I find Halloween to be an interesting event within our culture. Not so much the history and certainly not the debates of whether or not it is appropriate for Christians to participate; rather, what I have found interesting ever since I grew beyond the age of being ecstatically and aggressively fixated on the permission given to a child to receive free candy from everyone in a neighborhood – “Free candy!? You want me to go with a pillow case until I fill it!? You’re disguised as my parents, but who are you, really?” – what I found interesting since aging out of that form of participation in Halloween is the simple observation of how influential the unstated agreement is between people, adults in particular, to join in. From common parental corrections, like “One piece of candy….,” “You don’t need candy, have a piece of fruit,” which, by the way, shows how out of touch a parent can be with childhood. Fruit is not even close to candy. That’s like saying, “You don’t need to go skiing with your friends, go out and dig a ditch for the new sprinkler system.” The shift from that sort of perspective and behavior three hundred and fifty-five days out of the year to leading a kid outside, sack in hand, to gather candy from everyone they could. And, for those without children, an amazingly common occurrence among the adults is dawning costumes, gathering with others doing the same, and acting out of character. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, come to Broadway on Halloween, or drive by any other Halloween party. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against it. Many years, I’ve participated. As a matter of fact, I own a full-sized costume of the greatest super hero ever, Scooby Doo. What I find so fascinating is the powerful influence of culture as it self-perpetuates and gathers people into acting in accordance with it. Sometimes in ways that aren’t even consistent with who they are in other parts or times of their lives.
The influence of how we are together is powerful, as is our role within community. At the same time, we recognize the powerful influence of culture to shape behavior and perspective, and we recognize the power of one to influence the reshaping of relationships and culture. Halloween is fun! Parents prepare kids with costumes, accompany them along the way, encourage their participation – “Go knock on the door, and when they answer, say ‘Trick or Treat,’ and hold out your bag.” – and they make sure they show gratitude. “Make sure you say, ‘Thank you!'” What makes it fun isn’t just the candy. It is the whole event. The transformation of costume, the support and help of others, the accompaniment to a fruitful evening, the kindness of others, and more. No wonder it lives on with such enthusiasm and strength. Through all the decades, it remains powerfully present.
When my kids were trick or treating, like when my parent’s kids were trick or treating, and I imagine the same for you, the interest was in the other. Preparing kids, readying them, and enjoying and celebrating with them. Smiles and words of encouragement, greeting people with kind words, sharing and patience, gratitude and celebration were everywhere. How much greater is God’s grace and love that we not only experience but are to provide and represent to others? When we get together, we are dressed in grace and love and mercy and kindness, those with whom we walk are worthy of our care and encouragement and attention, and for that which we receive, we express our gratitude by sharing it with others. Grace received becomes grace given. Love that fills, pours over.
The influence that you have on others as we gather is to be understood within the scope of ministry. Nothing less. Let us dress in the best of God’s gifts and walk together with intentionality of serving one another with a joy and gracious kindness that surpasses even a night devoted to free candy. As we come together to receive, it is by giving of ourselves that we do so. The reflective, faith consideration, “What do I come to give in service to God and others?” is the best question to answer in search of receiving what we need. This will be shown in thousands of parent’s faces this Halloween as they watch their kids run back from front doors and into their joyous presence. Individually, let’s be that to one another and beyond.