If you know me, you know I love Halloween. Sometimes as a pastor and a Christian this leads to uncomfortable conversations with others who have a strong opinion about Halloween that I do not share. I have always loved Halloween. Not everything about it to be sure.
In seminary I first heard this quote, whose source I cannot find, from the great Methodist evangelist E. Stanley Jones, “What gets your attention gets you.” This was shared with us in the context of dealing with the supernatural in evangelism and ministry. His point to us was that we should not fret about the supernatural or things like Halloween but rather to focus on Christ and to point others in the same direction.
Halloween’s roots in All Saints Day (hence the name All Hallows Eve, a reference to its being the eve of that day when the dead in Christ are celebrated and remembered) is something I didn’t learn until long after I stopped trick-or-treating. When we dress up we mock the evil forces of the world and the spirit. We say ‘These things have no power over us.’ Death, the grave, and evil are not the victors – God has triumphed in Jesus Christ. While these things still exist in our world, their power is broken.
I find it fascinating how often people of faith generate and give into fear. How much we are manipulated by fear. Listen to the political campaigns and notice how many of the messages are intended to make us afraid. Even in the church we use fear to motivate or influence people. When I hear someone trying to make me afraid I get nervous.
How many times in the Gospels does Jesus say “Do not fear?” Especially after the Resurrection. While we are told that we must learn to fear God (another subject for another post), that fear means that nothing else should make us afraid. Halloween to me is a moment to say “Nothing in all creation – not even death or the power of evil – can make me fear.” And to go through my son’s treat bag because the stuff he doesn’t like are the things that I love. Maybe E. Stanley Jones was right!
Don’t give in to fear. Not in the raging political debates. Not next week when Halloween comes around once more. Not when you are confronted by someone or something that pushes your fear button. The things that we fear are often as illusory as the ghosts and goblins who ring our doorbells on Halloween night. When that fear is of something truly fearful – remember that it, too, has been conquered. And pay attention to the one who says still;
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid.”
(John 14:27 CEB)