We drove through the wilds of central Jersey (yes, they do exist-even when they look like ex-urban fields slowly becoming developed bedroom communities) in the early dark, arriving at the farm just before the "hayride of terror," the "haunted cornmaze" and "deserted barn" adventures kicked off in earnest. The youth participated in various combinations of activities...with various actors roaming the common snack bar area in costume. There was a professional-wrestler sized guy dressed like an axe wielding hillbilly, the demon carrying a little hellspawn baby (puppet) and the 6'5" chainsaw swinging ghoul in white face that was traced with "blood" running from a "wound" on the top of his head.
I got home late and started to think about the experience. I remember haunted houses from when I was a kid, mostly experienced during the county fair in the town where I grew up. You know, one of those big, carnival trailer things that folds out and up into a house of horror, a maze of mirrors and dark corners that are booby trapped with foot plates that set off various flashes of light, screaming and lunging skeletons and loud buzzes and explosions...all designed to give you a good, hard start....I loathed and loved those experiences in my youth.
There were a few moments like that last night. Getting chased by a chainsaw-toting Joker doppleganger was right up there on the fright list, as was the moment in a smoke filled room when a couple of dark, hulking shapes loomed up out of a misty silence without warning....
But on the whole, I spent more time being amused and bemused by the spectacle. Not to knock the actors' performances. They put their heart and
Still, I think there is something to being a little older, and a little more experienced around the sadness of true evil in this world. There is a lot to see, and to be frightened by, in this life when it comes to that-which-is-not-God starts to flew its muscles and make itself known. I have seen it in all parts of life, on the global scale (acts of terror, economic injustice and outright imperialistic manipulation of people by dominant cultures and institutions). I have seen it even in the local churches I have served, when people-good people-after a time of distraction and confusion find themselves on dark paths while they seek their own will instead of God's and choose to cloak it in words that sound holy, but ring hollow. Even places can get a negative and not-God centered charge.
Jesus, in his earthly ministry, confronted those forces that were not of God in both direct and indirect ways. He cast out spirits that distorted people who desperately needed to feel God's healing touch in their lives. He confronted the institutions of his own culture, as well as the invading and dominant Roman Empire, with news of a kingdom that was not going to be won with any other blood being shed than his own.
Even St. Paul faced down the principalities and powers of his own age. Evil's term of influence, he preaches, is coming to an end...even as we prepare to receive Christ in his second coming, we need to be ready to challenge the things that are not of God and the incoming kingdom in order to take our place alongside out forebears in the faith as servants of the One who was, is and is to come.
Can a chainsaw buzzing in my face scare me, much, when these greater issues loom before me in this life? There is a lot of God-service we are called on to offer up as the evil things in this world are overthrown by our God who, loving us, calls us again and again to turn from the shadows in and around us to the great light of the life of the Son, Jesus Christ.
I did enjoy the....startlement....of last night, but I also am aware today of the reality that the things that go bump in the night that really scare me and mobilize me into action are the all-to-real evils of our broken world and its sins against the love that our Creator bears toward us.
So, as we enjoy the pageantry of a find Hallowe'en celebration, let's remember why we do this annual dance with ghasts, ghosts and hobgoblins: the real thing to fear, and face, are the bits of us that hide in the shadows and reject God calling us to repentance, healing and hope in Christ Jesus.....