Tag Archives: All Saints Day

From Kids to Saints: God is there

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. Pray, too, that we will be rescued from wicked and evil people, for not everyone is a believer. 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:

  1. Hallow is really a term for Saints.
  2. John Wesley was fond of All Saints’ Day.
  3. 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:

  1. Warn the lazy. (v. 14)
  2. Encourage the timid. (v.14)
  3. Be kind to everyone. (v. 15)
  4. Be joyful always. (v. 16)
  5. Pray continually. (v. 17)
  6. Give thanks. (v. 18)
  7. Test everything that is taught. (v.20-21)
  8. 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.

Closing prayer:

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.

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Revelations reveal secrets and builds hope

given on Sunday, November 1, 2015

Scripture base: Revelations 21:10-21 & Revelations 7:9-17 (NLT)

I admit I have Royal Fever. The excitement with the World Series makes it very difficult to admit that November is here. The weather must be confused, too, with all the delightful weather we have had and forecast for the week ahead.

Of course the biggest problem is that Royal Fever tends to distract a person, so I admit to another issue—preparing today’s worship service. Today is All Saints Day. The temptation is to connect the two but that might be a real stretch. Yet, there is one image that can—the concept of Kingdom.

Witnessing the transformation of Kansas City into a Royal Kingdom with blue fountains, blue lights, and the Royal logos everywhere creates a visual image and a unity that is creating a kingdom filled with new life.

Reading Revelations can be intimidating, but today’s two selections create visual images that help us anticipate the new life promised for those who accept Christ in our lives. The heavenly kingdom shared in Revelations 21 builds a mental picture of breathtaking beauty:

11 It shone with the glory of God and sparkled like a precious stone—like jasper as clear as crystal.

And the description goes on listing precious stones: jasper, sapphire, agate, emerald, onyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, amethyst and even pearls.

Granted the Royal Kingdom is colored by all the blue sapphires, diamonds, and pearls one could imagine, and it has transformed our world. Does the description of God’s heavenly kingdom create a sense of excitement and anticipation for you?

On this All Saints Day, the picture created in Revelations captures my attention. I cannot imagine the visual glory that will greet us as we enter into God’s kingdom, but the words in Revelations 21 gives me renewed conviction that God’s promise of eternal life is real.

Just in the past year, we have witnessed losses in our community as well as in the national and international communities.  Those who have died took a little light away from our community, but the promise of Revelation’s words provides each of us hope. Not only hope for our own eternal life, but also hope to reconnect with those who have already moved to God’s eternal kingdom.

All Saints Day provides an opportunity to review the list of those who have moved away from our world and on to the heavenly world. We know those who have gone, and we know the promise God has made for all Christians. We use Communion to review and to reaffirm our own covenant as Christians.

In the scripture from Revelations 7, there are echoes of Christ’s story in these words that we share during the liturgy of communion:

13 Then one of the twenty-four elders asked me, “Who are these who are clothed in white? Where did they come from?”

14 And I said to him, “Sir, you are the one who knows.”

Then he said to me, “These are the ones who died in[a] the great tribulation.[b] They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white.

The words remind us that accepting God’s gift of his son and his death for our sins, we are purified. Remember the promise in John 3:16:

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (KJV)

or

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (NRSV)

or

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)

or

16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave[a] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (NLT)

Powerful words. A guarantee. A home run—no a grand slam.

Today, All Saints Day, we hear the promise and we can imagine heaven through the words in Revelations. And, remembering all those who have guided us in this earthly world, we hear the promise of joining those already in God’s heavenly kingdom:

15 “That is why they stand in front of God’s throne
and serve him day and night in his Temple.
And he who sits on the throne
will give them shelter.
16 They will never again be hungry or thirsty;
they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun.
God’s kingdom is a kingdom free of all the tribulations of our earthly life. The decision to believe in God and to accept his greatest gift of his son will turn our earthly tribulation-filled life into an eternal life may not be easy, but believe. The saints in our lives know and the secret is revealed in the words of Revelation:

17 For the Lamb on the throne[c]
will be their Shepherd.
He will lead them to springs of life-giving water.
And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

Revelations reveals the secret to eternal life and provides us hope. All Saints Day and celebrating the sacrament of communion provides the perfect diamond for a winning season. Each of us is a royal witness to God’s kingdom. Share the story, live the story, and receive the crown.

Closing prayer

Dear God,

You manage our lives in ways we do not see.

The saints in our lives have coached us

By modeling the one rule that guarantees

A winning season in our earthly world:

Love one another as you want to be loved.

May we share in the meal of champions,

The bread and the wine of the Lord’s table.

Let them be for us the blood and the body of Christ.

Purify us so we may be winning Christians

Teaming with love for one another.

Thank you for all the grace you provide,

For all the opportunities to serve one another,

And for all the forgiveness when we err.

May scripture strengthen us in our tribulations.

May the legends in our lives be saints at your table.

May the promise of life eternal fuel for our game.

Grant us peace as we share in the cup and the bread.

Fill us with energy as we continue in life’s journey.

Keep hope alive as we hear your word.

And forgive us when we stumble.

We thrill with the promise of life eternal

As we join together at your holy table. –Amen.

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