// - The Hallowed Eve

But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?

Tomorrow is All Saints Day in the Church, or All Hallows day. I asked Paul a bit about it, and it's meant to be a day to remember all the saints who don't have their own day, the multitude of people who holy lives are meant to be an example to us of how to live, and who this God we serve has asked us to become.

Today is All Hallow's Eve. Most of us are familiar with Christmas Eve, but may not know the history. It used to be that when holy days approached, people would get ready for them, preparing their hearts the night before. Christianity came from the Judaic tradition which observed the beginning of a new day at sunset, or more properly a vigil celebrated towards midnight, for the beginning of that Holy and special day of remembrance. The coming of Christ at Christmas Eve, or in this case, the Saints who've gone before us to show us examples of what it means for a human being to try and be like Christ.

That - not pagan rites - is the actual origin of the name of Hallowe'en - or All Hallow's Eve. I'm not talking here about practices involving the dead or any of those things - I'm just asking us to remember the origin of the name. It was a time to remember the call to holiness. And in a few days it will be All Souls Day, a time to remember those who have died in our love, how those who have died in the faith still live in heaven. A day to remember the dead - not in a macabre way, but to appreciate those who've gone before us who we have loved, and look forward to the resurrection.

Now I know at this point a lot of you are thinking, "That's not what Halloween has become." And you'd be right. But it's time to take Halloween back instead of hiding from it.

One of the things I often hear from Christians this time of year is that we should be "in and not of the world" - which to them clearly means in a bubble, with doors closed and lights out, refusing to be a part of the community in which they live. This frustrates me. I want to cry out, "No! That's the worst thing we can do!"

Fellow Christians, I challenge you on this. I challenge the idea that representing Christianity as a closed door with the lights out is the way to present our faith.

Very few of you probably know a story that I have reflected on a great deal, as an artist. Vincent Van Gogh wanted to be in the ministry. He was a generous, compassionate, and good man at heart when he was young, passionate and fiery for helping the community. He was at one point given a parish, but as it became apparent that he was not a great speaker, he was removed from his commission by his superiors, despite the protests of the congregation, who had grown to love him.

They were standing on principles, you see. A pastor must be able to speak with great authority and have a proper little homily every Sunday. And in doing what they did, they ruined a man's life, and took a great gift away from his congregation. They sent him into a despair and horrible mental illness from which he never recovered.

We have a great deal of information in his letters and correspondence to his brother and others he was close to about how devastating this was to him and how it was what sent him into a downward spiral. Many years later, an art historian who specialized in his life noticed that in each of his cityscapes at night that in all the homes of the people and all other buildings in the city the lights were always on, but the lights were never on in the church. They researched it and found that there were no exceptions. There was always a church, but he never painted a light in them. And this is incredibly significant in his body of work - he never painted anything that wasn't purposeful, he wasn't that kind of guy. He was saying, see, communities are good, but the Church makes mistakes. The Church isolates and shuns. In every painting, Van Gogh mourned. The church didn't welcome me. The lights of welcome were out.

It's a really sad story, and I think something the church needs to hear, especially on a day like today. Personally, upon years of reflection I see some beauty in that story yet - I think it's a great example of God making something beautiful out of a tragedy. God gave him an amazing ministry - he's an example of the value of people who struggle with mental illness, especially those of us with creative and generous hearts, whom the world treats so poorly. His example is helping thousands today, and his art touches hearts and communicates something of the wonder and sadness of the world mingled together.

Which would you rather be, in his paintings, the church with the lights out, or the community with the lights on?

So you see, if I'm going to quote you some scripture about Halloween, it's going to be a totally different passage.

"When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'"

So today, as many Christians believe they should be fighting to take back Christmas, I tell you that there's an even more important holiday to take back. All Saints Day, on November 1st. And All Hallow's Eve today. For me that means reflection on the most generous person I know. Most of you probably know someone, alive or dead, whose life inspires you to live a better life, regardless of your religion or creed.

So today I challenge you to celebrate Halloween in a clean and holy way by showing generosity.

Be the very best house on the block. The most generous. The most fun. The most open door you can be, on the only day of the year where most of us meet our neighbours anymore. Be a neighbour. Be a part of your community. Reflect on what Jesus would have done. Allow the children to come to you, and don't send them away.

To quote scripture about being in the world and then failing to be in the world is really missing the big picture. It might be unkind to point it out, but actually if we're being really honest with ourselves, it's cowardice. We were not given a spirit of fear you see. I am not afraid of the skeleton that swings by moonlight or the foam gravestones that stick up from the ground of my neighbours lawn. I am not afraid of the scream mask worn by a small child. I just want to love them.

And love isn't a dark, closed door.


(1) - [The Beginning, the Story of Doubleslash] (2) - [The Dream] (3) - [Non-Existence] (4) - [Heterodox] (5) - [Forgotten] (6) - [Know Your Enemy] (7) - [Junkies] (8) - [Descent into Blindness] (9) - [Speaker for the Dead] (10) - [The System is Down] (11) - [Inequality] (12) – [Heterodox Revisited] (13) - [The Unsustainable] (14) - [All the Zeros in Zimbabwe] (15) - [Bullets] (16) - [Balancing Act 1 (Merely Players)] {hidden//exposed} (17) - [The Physical] (18) - [Censoring Joy] (19) - [The Hallowed Eve]
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