Posts Tagged ‘discernment’

Letters to My Sheep: Halloween Discernment

Monday’s Thought…

A thought on Monday?  Tuesday and Wednesday, sure, but Monday?  Yep, for this week, at least.

I have been thinking a lot about Halloween this year, maybe a little more than usual, for a couple of reasons.  First, with Halloween falling on a Wednesday this year, we had to make a decsion about whether to have our normal Wednesday activities or not (we’re not).  And, Halloween is increasingly becoming big business in our country – with increasing amounts of money on merchandise related to Halloween.  Finally, every year Halloween seems to be a relatively big topic of discussions among Christians  – for and against, if you will.  And increasingly churches are offering alternatives to Halloween: Reformation Festivals, Fall Festivals, or Trunk or Treats (lots of these this year).  My intent here is not to wade into the waters of debate, but instead to dip my toes in the waters of discernment.  To ask some questions and encourage your thoughtfulness, not necessarily a change in your practices.  I am sure in our congregation, we have a diversity of views and levels of participation, and I hope whatever we do is done in a thoughtful way and with a desire to honor Christ. So, here are some thoughts/questions to think about:

  • Are our practices, either to participate or not, a result of what we were raised with (or even against what we were raised with)?  For example, because I was raised in a non-Christian home, we never asked spiritual questions about the holidays.  That makes it easy to just do what I grew up with, but not necessarily with Christian discernment.  The opposite could also be true.
  • If we are participating, how much are we just getting sucked into the materialism and consumerism of the whole thing?  Does our child have to have the best costume (or maybe ourselves)?  Have we bought candy 2 or 3 times already, because we’ve already consumed all of the candy long before October 31st?
  • Speaking of candy…how does this holiday play into our natural proclivities for more and more?  What about gluttony and greed?  I know it’s just candy and I like it as much as any kid, but how much do we really need?  And is there a way to develop generosity and attitude that counters that lust for more?
  • If we are not participating, what is our level of non-participation?  Will we turn off the lights, close the blinds, and allow our homes to be dark, rather than a source of light in the darkness?
  • Are we giving into darkness and evil, allow it a foothold, or otherwise fail to take seriously spiritual realities?
  • What does it mean to love our neighbors?  Does that command have any impact on what we do or don’t do?
  • Along the lines of last Sunday’s sermon, what does it mean to be “in the world, but not of the world” when it comes to Halloween?

These are just a few questions that come to mind.  Regardless of where we fall, I hope that we will be gracious towards brothers & sisters with whom we disagree, desire to honor Christ, and love our neighbors well.

If you wanted to read more/better thoughts, you might try these: Al Mohler (more to the against participation side); a PCA pastor (very much in favor), Tim Challies (somewhere in between?) and one from David Mathis on being missional on Halloween.  These are provided for your discernment.  I may agree or disagree with them in part, but they do provdie good thoughts.

What other questions might we ask?  (Not looking for a debate here)

Movies as Sermon Illustrations?

Okay, since we’re on a roll here at helpmyunbelief on sermons and the last couple of posts on some sermon hijinks, I wanted to bring to throw out a question based on Ed’s comments from the previous post (“Sermon Mischief”).

To use movies as sermon illustrations or not?

If you are a pastor/preacha, why or why not?

If you are a parishioner, how do you respond when a pastor uses a movie illustration?

Personally, I can think of one time when I used a movie illustration in a sermon, though there may be others…the sermon theme was on hope and I used a discussion between Andy Dufrane & Red from Shawshank Redemption.  I believe the illustration was effective, but it did require a disclaimer given that it is a rated “R” (shocking, I know).  Movie illustration also often assume that everyone has seen the movie.

Ed is tired of the Lord of the Rings illustrations…personally, I’m tired of the Chariots of Fire illustration.

Pop Music: Where bad poetry & bad theology collide

Case #1:  Natasha Bedingfield’s lastest hit single:  “A Pocket Full of Sunshine” – You don’t really have to watch the video, but here it is:

Here are some lyrics:

I got a pocket, got a pocketful of sunshine
I got a love and I know that it’s all mine, oh, oh oh oh
Wish that you could but you ain’t gonna own me
Do anything you can to control me, oh, oh no

Take me away, a secret place
A sweet escape, take me away
Take me away to better days
Take me away, a hiding place

There’s a place that I go that nobody knows
Where the rivers flow and I call it home
And there’s no more lies in the darkness there’s light

Sound a little like a humanistic view of heaven, right?  And it’s certainly understandable to long for another place, given the falleness of this world.  I am reminded of this quotation from C.S. Lewis:  “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world” (Mere Christianity).  But here’s where the lyrics are just bad poetry and bad theology (beyond what is already bad):

And nobody cries, there’s only butterflies

Only butterflies!    Wow, that’s just bad on all levels.  This is the problem with art that has the end of consumerism in mind, as opposed to making good art.  The songwriters needed a word that rhymed with cries and apparently butterflies was all they could come up with.  Thus, giving us a picture of some distant place away from the world where we can be taken to where there are only butterflies.  Look, I like butterflies as much as the next guy, but that’s not what I want to see in heaven or anywhere else.  And by the way, who takes you to this place?  Who takes you away to this “sweet escape.”  If we can’t get there ourselves, then Who?