Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Christians and the Pagans Meet for Samhain: October 24th SynchroBlog

Sacred spaces, and sacred times are not terribly important to me. One day is like any other, and one place like another. Some of you reading this will be appalled to hear that the Vatican is no more holy to me than a dumpster. Now this does not mean that I do not appreciate fine Cathedrals, or beautiful Abbeys and Chapels. Rather it means that I believe God can manifest His gracious presence anywhere He so chooses, and He is not impressed by places and times, but instead by humble human hearts.

Okay, so that's what I read in the Book of Isaiah, and I believe it to be so.

"Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
Where is the house that you will build Me?
And where is the place of My rest?
For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,"
Says the Lord.
"But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word."


Yet, human hearts often attach greater importance to one place, or time over another, and I believe that there is a God in this universe Who loves people so desperately that the Divine presence of love, grace, and power will appear to those who yearn for it. Sometimes that search for God in sacred times and spaces yields results not because God honors the place, but the yearning hearts which go there.

So it is that the Spirit of Truth appears on Halloween. People come to the evening of Samhain (pronounced Sow (like cow)-en) believing that the veil between the worlds just might be thinner on this night. They seek like they have not sought before, and perhaps - just perhaps the God of the universe peeks through the veil, and says hi.

Of course, all across my country Christians will hold prayer meetings, and some will fearfully ward off the evil spirits, which they perceive are forming in more organized cohorts than any other day of the year. Their superstitions concerning holy, and unholy times cause them to anticipate demons forming pacts of allegiance against the churches on this one day in the season. Meanwhile, the Witches and Pagans I know celebrate in hopes of touching the other world - that place of gods, goddesses, and spirits of the departed. It is not a place I choose to seek, but I wonder how different it is than my own desire to reach the Unseen God of the universe through His Son Jesus Christ - that is at least from a human level.

They want health. I want health. They want hope. I want hope. They want peace. I want peace. They want their needs fulfilled. So do I. From this simple human perspective we seek the same things. I seek them in Jesus, and I believe that He is the only way to the Father Who loves me. They seek these things through other names, and deities, and it may be that they experience divine goodness from Him they do not know, but Who loves them as much as He loves me.

I do not fear Halloween, but enjoy it. Before I was a Pastor it was simply another day. After I became a Pastor, Halloween became a day in which the veil between people became the thinnest. People were happy, and celebrated in costume. In costume they felt a little freer. They opened their doors to strangers and gave gifts, and knocked on my door and looked for gifts. They did things in family units, and they were open to things unseen. It became a day when the veil between us was thinner.

Now I live in a city where we have a whole month of Halloween. The veil between Christians and Pagans sometimes becomes thicker during this season, because Christians superstitiously fear this day, and the Pagans who celebrate it. I find that this month becomes thinner between myself and my Pagan friends. I am working to make this a time when the veil between the worlds becomes thinner, and they are working for the same thing. We may not agree on how it is done, or on Who we seek, but we do seek blessing together, and in this place we meet, and the veil between us gets thinner. Perhaps the veil to finding the Father will as well.

"Up rises awen from Samhain to Samhain. The spirit of deity rushes my soul like a storm.
-me ;-)

30 comments:

Lainie Petersen said...

Beautifully written, Pastor Phil. I particularly liked your observation about the veil being "thicker" this time of year for Pagans and Christians. Sad but true.

Tim Victor said...

Hi Phil,

This seems to be an area where you've done a lot of work. Can you give some suggestions on how Halloween can be used constructively to build bridges between Christians and others?

nic paton said...

Phil
A very moving thinning of the veil allowing us to peek into your heart.

I love what you said about thinness applying not only between the living and the dead but the living and the living as well - a profound observation, full of awe.

Many blessings to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

Love that quote at the end there. The guy that came up with it must be particularly good at communicating between people of different spiritual perspectives. :)

'They want health. I want health. They want hope. I want hope. They want peace. I want peace. They want their needs fulfilled. So do I. From this simple human perspective we seek the same things. I seek them in Jesus, and I believe that He is the only way to the Father Who loves me. They seek these things through other names, and deities'

A particularly significant observation. When we remember that we're looking at these matters from a human perspective, with all the limitations that come with such a perspective, it isn't that hard to find what unites us and use that as a reminder not to let our differences divide us.

BB

Mike

Pastor Phil said...

Hi Lainie,

We sure do find ways to separate ourselves from others, don't we? I wonder if we are trying to cfreate our own holiness by doing so.

Thanks for your great addition to the series of blogs.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Tim,

Yeah - start by doing Halloween, and having fun. If you do Halloween, and in fact make your version as fun as anything out there people will allow you to share your faith in wacky ways, and they will not be offended.

We have done Pumpkin Festivals for kids. In Salem we provide live music on the street. We do Dream Interpretation - like Daniel did. This year we held an event called the Brimstone Chronicles, and people loved it - Witches included - not just Christians. We give away free hot cocoa. We don't have time to Trick to Treat, because we have 500,000 visitors coming to our streets here in Salem. The ways to creatively express our faith are without number, and only limited by our fears.

Pastor Phil said...

Thanks Nic,

Happy Beltane bro.

Pastor Phil said...

Mike,

Thanks for being one of those cross-culture communicators yourself.

Jarred said...

Insightful post as always, Pastor Phil. I too liked your mention of the veil between Christians and Pagans. Though I think that unfortunately, it's not so much a veil as a brick wall in some cases. Thank you for being one of what hopefully will be many exceptions someday.

Dan said...

phil. its so true that everyone is really searching for the same thing. nice post.

Alan Knox said...

Excellent post! I've read your comments on other blogs, but this is my first time to visit your blog. I'll be back.

-Alan

Lew A said...

Hey Phil,

I really enjoyed your post and insightful thoughts. Great post!

God's Glory,
Lew

The Pursuit Online Store

Pam Hogeweide said...

Halloween became a day in which the veil between people became the thinnest

my fave line in this posting.

whenever i stop by your blog and read about your community in salem i feel inspired to come. maybe one of these samhain's i'll pack my elf ears and head east

(but next week i'll be packing my attitude and heading north! see ya at OTM!!!)

Adam Gonnerman said...

Phil,

Very nice post. Maybe you and I are thinking along similar lines. It's nice not being the only one.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Jarred,

Brick wall indeed. Perhaps you and I should buy jack hammers.

Sally said...

"Halloween became a day in which the veil between people became the thinnest."- Phi I pary this will be a discovery for many , that bridges will be built and dialogue opened... and more than that love shown... perfect love that casts out fear. Excellent post thanks :-)

carl said...

off subject a little... I wonder why people (past and present) believe in sacred times and places. I believe to a mild degree that certain times and events hold with them a "higher sacredness" or "spiritual thinness" but places I'm not so sure of. Even still I think this is because of human activity and belief and not because of God's pursuit of us which is consistent from day to day.

By the way. You gotta hear that Dar Williams song "the christians and the pagans". Great song, funny. It's about Christmas though not Halloween so nevermind.

Pastor Phil said...

Dan,

If only we could see some of the common cries in this human family we might treat one another differently. Thanks.

Pastor Phil said...

Alan,

Thanks for popping in. You are welcome any time.

Pastor Phil said...

lew,

Thanks so much bro.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Pam,

If you ever visit, you will either become a regular returner, or you will want to move here. At least that has happened to many others. ;-)

See you Seattle.

Pastor Phil said...

Sally,
Thanks for the prayers. We need them greatly right now.

Pastor Phil said...

Carl,

I agree with you on the sacred space issue, but I alos realize that God responds to the faith of the individual, and that might include those who believe in sacred spaces. Good God - weird world.

Did you see that Dar Willliams is playing Newburyport in November?

Pastor Phil said...

Adam G-man,

Thinking alike? I'm sorry. I'm working on sanity too. ;-)

Agent B said...

"Christians superstitiously fear this day"

Ha. Christians...superstitious?

Very true observation.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Agent B,

That must have been a typo. I did not really mean that. Christians are totally free of superstition, and I am the Pope.

Bryan Riley said...

Wow. I really like what you've written. God's gifts are so good and even better when invested into His Kingdom.

May His light continue to shine ever more brightly and more see the Truth of Jesus in and through those who are His representatives on earth.

David said...

If anyone has insight regarding this, it's you my friend.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, which in turn will help me articulate mine.
Be blessed...

Yvonne said...

Hi, I posted some links to this and some Pagan Samhain blogposts at MetaPagan (in the interests of interfaith harmony):

Pagans talk about Samhain
Those Christians again!

Happy Samhain and blessings for All Hallows.

Pete Aldin said...

Heh heh, nice post, Phil. It's true that God peeks through where people give him the chance. I've watched him incredibly overwhelm a Mormon young man, watched him heal someone in the midst of a church which worshipped its pastor not God, and seen him do amazingly miraculous things in my life when I've been the fairweather friend.

Can I just say though that Halloween BUGS ME!! :) Mainly coz I'm an Aussie and a lot of us are annoyed that it's infiltrated our culture over the last 5 years. If I could figure out a good way to connect with the kids that come by our house instead of giving them candy so they won't egg my windows, I'd be all over it... But they just want colorful lumps of sugar!!

:)