Update: I first posted this two years ago and in checking out on who reads my blogs I find for some strange reason this is one that has proved particularly popular. Today is Halloween and even after going out earlier today it seems clear that “celebrating” the occasion is as popular as ever. While I do not wish to be a party pooper, I do have reservations and would like to offer some positive alternatives. What I wrote back then is still pertinent I feel. I hope folk will find these thoughts helpful – ed 31/10/16
This is going to be a bit of a strange blog posting insofar I will attempt to bring together seemingly unrelated topics. As is often the case this has been brought about as a result of recent events and words spoken and written. Today as many will realise is Halloween. I admit to being uncomfortable with an increasing preoccupation with something that I fear is unwholesome and a deception.
I concur with some Facebook friends, the Anglican priest who blogged on the matter and a former spiritualist who was recently interviewed on Premier radio, who have all expressed their qualms. Relevant to this post, yesterday regarding Halloween Pope Francis warned that the Devil is real and must be fought ardently. But I know people who are close to me who don’t share these views and, as I don’t wish to be churlish, I will likely give sweets to the children who will be knocking on my door this evening, trick and treating.
Being at the far low end of the ecclesiological spectrum, I might be forgiven for not giving much attention to special days, but I am reminded of the interest of my friends at the higher end of that spectrum, who celebrate today as All Hallows Eve, as they remember those who have departed – a far better alternative in my view to the occultish hocus pocus encouraged by Halloween! I think this is an opportunity for churches to offer alternatives to Halloween – rather than celebrate darkness why not do so with the light? It can be done in a uncringy way and where folk can still have fun.
There is no doubt that there are elements of darkness in our world and while we would want to protect our children we cannot ignore these things. In fact, the darkest day in human history was when Jesus died on the cross and all the other dark days (real rather than fiction) might be better understood if we focused on the cross and then the empty tomb. Instead of Halloween, I would encourage folk to look to Jesus, the Light of the World, the one who dispels all darkness and is victor over the Prince of darkness and all his demons, rather than be pre-occupied with creatures of the night.
I also learned today, through the posting of another of my Facebook, friends that today is Reformation day, something that members of the Lutheran and some of the other Reformed traditions celebrate each year. I am reminded of the five planks of the Reformation:
Sola scriptura – only scripture
Sola fide – only faith
Sola gratia – only grace
Solus Christus – only Christ
Soli Deo gloria – to God alone be the glory
The Reformation began largely as a reaction to the perceived (and actual) corruption that was evident in the Roman Catholic church and, for some, especially at my low end of the church spectrum, those concerns remain and anti Catholic feelings is still strong in some quarters. Another of my Facebook friends posted today in response to the recent statements of Pope Francis to the effect creation and evolution are both right and expressed his concern this is further evidence of the Catholic Church departing from the truth.
I respect and regard both my Facebook friends but it is possible that what I am about to say might take them outside their comfort zones. Regarding the evolution and creation debate, I have already posted on the subject and what I posted is in line with the comments of Pope Francis. While I have come a long way since regarding the Roman Catholic church as the “Whore of Babylon” and equating the Pope with “the Antichrist”, as described in the book of Revelation, I still have qualms over certain Catholic doctrines.
While these days I have a much better understanding of Catholic concerns and perceptions, I still resonate with something a friend remarked upon: “by teaching folk there is a way to heaven through trusting in and following the rule and rituals of the church, which are placed ahead of the plain teachings of the Bible, you may be consigning them to eternal damnation if they do not trust Jesus Christ as their own Lord and Saviour“.
Having said that, while I have met Catholics who are hypocrites and appear a long way from the Kingdom of God, the same can be said of some Protestants, but also I have met many outstanding Christians who are also Catholic, something that in my early indoctrination I hadn’t thought possible. And this brings me to the present Pope. Like Pope Paul II, he has already brought about a revolution within the church and much that he has spoken I find I can concur with, and have included some of his quotes in some of my earlier writings.
While no-one can entirely speak for the organisation he/she represents, it could be said that Pope Francis is better placed to do so than most. Given there are 1.2 billion members of the Catholic church, and in a world where radical Islam and militant secularism is on the ascendency, I would say his influence is enormous. To what extent Pope Francis will change the Catholic church, and the world outside of the church, for the better, remains to be seen. One looks upon what is happening with hope and interest.
We live in evil days; but the days is coming when the wheat will be separated from the chaff and the sheep from the goats, and it will happen soon, for Jesus, the Messiah, is coming back to this Earth to reign. My belief is, through a process of painful refinement, God is preparing His people. Those who are on the side of truth as opposed to error, righteousness as opposed to unrighteousness, light as opposed to darkness and God as opposed to Satan will stand out and shine, and it will include Protestants and Catholics who love the Lord Jesus Christ standing together.
The wonder of the Internet is all sorts of information can be accessed at the press of the button. My take is that Pope Francis has already made an impact by what he has said (and done) and if what I share here is anything to go by, that impact is significant, given that these are powerful and life changing words. I have chosen twelve quotes, and there are more, maybe even more notable. I may not agree 100% but my heart is warmed and I am challenged!
A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just.
Find new ways to spread the word of God to every corner of the world.
If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge? We shouldn’t marginalise people for this. They must be integrated into society.
Let us all remember this: one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one’s life.
There is a need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone. This would nevertheless require a courageous change of attitude on the part of political leaders.
Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent.
Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit.
Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.
Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities.
Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light.
Gossip can also kill, because it kills the reputation of the person! It is so terrible to gossip! At first it may seem like a nice thing, even amusing, like enjoying a candy. But in the end, it fills the heart with bitterness, and even poisons us.
The perfect family doesn’t exist, nor is there a perfect husband or a perfect wife, and let’s not talk about the perfect mother-in-law! It’s just us sinners.” A healthy family life requires frequent use of three phrases: “May I? Thank you, and I’m sorry” and “never, never, never end the day without making peace”.