Halloween ≠ All Saints Day

This is the blessing that Moses the man of God pronounced on the Israelites before his death.  He said: “The Lord came … He came with myriads of holy ones from the south, from His mountain slopes.  Surely it is You Who love the People; all the holy ones in Your hand.  At Your feet they all bow down…”  [Deuteronomy 33:1-3]

Shaylyn, my ten-year-old daughter, asked me to tell her the Christian version of Halloween.  I was left without words for a moment.  The more I thought about it, the less I could say.  Finally I had to say that it was simply the Satanic contradiction to the celebration of the day which follows, All Saints Day.

All Saints Day is set aside by the Christian Church to remember particularly those who have died in the faith.  In the Halloween mind, for the night before, the dead are released to roam the earth, often to create horror and fear among the world.  But for the Christian, the celebration is intended to speak of a grand reunion of the whole community of the faithful from all ages and places.  And it is not just for some future Last Day, the celebration has a wonderful connection for today.

One of the more remarkable things about the festivals of the Church year, whether they be the smaller festivals, like All Saints Day and Thanksgiving, or the major ones, like Christmas and Easter, is that they highlight various elements which are found in Holy Communion.  In this regard All Saints Day makes a particularly important connection.

In the blessing of this Sacrament, when Jesus says, “This do in remembrance of me,” the ancient Jewish concept of remembrance was not merely to repeat a commemoration ceremony as we would Remembrance Day.  Rather we are drawn back to a moment which has no time, drawn back to the very Table where Jesus first said, “This is My Body… This is My Blood…”  We do not repeat that occasion, rather we are placed into that first gathering on the night in which Jesus was betrayed.  We are in the presence of Jesus as He speaks these words.

Then, as St Paul writes in his letters about the Body of Christ, we catch a glimpse of the awesome impact of Holy Communion’s connection to All Saints Day.  Where Christ is, there is His Body.  Just as our heads cannot be separated from our bodies, so Jesus cannot be separated from His Body.  Every believer has been made part of this Body, as real as your fingers and toes and heart and lungs are part of your body.  There is no time, there is no location on earth, there are no denominations.  If you are a member of the Body of Christ, then you are wherever Jesus is.

So, as we kneel in the presence of Jesus, if we could freeze the moment of Holy Communion – take a moment to look around.  There’s not just John and James, and Peter and Thomas, but also St Paul and Eusebius, Augustine and St Francis, John Huss, Martin Luther, John Calvin, the Wesley brothers, and, well, you could just keep on going.  It’s amazing how many can fit at that little table of the Lord’s!

And, look!  There’s some people from Russia!  and South America!  There are some newly martyred from Africa, and some from the underground churches in China.  Over there are some worshippers gathered in Palestine, some behind closed doors in Iran, faithful believers in Sweden and stalwart Christians in Australia.

A small group of two or three believers, huddled behind locked doors, or perhaps in some concentration camp, are suddenly thrust into the midst of this great host.  Those who are addicted seeking to be free from this stranglehold on their life come to the Table, there to find many hands lifting them in prayer, many scarred by the same bonds.  The lonely, the downtrodden, the bewildered, the grieving, all find that they are welcome, all have a home.  They are not alone.

There’s Grandma in her apron, and Uncle George.  There’s the son who died young, and the aunt who died old.  There’s the friend from whom the continent now separates us, and Sally from down the street.

There are even Christians not yet born.

They are all here.  No one is missing.  All have come and are at Table with the Lord – at Table with you.

Impressed?  You should be.  This is one of the most extraordinary things about Holy Communion.  ALL have come, from all places, from all time, giants of faith, and those who barely squeak in; none slip through the cracks, none are overlooked, – AND – YOU have come.

We are not just this little group.  We are not just this little church.  We are not just this little denomination.  We are the Bride of Jesus Christ, God’s own Holy, chosen People.  What we do here at this Table at the direction of the Christ Who is the Head of the Body takes place in the midst of a great throng of His People throughout the world and throughout history, as Jesus reaches out through us to all whom He has so powerfully loved in this world.

And there is a wonderful connection of Holy Communion to All Saints Day.  Jesus declared to the Sadducees (who claimed “that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit” [Acts 23:8]) something very essential for us to grasp:

As for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.  [Matthew 22:31-32]

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I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.  [John 11:25-26]

The extraordinary implication to this was shared with by Berthold von Schenk in his book, The Presence:

We cannot divide the Body of Christ.  The Church militant [on earth] and the Church triumphant [in heaven] form one Church.  Nothing can separate the members of the Church, neither life nor death, nor power, nor principalities.  At the Altar we have fellowship with our risen and ascended Lord.  But there is also a fellowship with all the members of the Church.  At the Altar we join hands not only with the great saints in Heaven, but also with all our loved ones who have passed within the veil, our faithful departed…
[T]he Church tells her children that there is a communication possible; that there is a medium between our departed ones and ourselves, and only one, – it is our Blessed Lord Himself…  To countless Christians the reality of the Communion of Saints has been an unfailing source of love and joy in the face of otherwise heartbreaking bereavement….
The living Christ creates and guarantees this joyful fact.  It is Christ, and not just our wishful hoping, Who assures us that nothing can pluck out of His hand those who loved Him and trusted Him….  It is found in these words, “Because I live, ye shall live also.”…
…We must come to a sense of the continuing presence of our loved ones, and we can do this if we realize the presence of our Living Lord.  As we seek and find our Risen Lord we shall find our dear departed.  They are with Him, and we find the reality of their continued life through Him….
My loved one has just left me…  But I am in touch with her.  I know that there is a place where we can meet.  It is at the Altar.  How it thrills me when I hear the words of the Liturgy, “Therefore with angels and archangels and all the company of Heaven,” for I know that she is there with that company of Heaven, the Communion of Saints, with the Lord.  The nearer I come to my Lord in Holy Communion, the nearer I come to the saints, to my own loved ones.  I am a member of the Body of Christ, I am a living cell in that spiritual organism, partaking of the life of the other cells, and sharing in the Body of Christ Himself.

This is where All Saints Day and Halloween walk separate paths: All Saints Day speaks of Life and Resurrection – Halloween and its attitude merely talks about reanimation without any real life.  All Saints Day points us to the believers in Glory, vibrant and rejoicing in the presence of a living Christ – Halloween can only dwell in the darkness of putrefaction, decay and the misery of at best a mere existence.  All Saints Day springs from a concrete hope and a joy of knowing that there is so much more and deeper life yet to come within the steadfast and faithful love of God – Halloween speaks of fear, helplessness and being victim, and cannot rise above death, terror, cruelty and animalistic destruction.

Most importantly, All Saints Day glories in the Savior Who has answered our need when we were helpless and lost in mess of our world and of our lives.  He comes with a powerful love which fights against the deadly enemies we have.  He comes with a life-changing forgiveness where our minds reject the sin and rebellion of the past and are turned around to a life which intentionally follows God’s will and design for our lives.

Jesus does not trivialize the terrible battle with the world, Satan and our flesh, and He does not ignore the devastation of ourselves and others because of our sins.  In order to destroy such influence in our lives He had to endure suffering and even pay the price of His life for us.  But His effort accomplished the victory with the ringing triumph in His voice, loudly proclaiming “It is finished!” [John 19:30].

Halloween has none of that – instead it has an arrogance, in a sense mocking the dark forces of evil and destruction, where it attempts to glorify our strength and smarts to handle anything which comes our way.  Many horror movies have the sense that somehow “we” can beat the worst, that we will emerge triumphant against powerful odds aimed at us.  Yet Halloween offers nothing by way of actually conquering anything and too often applauds the darkness of the soul which cowers in stark contrast to the Glory of God as it is found in grace, mercy, Steadfast Love, faithfulness, forgiveness and justice.

Thank God there is the bright sunlight of All Saints Day!  Thank God there is a day to rejoice in the triumph of Jesus.  Thank God we celebrate how God has emphasized not a decaying corpse but an extraordinary throng of people who surround the throne of God, many already in heaven, and many here on this earth.  This is a time to be staggered by the great company who here join us, surrounding us, encouraging us, calling us forward in the LIFE of the Lord.  Come and experience yet again the incredible depth that Jesus has given to you to celebrate in Holy Communion.

[1] The remembrance of Passover is an excellent example, where the thrust is to put the participant into the house in Egypt as he awaits the salvation of his God, hearing the cries of those condemned but knowing he is safe behind the shield of Blood – he experiences the events [Exodus 12:1-34] which happened long before he was born, when he was still “in his ancestors’ loins” [see Hebrews 7:1-10 for the concept].


[2] op.cit., (Ernst Kaufman, Inc: New York, 1945), pp 128-131


[This sermon uses material from my book on Holy Communion, Celebration, from the chapter entitled “Company’s Coming!”, which sought to capture the wonderful picture in Holy Communion identified by All Saints Day.]


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