, for us to teach the kids, and for us to determine the saints in our lives:
- Warn the lazy. (v. 14)
- Encourage the timid. (v.14)
- Be kind to everyone. (v. 15)
- Be joyful always. (v. 16)
- Pray continually. (v. 17)
- Give thanks. (v. 18)
- Test everything that is taught. (v.20-21)
- Avoid evil. (v.22)
Consider these guidelines as we open the doors for Halloween, but also as we model our Christian beliefs. God is with us always, and when we live by these guidelines, we can be confident that God is with us from the time we are kids until the time we join those saints who are already in the presence of Jesus Christ.
Following Paul’s guidelines to the Thessalonians will not be easy for the kids nor for any of us as we continue life’s journey. Yet, there are those living saints that are doing all they can to make sure we remain part of God’s family. Paul wrote his second letter to the Thessalonians within the year after he wrote the first one. He heard that there were some problems and he wanted to make sure they remained faithful—that is also an example of saint-like behaviors.
In the second letter, he reminds the members that the main defense if prayer when they are under spiritual attack. He adds that they should study the Bible, memorize scripture, associate with other Christians, and practice what the spiritual leaders teach.
These reminders in Thessalonians are the same ones we need to teach our kids and to practice throughout our own lives. These rules are for kids to saints. These rules transform kids into saints.
This week as we celebrate Halloween and All Saints’ Day, we need to read, study, and practice Paul’s words because God is for kids, their parents, their grandparents and even the great-grandparents. God is always with us and will never fail us, as Paul writes in Hebrews 13:5:
Celebrate Halloween with our kids knowing that everything we do to share God’s love can transform lives through the work of the Holy Spirit and develop saints like those we honor on All Saints Day.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for Paul’s wisdom found in scripture.
Thank you for the gift of your son Jesus Christ
and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
As we depart this morning,
Guide us in sharing the Good News
Through all the means that we can,
even if it is in a treat-filled Halloween.
Then, as the midnight hour approaches
May we shift our thoughts from kids to saints
Let the day reconnect us with the saints
of our lives who taught us your ways.
In the name of Jesus Christ
and through the gift of the Holy Spirit, amen.