Sermons

Summary: In this sermon I draw upon the history of Halloween as being influenced by the doctrine of death and resurrection. I have included a full article about Halloween (Halloween: A Christian Perspective) that I found in The Wall Street Journal.

Strangers & Pilgrims in this World

1 Peter 1:1-9

v. 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,

v. 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

v. 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

v. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

v.7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

v. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

In 1 Peter 2:11-12, Note how Peter addresses the Christian:

v.11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

v. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Origins of Halloween from History.com:

Halloween, celebrated each year on October 31, is a mix of ancient Celtic practices, Catholic and Roman religious rituals and European folk traditions that blended together over time to create the holiday we know today. Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity and life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. Halloween has long been thought of as a day when the dead can return to the earth, and ancient Celts would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off these roaming ghosts. The Celtic holiday of Samhain, the Catholic "Hallowmas" period of All Saints Day and All Souls' Day and the Roman festival of Feralia all influenced the modern holiday of Halloween. In the 19th century, Halloween began to lose its religious connotation, becoming a more secular community-based children's holiday. Although the superstitions and beliefs surrounding Halloween may have evolved over the years, as the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, people can still look forward to parades, costumes and sweet treats to usher in the winter season.

From Rob Moll’s article “Halloween: A Christian Perspective – WSJ – Last Friday

For many churches this week, there won't be any Styrofoam grave stones, skeletons or spooky signs of death and decay. Instead of morbid celebrations of Halloween, there will be innocuously termed—and innocuously decorated—"Harvest Parties." It's Halloween cleaned up, made appropriate even for the youngest congregants.

1) But maybe that's a wrong approach. Halloween, also known as "All Hallows Eve," and All Saints Day (on Nov. 1) offer a rare opportunity in the Christian calendar to reflect on death. The holidays were intended to celebrate the communion of the saints, the spiritual unity of all—living and dead—who trust in Christ and await the eventual resurrection of their bodies.

2) This is the hope on which Christians stake their lives. But in a culture with deep fears of death and dying, even many of the faithful would rather avoid talking about the grave.

Until the 20th century, the idea of the physical resurrection of our bodies shaped how Christians practiced the rituals of death. They used to see the end of life as the most important opportunity to engage their faith and live fully in the presence of God.

3) Following the 14th century's Black Plague, Christians developed the ars moriendi, the art of dying. With so many people perishing alone, as family and friends either died or fled, an anonymous priest created a book illustrating (with woodcut pictures) the temptations faced by the dying, and how they might be overcome. The images allowed illiterate Christians to die with the guidance of the church. Copies of the book spread throughout Europe and were used for more than a century.

4) Martin Luther built on this in his "Sermon on Preparing to Die," in which he advised his followers to trust in the image of Jesus on their deathbeds. In the 17th century, Jeremy Taylor, an English Puritan, argued in his book "Holy Dying" that dying well was not intrinsically different than living a good life: "All that a sick and dying man can do is but to exercise those virtues which he before acquired."

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