All Hallows Day

Greet every saint in Christ. (Philippians 4:21a)

All Hallows Eve and All Hallows Day, perhaps better known as Halloween and the next day, focus on death. What we know of death is that our loved ones were one day present and the next no longer. We know we can no longer talk to them, no matter how cloven our hearts may be. We know where we might visit their bodies. And we know we miss them. Death hurts us.

We can understand the desire to retain some connection, ethereal though it may be, with our deceased loved ones. For centuries, November 1st has stood as a festival day in the church to give thanks for the faithful departed – those with faith in Christ who have died – to mark their lives and remember their witness for Christ. Early Celts appeased wandering spirits with treats. Latin Americans welcome dead children back into their homes for a night. Still others don masks to remain unrecognized by the terrorizing ghosts roving the glades. Death we strive to mellow, perhaps conquer.

Facing death, we see Jesus standing next to a young man’s funeral bier, beside a young girl’s deathbed, and outside a dear friend’s sealed up tomb. Our hearts ache in empathetic pangs when we hear of Jesus weeping and grieving deeply the loss of a loved one. We can commiserate with Jesus as He stops the funeral procession of the dead lad, grasps the lifeless hand of a little girl, and shouts to the dead ears of a dear friend. We get it. Perhaps we’ve been there ourselves. Our many and varied Halloween and All Saints Day festivities expose our deep desire to connect with the dead. It would seem we understand Jesus perfectly here.

But do we really?

We merely mask death’s dreadful effects with fragrant flowers, a good embalmer, a few pat words, and a celebration of life. But such do nothing to combat the sharp reality of death in a casket. We cannot stand up to death.

But Jesus can! Enmeshed in sickening sadness, Jesus stood up to death and backed it down. Touching bier, He restored a son to a grief-stricken mother. Whispering a happy command, Jesus returned a daughter to her dumbfounded parents. With a great shout He breathed life into dead Lazarus.

Jesus Himself had a brush with death. It seemed that which is inevitable for all even stamped out the Son of the Living God. Quite right . . . for a few short days. Jesus took back His life. Nowhere will you find the buried bones of this Man because He lives! Jesus shattered the power of death. Death’s now rheumatic grip is slackened. No longer need we keep vigil for a lost spirit or ward off the wandering ghosts of the past. We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and trust His resurrection is the certainty of life restored, knowing that to all those we’ve said ‘goodbye’, we will one day soon again say ‘hello’. Look nowhere else for hope this All Hallows Day!

Lord of Heaven and Earth, fight off our enemies, especially death. Keep our trust in You. Give us a blessed end and welcome us into your kingdom. Amen.

 

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Lord, Save Me!

But when [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me”. (Matthew 14:30)

Sinking swiftly below his problems, Peter tried everything to overcome. His job wasn’t enough to maintain the life he desired, so he maxed out more than a few credit cards. Peter didn’t want to worry his wife, so he’d fake a smile and say it was all okay. Secretly he began to resent everything. His boss who didn’t pay him enough. His family who required so much of what little he made. The cost of milk that had clearly gone up in the past several months. Before he could manage to cap it off, his anger and bitterness overtook him. He was utterly unpleasant.

Then he lost his job. And then he lost it. He saw no hope. He refused to talk to his wife. She could no longer tolerate his demeanor and suggested separation. He retorted, “why don’t we just call it quits?” So they did. The house, Peter’s pride and joy, was foreclosed.

Peter hated it all. Nothing was going the way he wanted and there was nothing he could do. He began masking the emotions with alcohol, always needing more to keep the feelings at bay.

Peter was sinking and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it. So he cried out in a last ditch effort to One who could. “Lord, save me!” Simple words spoken by a man drowning as a direct result of his rash decision to join Jesus on a walk across (not around, but across) the Sea of Galilee in the middle of a terrible storm. For awhile, Peter walked on top of water. Stop and imagine that for a moment! With waves crashing all around him, rain falling, thunder clapping, lightning striking, wind howling and his eyes on his Lord only, Peter walked on water! But then he realized where he was! He was in the middle of a raging storm and what he was doing wasn’t remotely possible. He removed his eyes from Jesus. He looked at the eleven fearful men back in the boat. He saw the storm. He became afraid. Overwhelmed. This was impossible.

Just as he thought it, he proved himself right. It isn’t possible to stand on top of water. It isn’t possible to face the raging storms in our lives on our own. Oh, sure we can put on a good show for awhile, but the more we try, the more we struggle and strive, the deeper under water we find ourselves.

The only hope for both of our Peters was for Jesus to reach out His hand, take hold of them, and drag them back to the safety of the boat. “Lord, save me!”

How often we try to tread the waters. How often we forget that Jesus is standing mere inches in front of us. Standing on top of the things overwhelming us, ready to reach out His nail-marked hand and save us. “Lord, save me!” A holy refrain from the lips of His faithful. May it be also upon your lips.

Lord, save me! Amen.