I thought I’d offer three reflections in a row this week, today, tomorrow and Thursday offering an invitation to take a 36-hour retreat-in-daily life as we (who have signed up to receive regular blog posts from FFF) begin a new month with two great feasts: All Saints tomorrow and All Souls mid-week.
The marking of Halloween (literally “All Saints Eve”), became significant for Christians who were preparing to celebrate the feast of All Saints the following day. (more on the feast tomorrow)
Few of those for whom Halloween is significant will give the Communion of Saints a thought. In the same way the Christian celebrations of Easter and Ash Wednesday, Christmas and Advent, have been over-shadowed by secular rituals of bunnies and eggs, Mardi Gras, Carnival, and presents and shopping. Those who do not give Jesus a thought still have a deep need for rituals of social gathering and our Christian feasts have provided a good opportunity.
There is little to be gained by Christians who set out to oppose the secularisation of our major Christian feasts. Such zealous efforts will simply reinforce the Christians are killjoys stereotype.
And let’s be honest too: Christians have worked hard for the killjoy reputation. Too often our proclamation of the Good News has had little to do with faith in Jesus Christ, and everything to do with rules and regulations. Sure, our intentions may have been good, but we often emphasised the points and missed the person, Jesus, who is the one who gives life.
I’m haunted by William Blake’s poem, “The Garden of Love”:
…And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And ‘Thou shalt not’ writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.
And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys & desires.
Christians achieve little by setting themselves up in violent opposition to those who see things differently. It is true that Christians do see everything and everyone in a different way but (as Blake suggests) our defensiveness does us no favours.
The essential starting point for effective evangelisation is loving and respectful dialogue in every encounter, even when it happens in an inconvenient evening moment on the doorstep with half a dozen strangely dressed young neighbours.
You might like to spend the next twenty-four hours, day one of our three-day retreat, noticingJesus present and active in every unexpected and even unwelcome encounter.