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The Elephant in the Room

October 28, 2017

Looking to the week to come, I’m drawn to two great Christian events. I’m drawn to the Feast of All Saints. The day when we celebrate the great heroes of the faith. This year I’ve moved the celebration of All Saints to a Sunday and a joint service for all of my 7 churches. That way it shouldn’t just be lost in a quiet mid-week service, attended by half a dozen people.

So there I was, thinking about All Saints, when my mind wandered to the day after, to All Souls. That day we’ve invited the bereaved to come to church to remember their loved ones. To light a candle and thank God for them. I hope and pray they will also leave with some comfort and a strengthened hope in the power of Jesus over death.

So there I was, thinking about All Saints and All Souls. I was reflecting and smiling and, if I’m honest, I was feeling very pleased with myself and my churches. Then it struck me. Then I realised that there was an elephant in the room and the elephant had a name: It was an elephant named “Halloween”.

“Halloween”: A word that seems to bring fear and loathing into the hearts of so many Christians. I can remember the reaction to Halloween at my theological college. The world would be having parties and children would be collecting sweets. The college would be huddled away in our chapel, praying fervently against evil and jumping at every creak and squeak.

Those days in college were very earnest. They did build a sense of us few against the world. I wonder though whether or not my college got it right. I wonder whether in all the scurrying fear Satan alone was being glorified. I’ve probably alarmed some people now, so let me explain.

Firstly, I have no doubt that evil is real. Spiritual evil as well as the evil acts that people do. I also know without a doubt that evil can be personal and intelligent; not just a vague force in the world. Evil is real, the Devil is real, Jesus tells us so, and most Christians come to know this first hand at some point or other.

Evil is real, but evil has also been defeated by Jesus on the cross. When faced with Jesus, evil flees. The Bible says, “Surrender to God! Resist the devil, and he will run from you.” (James 4:7)

Also, “Children, you belong to God, and you have defeated these enemies. God’s Spirit is in you and is more powerful than the one that is in the world.” (1 John 4.4).

With such strong teaching in the Bible, why should I, or any of Jesus followers, run around in fear at Halloween? After all, the word “Halloween” just means “All Hallows’ Eve”, or “All Saints’ Eve”. What most people seem to have forgotten is that All Saints’ Eve is the start of the celebration of All Saints. It is not the shadowy evil time before the celebration. The Church knew what it was doing when it put the feast of All Saints on 1st November. It was deliberately claiming a pagan time when the spirits were thought to appear. It was not running away in fear. It was not huddling in a corner. The Church was claiming those verses of the Bible with complete confidence, and having a party.

I put it to the children in one of my churches, that they could dress up, but not to copy evil, and not to be afraid of evil. No, they could dress up to taunt and laugh at all that is evil. They could do that because they know that Jesus is stronger that any evil. They know that his Spirit is in them. They know that God’s angels protect them. We together did what James said, we, “Surrendered to God” so that we could resist all evil, and watch it run!

We Christians have been too timid in our faith. Looking to myself, either I believe that Jesus has conquered all evil or I don’t. So I’m not cowering and I’m not encouraging my fellow Christians to cower either!

This Halloween, I will be in church, celebrating the calling of one of God’s people, one of his saints. I will be celebrating the licensing and commissioning of the Lead Evangelist for our new Centre for Mission. There will be no hint of cowering or fear, only joy at the power and love of God.

I won’t let Halloween be the elephant in the room. In Christ there is nowhere for evil to hide!

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