Pew Sermon for Sunday 31st October

Notes from Rutton

Hello everyone.

Advance rant warning! You may not approve of this article!

Because I have a confession for you, with All Saints and Halloween just round the corner. I hate Halloween! And if you don’t, then please forgive me, and let’s chat! But before we do that, let me lay my theological cards on the table:

I hate Halloween with a vengeance! I hate the Americanisation and the commercialisation and the vast waste of money. I hate the idea of trick or treat – both seem morally reprehensible to me! With their latent threat, coercion and scare tactics. (The very things we teach our kids NOT to do the rest of the year!) 

But the thing that baffles me the most, is that normal, sensible, well-balanced parents seem to think it’s a good idea to dress up their children as representations of evil, and dead people, and blood-soaked bandaged whatevers, because this is fun! As if there is not enough real evil and death and misery and suffering in the world – so let’s have some more, and let’s celebrate it all!

Saints preserve us!

Or as my old audit pool clerk used to say (in my good old Dickensian London office training days) “Jesus wept”. I don’t think he meant that phrase entirely reverently – but I do. And I weep – not for the fake blood and the skeletons and the vampires and the witches’ hats. I weep for lost understanding of something vitally important – for all this foolishness seems to block out a true understanding of death and resurrection.

Because whilst the young goblins and the ghoulies are sleeping in on Sunday morning, and then getting prepared for their antics on Sunday night, we will be celebrating All Saints Day. And let’s be honest, it’s a harder sell then parties and Halloween. Because the truth of it, the joy of it, the celebration of it, is so much harder to see. It’s hard to see and celebrate something that isn’t physically there – yet! That requires eyes of faith. And great care and attention as we read about dead bodies coming to life in the Bible. Because there are plenty! They may not dress up as Dracula, they may not come back to haunt us. But by the mighty resurrection power of Jesus Christ, come to life they do – bandages and all – sufficient to scare even the least impressionable Halloween teenager.

But the dead don’t come to life in the Bible for effect, or to scare us, or to stay ‘undead’. They come to life because Jesus rose from the dead, and He is alive and risen and seated at the right had of the Father. And He will come again – to judge both the living and the dead. For the dead shall be raised, and their risen bodies will be imperishable. And we will recognise them, changed, imperishable, but also somehow the same.

In our passage on Sunday, we read that Jesus wept for his friend Lazarus. But after the weeping comes the rejoicing. After the foul air of the tomb comes the glorious freshness of new resurrection life.

Lazarus. Now that’s a bandaged mummy who can come to my Halloween party any day of the week. The friend of Jesus. Alive from the dead. Amen.