Until then ...

October 31st, 2017

My problem with Halloween

Sorry to be a buzzkill, but I’m not a big fan of what Halloween has become in the U.S.

I love its history as a day to remember the joke God played on the powers of evil through the resurrection. It’s fine for small children. One of my favorite memories is walking around our neighborhood with a couple of other dads as our children went knocking on doors. But since adults and Walmart got into it, the whole thing has gotten out of hand. I don’t want to have my teeth cleaned by a witch or do my banking with a clown.

Of the $9 billion Americans will spend on Halloween this year, the money for candy alone would provide 1.5 million homeless and extremely poor people with three hot meals every day for a year. And that doesn’t include the added trips to the dentist after they consume all that sugar! (You’ll find the disturbing statistics here.)

“A day I peculiarly love”

By contrast, I’m a big fan of All Saints’ Day which John Wesley called “a day I peculiarly love.” It’s the day we remember those who have gone before us and are now present with us in the “communion of the saints.”

Charles Wesley taught us to sing: “Let saints on earth unite to sing with those to glory gone, for all the servants of our King in earth and heaven are one.”

It’s also the day that points toward the promise of that day when God’s kingdom will fully come and God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. It reminds us of the promise that though “now we see in a mirror, dimly, then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

“Until then”

When we call the names of those who have joined the saints around throne (Revelation 7:9-17) in the past year, I’ll be remembering my mother. She used to sing an old gospel song that says:

Until then my heart will go on singing,
Until then with joy I’ll carry on,
Until the day my eyes behold the city,
Until the day God calls me home.

As followers of the risen Christ, we are called to live now in ways that are consistent with the way we believe things will be then. Jesus’ parables are clear that the question is not “When is Jesus coming again?” but “What will I be doing when he gets here?” The question is not “When will Jesus vision of the kingdom of God be fulfilled?” The question is “How am I participating in that kingdom among us right now?”

  • We care for the environment now because then the renewed creation will be the place where God will be at home with God’s people. (Revelation 21:3) 
  • We work for peace now because we know that then swords will be turned into plowshare and spears into pruning hooks and people will not learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4) 
  • We work to overcome racism and ethnic conflict now because we know that then heaven will be filled with people from every race, tongue and nation. (Revelation 7:8-9) 
  • We invite others to follow Jesus now because we know that then every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Philippians 2:10-11) 
  • We care for one another in Christian community now because we know that then God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. (Revelation 21:4) 
  • We feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners and seek economic justice for the poor now because Jesus said that’s the way every nation will be judged then. (Matthew 25:31-46) 

Writing from a Nazi prison cell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer declared:

“There remains for us only the very narrow way of living every day as if it were our last, and yet living in faith and responsibility as though there were to be a great future…It may be that the day of judgement will dawn tomorrow, and in that case, though not before, we shall gladly stop working for a better future.”

Go ahead and have fun on Halloween. But remember that it is just the dark night before the dawn of the new day of resurrection. Until then, keep on keeping on!

Jim Harnish is the author of A Disciple's Heart and Earn. Save. Give. He blogs at at JimHarnish.org.

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