Last week was Halloween, and many were the interesting carvings of pumpkins that populated our neighborhoods. I am yet to find out how pumpkins became affiliated with the celebration of Halloween. I like pumpkin though; I love pumpkin soup, but not necessarily the pie. I can bet that there are many different things we can do with pumpkins. The interesting bit for me, though, is the affiliation of pumpkin with Halloween; the idea that the pumpkin is cleaned up and seeds are taken out, thus making it possible for all sorts of carvings to be made on them, reminds me of a little poem that I read.
Being a Christian is like being a pumpkin.
God lifts you up, takes you in, and washes
all the dirt off of you.
He opens you up,
Touches you deep inside and scoops out
all the yucky stuff - including the seeds of
doubt, hate, greed, etc.
Then, He carves you a
a new, smiling face and puts His light inside you
to shine for all the world to see.
Halloween’s pumpkin offers us the opportunity to empty ourselves, giving us room to plant lights that can illuminate our lives. The idea of self-emptying reminds me of Paul’s words about Jesus Christ. He writes this: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
This creedal statement is held up as an example for us and we are also called on a daily basis to empty ourselves just so we can be filled with the light of Christ that never runs out.
Tomorrow is Veterans Day. It is a day when we honor all those who gave of themselves, and emptied themselves in order to protect your freedom and mine. The dangers of our world and the scourge of war weren’t enough to stop them from expressing their love for their country. I have enormous respect for soldiers. I never got to be one, but those who committed themselves and even sacrificed their lives on the altar of love deserve our very best.
About a year ago, Christ Church, with your help, invited a refugee family of four into our common life. This was a huge effort that demanded a lot of sacrifice on our part to ensure that the family can live and thrive in a country where our soldiers fight to protect our freedoms. Although not overtly expressed, our hope was that they, too, can experience the freedoms we hold dear.
And just to remind each of us - this is made possible because of the soldiers who serve.
And so, if you haven’t thanked a soldier before, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation whenever you see one. They, too, are like Halloween pumpkins - they empty themselves just so they can be filled with a love that illuminates like light and motivates them to embrace the ultimate sacrifice: laying down their lives for others.
Our refugee family has changed our lives for the better, providing us with a space where we can empty ourselves like Halloween pumpkins and illuminate their lives with the light of Christ. Through this family, we have had to taste the value of freedom, grace, and dignity.
This coming Sunday, November 13th at 7:00 p.m., we will hold an interfaith prayer vigil at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Ellicott City. This prayer vigil will afford us the opportunity to celebrate our partnership with other congregations and also to pray for refugees all over the world. All are invited and encouraged to join in this wonderful prayer vigil.
Over the past several weeks, we have been inviting all of you to consider pledging towards our common life. This past Sunday was our Pledge Sunday, and we offered our pledges with a prayer of stewardship. I sincerely thank each and every one of you for your commitment to our common life. That, too, is a form of self-emptying just like a Halloween pumpkin; we empty ourselves in a way that creates the space in our lives where we can be filled with the light and love that illuminates God’s goodness. The good news is that we have done very well, but we still have a long way to go, and so we want to invite those who have not as yet pledged, to prayerfully consider supporting our common life.
I’d like to conclude with the thought that, like the Veterans we celebrate, we are also soldiers of the Christ who saves. And the Savior calls us to live His love, defy the world’s hate, to be true to ourselves, to God, and to the world to which we belong.
Above all else, the Savior calls us to a kind of self-emptying, like a Halloween pumpkin, for that is the only way that we can shine through the carved pumpkin with God’s light.