Halloween is a confused, and confusing time of the year for people who take seriously the idea of an unseen realm. We believe that there is a reality beyond our mortal eyes, save what Jesus allows us to see from time to time, and so we want to take that seriously and be careful with it. But is Halloween a carelessness? Are we welcoming unseen dangers? Or are we celebrating Christs victory? There is no single answer.
For many it is simply dressing up, having fun, and getting sweets… and I dare say – there is not much more thought about it – it is simply an opportunity for fun and a party, and the theme is – fancy dress, or maybe even spooky fancy dress…
Others may see it as having much more deliberately pagan roots – and may understand its roots to be in paganism, witchcraft, and Samhain… some even think it has something to do with celebrating death.
For others still – Halloween is rooted in the church, and is a church festival called all saints day…
But which is true? What is Halloween all about – what is it’s origin…
The thing is there isn’t one single origin for what we call Halloween today. Neither the Christian or the pagan origins account for the popular celebration of Halloween as it is today.
The question of yoga and christianity came up recently. I once would have been of the opinion that anything can be ‘redeemed’ that if it is done with faith in Jesus then there is no reason that a Christian couldn’t participate. That if we just changed the words – what does it matter about the ‘poses.’ However – now that I have a greater appreciation for ‘physical worship’ and the sacraments, my views on this have definitely changed. Here below are where they are just now.
Where does Yoga come from?
What does it do to you?
Why does it ‘work’?
Why is it relaxing?
What is bringing you peace?
If it is Jesus that is bringing the peace – then what is the point of the stretches – the positions?
Is yoga ‘neutral’?
Some people would insist that yoga is – at it’s core – just stretching, that it is neutral. But this assumes a worldview where our bodies are not spiritual, that physical realities can’t ‘involve’ spiritual realities. It relies on a world where the physical is purely mechanical, and not linked in any way to the spiritual.
However this is not the bible’s view of reality. We could talk about human bodies that are body and soul, we could talk about sacraments – how spiritual life is given to us through physical means. Or we could even speak about Jesus himself in the incarnation – fully God and Fully man – no divide… (to deny the interaction of spirit and bodies would be to deny the resurrection)
More and more I think that there is nothing truly inherently spiritually ‘neutral’. The whole world is spiritual, it is filled with spirits and none of these spirits are neutral. They either serve King Jesus, or they are in rebellion against Him.
Things that can be ‘redeemed’ are things that God has made good and that the devil has used for evil. We could take for example Alcohol. In several places God speaks of the warmth and joy of wine, it is good! But we also know that anything good can be abused, and the world does abuse it. The worlds abuse of Gods good gift of alcohol under the influence of the devil, does not mean that we can no longer use it for good. We recognise it was ours first, we are using it as intended, and so we can continue.
But the more I look into and understand Yoga, the more the idea sticks in my head that it did not come from God – but that it came rebel spiritual beings.
This Easter we ran an evangelistic event which was to run a stripped back version of ‘stations of the cross’. The stations of the cross became a way for devoted Cristians to ‘pilgrimage’ to Jerusalem. The word “station” comes from the Latin word that means “to stand.” In the stations of the cross we are walking from Christ’s trial to his crucifixion at Calvary and we stop and stand at certain sites (stations) that commemorate various events that took place along the way. As the worshippers come to each station, they would stop, pray, read the Scriptures, pray the prayers and contemplate the situation before moving on. Walking from one station to the next becomes a devotional act, because you are walking with Jesus as he walks to Calvary.
‘This brings me to one of the more controversial elements of historic Christian plague ethics: We don’t cancel church. The whole motivation of personal sacrifice to care for others, and other-regarding measures to reduce infection, presupposes the existence of a community in which we’re all stakeholders. Even as we take communion from separate plates and cups to minimize risk, forgo hand-shaking or hugging, and sit at a distance from each other, we still commune.
Some observers will view this as a kind of fanaticism: Christians are so obsessed with church-going that they’ll risk epidemic disease to show up.
But it’s not that at all. The coronavirus leaves over 95 percent of its victims still breathing. But it leaves virtually every member of society afraid, anxious, isolated, alone, and wondering if anyone would even notice if they’re gone. In an increasingly atomized society, the coronavirus could rapidly mutate into an epidemic of despair.’ Lyman Stone ‘Christianity has been handling epidemics for 200 years‘
Church interrupts the rhythm of a fallen world with the breath-taking, life-giving food of the gospel. Church is the only place where real life is found. Church is the closest place to heaven on earth. Church is where Jesus meets with people. Now more than ever the world needs church. Continue reading
The kids were excited by the sight of a policeman on their walk to school this morning. As they walked past Rach realised that the whole street on our corner had been cordoned off. It was open last night when Rach had been along there to pick up some tea from the chip shop – so something must have happened over night. Apparently the only thing the kids at school wanted to talk about was what might have happened.
This afternoon we found out that a young lady, only 23, was stabbed to death there at 5:30am this morning, and boy of 16 has been taking into custody over the incident.
What is Church?
The first question I wanted to answer at our first ever launch team meeting was: ‘What is Church?’ Now – happily – no one in the launch team was actually asking this question! But really – isn’t this a question we should be continually asking, and making sure we have clear in our minds? What is church? What is our mission? Who are we, what are we meant to be doing? Continue reading
Mum has left for a couple of days to lead and preach at a girls getaway weekend for church – and so I thought that renting Pixar’s latest release was a sure fire way of treating the kids and hopefully distracting them from the fact that mummy wasn’t around this evening… boy did I get that wrong…
Tonight I went Trick or Treating for the first time in my life… and I’m thinking about doing it again…
You would think that a good Calvinist and Reformed Baptist would be writing about the 500th anniversary of the reformation today, and not Halloween – but it is precisely because of reformation theology that I can write this post, where as a few years ago I never would have dreamt of it.
We never went ‘Trick or Treating’ when I was a kid, it just wasn’t something our family did. “Well, we’re Christians, and Christians don’t really ‘do’ Halloween.” I grew up accepting this, and believing it – I didn’t fully understand it, but I trusted my parents, and the teaching of my church’s tradition. I love that my mum and dad were careful about what they exposed me and my brother to, and that they trusted their own church leaders. But now that I’m a pastor and a parent myself ‘because my mum said so’ is no longer a good enough answer! I needed to work through it myself. And part of that process was talking to my mum about how they came to the decision they did when I was a child.
Today marks the anniversary of Nana’s death.
Nana was a really special lady, and I still miss her, I still get a catch in my throat whenever I sing ‘In Christ Alone’ or when singing the third verse of ‘Because he Lives’ (we happened to sing that several weeks in a row at church whilst Nana was ill in hospital). But whilst I still get choked up because I miss her, I’m not scared for her, I’m not even worried I won’t see her again – in fact I’m certain I will!
I take great comfort in knowing that Nana knew Jesus – Continue reading