We took Mattie, our one-year-old granddaughter, trick-or-treating last night. Dressed in her Winnie the Poo costume and riding in her red wagon, she had to be the cutest kid in her neighborhood! It reminded me of the way I did that with our daughters more than three decades ago.
Call me a curmudgeon, but beyond kids in costumes looking for candy, I have a hard time getting into all the hype that has turned Halloween into the second largest commercial holiday of the year. I have no interest in “Halloween Horror Nights” and am appalled by the “Hell Houses” that some churches offer. I’m more concerned about the hellish mess our world is in now than I am about scaring people about a hell to come.
The Morning After
By contrast, one of the best things to happen in the church during my years in ministry has been the recovery of All Saints’ Day. The Church co-opted some ancient Celtic traditions and transformed them into a celebration of the victory of the resurrection over all the powers of darkness, evil and death.
Growing up in the hyper-Protestant days before Vatican II, we left anything having to do with saints to the Catholics. I never entered the Immaculate Conception Church on Main Street, though I passed it nearly every day. I instinctively knew that whatever was going on in there was at best mistaken and probably wrong. Gratefully, those days are long gone.
My rediscovery of All Saints Day began while I was serving the little church in Crescent City. Across the years that have passed, I’ve come to understand why John Wesley called it “a day I peculiarly love.” It’s a “thin space” where earth and heaven meet as we gather around the table of the Lord “with angels, and archangels and all the company of heaven.” It’s the day on which we are reminded of what it means to believe in “the communion of the saints.”
All Gathered Together
A South Carolina colleague reminded me of the Academy Award-winning film “Places in the Heart.” It’s the story of a young woman, played by Sally Field, struggling against all odds in a desolate corner of Texas in the 1930s. Early in the movie, her husband is killed and human vultures try to take away her farm — the only thing he left her and her two small children.
The final scene finds the town folks in worship, scattered around the sanctuary with empty space between them. As they pass the bread and cup of communion, the empty spaces are mysteriously filled in with the people — good and bad — who have been a part of the story. Finally, the elements are passed to the children and their mother and beside her is her husband. They are all gathered together in the mystery of the communion of saints.
Living in the Middle
Ogen Nash wrote a poem entitled “The Middle”
When I remember bygone days
I think how evening follows morn;
So many I loved were not yet dead,
So many I love were not yet born.
That’s where we live — in the middle space between those we love who have gone on before us and those we love who will come after us. It’s not a bad place to be. In fact, it might just be the place where Heaven touches earth.
Grace and peace,