It is the middle of the afternoon on Wednesday. The sun is shining, calling for an outside run before the shorter days of fall give way to the even shorter days of winter. Even though this seasonal change always happens, I'm not ready for it. Never am.
Later tonight, the giraffes, elephants, pumpkins, witches, ghosts, wonder women's, spider men's, star wars, paw patrol, and miscellaneous others will be out in full force in our communities. Looking cute, looking serious, perhaps looking like they are not sure of what is happening or even bored going door to door. The doorbell will ring, the cats will hide. There will be calls of "Trick or Treat" , followed by "What do you say?" and a muffled "Thank you".
I'm not even sure when it was that I stopped Trick or Treating. Seventh grade? Eighth grade? It seems such awhile ago. There were years when my mom would make my costume, other years, like the year I was a tv, I tried to figure it out myself (it was a good idea, not practical going in and out of doors!) Earlier costumes included a mask that was difficult to see, breathe, and talk through. Most of the time, the mask was worn on the forehead.
In his book, Celtic Daily Prayer, Richard J. Foster writes that All Hallows Eve, or Halloween, was originally a pagan Celtic holiday marking the end of an old year, and the beginning of a new year. Danger and vulnerability were said to exist during this time of transition. Spiritual barriers could be dissolved. There was also fear that spirits could come from the devil and take away a person's soul.
There was a serious -- and valid fear of death and evil. In superstitious efforts to prevent one's soul from being taken, people began to dress up as witches, ghosts and other characters. The thinking was if they dressed as someone else, evil would not befall them and their lives would be spared.
Today, we may laugh at this view of the world. Or can we?
News in recent days and weeks has left us either scratching our heads, or hanging our heads in sadness and sorrow.
*Children of migrants separated from their parents, many remaining in detention centers, never to see their deported parents again.
*A powerful hurricane leaves many in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina homeless and with nothing.
*Migrants leave their homes in Central America for better lives, only to be turned away.
*An eight car accident leads to the death of two high school students, and a community grieving.
*A shooting at a synagogue during services leaves a city shattered, and a nation mourning -- again.
Who needs to wear a costume when evil seems pervasively present?
In the midst of these dark events, there is hope.
There is always hope.
After the events of September 11th, 2001, Fred Rogers was asked to say something to help children (and adults) cope with the reality of evil's existence. His words? To look for the first responders: those who provide care for others, and put the needs of others ahead of their own. When we look for the first responders, we see also human compassion and mercy still exists.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote in An African Prayer Book: "Goodness is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death; victory is ours, victory is ours, through God who loves us. Victory is ours, victory is ours, through God who loves us." (From the Evangelical Lutheran Worship)
But perhaps Martin Luther said it best:
"Though hordes of devils fill the land, all threatening to devour us.
We tremble not, unmoved we stand; they cannot overpow'r us.
Let this world's tyrant rage; in battle we'll engage!
His might is doomed to fail; God's judgement must prevail!
One little word subdues him."
On this night, celebrate the ghosts, goblins, and ghouls that come to the door. Share an extra piece of candy or activity for them to do. More importantly, treat one another with kindness. The more kindness that is shared, the less we have to fear the things that go bump in the night.
Blessings and grace,