October 24, 2022 - Grace and peace from our brother Jesus, Amen. We had a taste of winter this week, as we are getting closer and closer to Halloween. And then not far after that come Thanksgiving and Christmas. On Saturday morning my dogs, Sam and Gunter, and I went to the city park. They ran and played and sniffed while I walked my two miles. I had on short sleeves with a thin long-sleeved shirt over. Partway through I had to take off the long sleeves because it was really warm. So like most Texas seasons—up, down, and repeat. We desperately need some rain, and maybe we will get some soon.
I remember a story from Joaquin Methodist back in the ‘50s that Grace Childs told me when I was the pastor at the Joaquin Methodist Church. A man that people thought was a bootlegger came to church one Sunday. When it came time to take up the collection, many people noticed that this man put a hundred dollar bill in the collection plate. The church folks were horrified and asked the pastor if he was going to keep that hundred dollars—surely the pastor knew where the money had come from. The pastor just looked at them and said, “Yes, I am going to keep it. The devil has had it long enough!”
In Ancient Rome, our Christian forefathers and foremothers began spreading the Good News of Jesus and his teachings. As the new faith grew in the Empire, they realized that people loved their traditional pagan festival days and wouldn’t want to give them up. So the new church took the end-of-year Roman festival and turned it into Christmas—a time to worship Jesus’ birth. All throughout the empire and beyond, pagan celebrations were adapted and given Christian themes.
Halloween is one such festival day. Halloween is actually All Hallowed Saints Eve. In the Christian Church, the next day is All Saints Day. St. Paul called Jesus followers saints. On this day people would go to church and remember family, friends, and neighbors who had died that year. It was—and is—a day to celebrate those saints who have gone to be with God. All Saints Day has been celebrated for almost two thousand years and is still celebrated in churches around the world.
Yes, early Christians were like other ancients and very superstitious. It was believed that the souls of the dearly departed remained for a time on earth. They also felt there were evil spirits out there in the world. On All Hallowed Saints Eve (Halloween) people dressed up in costume to scare away the spirits. I am one who as a kid loved Halloween, and I still enjoy it today. On All Saints Day, I also remember those that have died—always have. So my thought is, like that preacher in 1950s Joaquin, the devil has had it long enough. We Christians can celebrate Halloween and also remember those saints that have died. Both traditions belong to us, passed on from our ancestors.
Our church service began with a Gathering Hymn—“Song of Joy,” an adaptation of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” sung by Julio Iglesias. For our Psalter lesson we opened the hymnal to page 789 and read the first four verses of Psalm 65. Our Affirmation of Faith was different this week: We used the Profession of Faith on page 46 instead of the Apostles’ Creed. The Gospel lesson came from Luke 18, about the Pharisee and the tax man going to the Temple to pray; Jesus shows the difference between their prayers. The Pharisee prays his thanks that he is better than others. He goes on to list all the godly things he does. Contrast that to the tax man who confesses his sins in pain and heartache. Jesus says that the tax man is more ready to live in God’s Kingdom than the Pharisee.
To accompany this parable, we had a quote from Charles L. Allen, a Methodist minister: “The hardest people to reach with the love of God are not the bad people. They know they are bad. The hardest ones to win for God are the self-righteous people.” Our other quote was from Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish writer: “The whole world is a series of miracles, but we’re so used to seeing them that we call them ordinary things.” Our two songs were “Where He Leads Me” and “Amazing Grace,” both so well-known that we hardly needed the hymnal.
The scripture for our Sunday School lesson was about the persistent widow and the dishonest judge. This story in the Luke Gospel shows how important women were in Jesus’ ministry and also illustrates the Good News of the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed. This parable tells us to be steadfast in promoting God’s justice in the world. By insisting on fairness and mercy, we are able to restore “Shalom,” God’s peace, in the world. We had everyone present for Sunday School. We are all pretty laid back and feel comfortable joining in the discussion. I know I do. Thanks, Fannie, for being such a good teacher.
During the month of October, Paxton Methodists are collecting peanut butter and jelly for Community Christian Services. Remember that a Blessing Box is located next to the Community Center in downtown Joaquin. If you are clearing out your cupboards, take extra non-perishables to the Blessing Box. Currently there is caution tape around that area—because of the old tree shedding limbs—but both the Blessing Box and the mini library can be accessed.
When we delivered the boxes this week, we intended to eat at Cindy’s Restaurante next to them. But Gabriel told us they had closed for good. We have not only enjoyed eating there, but also treasure getting to know Gabriel and Monica and their kids, Cinthia and Carlos. Such a nice family, and we hope things go well for them, whatever path they take now.
At 5PM, Monday, October 24, Paxton Methodist will have its Church Conference. Dr. White, our District Superintendent, will preside. The first order of business will be for Paxton Methodists to vote on whether to leave the United Methodist Church and join the Global Methodist Church. These are concerning times for the Methodist Church Universal. No matter what, we wish everyone well.
Whoever you are, in whatever faith you were born, whatever creed you profess; if you come to this house to find God you are welcome here. Paxton United Methodist Church is an inviting church that takes to heart the idea of “Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds.” Worship begins at 10:00. Our email address is email@example.com. If you would like the weekly email newsletter about Paxton Methodist, you can send your email address to the Paxton email address, and I will add you to the list. God’s Speed.