Another wonderful Sunday at Ebenezer Presbyterian! We missed a few of our friends because they weren’t feeling well. Hope to see you next week!
Next Sunday we will begin a study of the biblical foundations of the Apostle’s Creed. This collection of faith statements presents a summary of Christian doctrine. It was written at least 150 years after all the apostles had died and was put together to by church leaders to pass on the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. In fact, in many churches the Apostle’s Creed is still an important part of the Christian education program.
Sunday school begins at 11 a.m. in our fellowship hall. We are at the corner of Main and Garrett. I look forward to meeting you there. Whatever church you choose this Sunday, make it a point to go to Sunday school. You’ll be surprised what you can learn there!
Who Will You Be?
This weekend thousands of children and even adults will be dressing up as part of the celebration of Halloween. Even though the origins of this holiday were part of Celtic practices, as the church grew in the lands originally conquered by the Romans, pagan holidays were replaced by Christian ones and the original practices blended in. By the way, the word “Halloween” is actually a contraction of All Hallows Eve, the evening before All Saints Day, November 1.
Early in my faith journey, I avoided Halloween and encouraged my churches to hold “Fall Festivals” where the kids could dress up and have fun in a safe environment, at the church. I didn’t participate in the “pagan” celebration any longer. As a newlywed we declined to participate by not passing out candy to children. Imagine my surprise when the child at my door was accompanied by the dean of students of my Bible school. At least he didn’t flunk me for not having any candy for his daughter!
Once I had children, everything changed. I remembered the fun I had dressing up as a child and going door-to-door with my friends. And I had a great time dressing my kids. I made costumes ranging from a train engine, to a pixie, to a race car driver, to a video game personality, not to mention Sponge Bob and Gary the snail. While I have certain restrictions—their costumes are not to represent evil or death—my kids can enjoy the celebration. I suppose I am comfortable with Christian children dressing up on Halloween because I have confidence that this one night of fun will not change who they really are—children of God.
As we grow and learn in life, we “try on” many things. Young people imagine what they will be when they grow up: a teacher, a mechanic, a lawyer, a doctor or nurse, and the list goes on. Throughout the years they investigate many avenues and, hopefully, by the time they reach college, they will have found a future that fits who they are. The problem with wearing costumes and masks, however, is not having fun and dressing up, or in trying out a new approach. The problem occurs when we fail to take off the masks in our everyday lives.
What masks do we wear? Jesus criticized the religious leaders because, although they had the appearance of being religious, they were largely selfish and unspiritual. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27).
The real shame of “dressing up” is when we do so all the time, when we portray what we WANT to be, but fail to make the choices to actually BE that person. Like the Pharisees and the leaders of Jesus’ day, many church members say the “right” words, carry the “right” Bible, and sing the “right” songs, but lack a growing relationship with God. God forbid that we should be so.
A young person once told me, “I can’t come to church yet. I still have too much wrong with me. Once I clean up my life I’ll serve God.” The truth is that nothing we can do will ever earn us “points” with God, only with people who look at outward appearances, at our dress-up selves (1 Samuel 16:7). Jesus said that he came for those who needed help. “On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12,13).
So dress up this week and have fun, but after the party is over, take off the mask, put away the costume, take a deep breath, and be yourself, the person for whom Jesus died on the cross. Open your heart to God and to your brothers and sisters in Christ. As James instructed, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous [person] is powerful and effective (James 5:16).
There will always be people who dislike one part or all of who you are. And I can guarantee someone will disagree with your choices in life. But God loves you just the way you are, and that’s a promise. Only after you have accepted God’s love and forgiveness, the Holy Spirit will help you make the changes that will transform you into the person God has planned for you to be.
Pastor Mary Kay