Today is the Eve of All Saint’s Day, also known as Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve. It has a surprising amount of Christian roots, despite what the supposed evangelical “Christians” will tell you. Frankly I wish they would do their homework more before they post on social media.
Despite the stories you have heard (and may have mistakenly believed), Halloween is not all about vampires, goblins, and carved pumpkins. It is however about ghosts: for Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve, is the beginning of the Festival of All Saint’s Day, which begins tomorrow, Nov. 1. Tradition holds that feast days, in following the Jewish understanding of time, begin the Eve before the day – hence Christmas Eve often has the same function of Christmas Day.
Halloween is not a veneration of the dead as much as it is a commemoration of the faithfully departed who have seen the beatific vision of heaven. Those who have died before us wait, like we do, to enter the new heaven and the new earth, which is the vision of our Revelation 21 passage today.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”
The vision of the end of time includes a wondrous re-creation – a time when God retools the cosmos into a place where crying and death and pain will be no more. It is quite the vision. We all wait, living and dead, for this final consummation of the earth. It is the renewal of all renewals.
When I first heard this passage expounded upon I was in class with Dr. Peter Macky, my mentor and inspiration at Westminster College. It is Dr. Macky that led me to seriously consider the ministry. He also got me thinking about biblical metaphors. This was his prime example. It was this passage that led him to know that God spoke to us, not always literally, but often in metaphors.
Peter grew up in Bermuda. The vision in his head of what heaven would be like was just like Horseshoe Bay in Bermuda. Sand like white powder. The gentle ocean waves caressing the shore. The sunlight playing off the water. And in heaven there will be NO MORE SEA?? Peter had decided, if that was the case, he didn’t want to go!
To speak of the sea being “no more” meant for this biblical writer that the chaos of life would be over. No more Leviathan. No more shipwrecks and heartache. No more hurricanes and chaos at all. The peace and tranquility of the next life would take over. But the point being, this is when Dr. Macky understood the power of metaphor in biblical writing, and not taking everything so literal. In his mind, heaven required there to be a beach.
I can relate as well – as a scuba diver, fisherman, and sea lover, there is no way heaven is a place where “the sea is no more”. My vision of heaven is of a vast ocean – of endless Red Snapper, endless coral reefs to explore, endless feasts of shrimp and lobster tail.
And this awaits our future. And on that day I will be reunited with Dr. Macky, who died of cancer some years ago. And I will see all the saints who have gone before me, and we will sit down at a feast beyond anyone’s imagination.
So remember those who have gone before you this day, this All Hallow’s Eve. And when a little ghost in a white sheet comes looking for candy tonight, give her an extra piece, and be reminded that a greater feast is coming.