Have been thinking about Halloween a bit the last few days…
As the you-tube clip shows that people used to dress up as goules and stuff on the eve of All Hallows day, or All Saints Day, then as day breaks in, the dawn breaks, people would throw their costumes onto a bonfire for the bigger and grander feast to celebrate All Saints Day.
So what is All Saints day all about?
The Bible says we are all saints (unfortunate if you are called Bernard!), the Holy Ones of God, you see we have a whole new identity in Christ, we can throw off the old identity of our former selves and burn it, taking on the greater and better new identity that comes from being in Christ.
The greatest exchange the world has ever known was ‘he who knew no sin, became sin for us, that we might have the righteousness of God’.
Christ is in us & we are also in Christ, and Christ is in God… This is our identity, utterly consumed from inside and out in Christ held in God.
“I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, the life I now live in the body I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me”.
The problem is we still think we have our old identity, that of a sinner.
Yes we still sin, yes we still fall short, but this isn’t what defines us, as Christians we are not defined by our sin, but by being in Christ and Christ in us.
I love the image of burning the clothes of a former identity, it reminds me of a couple of images from scripture…
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. 2 The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”
3 Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. 4 The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”
Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.”
5 Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by.
I believe this is a picture of Christ, Jesus or Joshua are interchangeable in Hebrew, Jesus is described as the great high priest, wearing our sin and baring the accusations of our sin… and yet the Atonement image sees the sinful stained clothes taken away and dressed in clean and fine clothes… And a picture of all of us, coming to Christ with our lives/clothes sin stained and yet being given (to quote to Stuart Townsend Song) “Royal Robes I don’t deserve”.
A theme echoed by John the beloved disciple who wrote the book of Revelation:
Glory and strength to Christ, who loves us,
who blood-washed our sins from our lives,
Who made us a Kingdom, Priests for his Father,
forever—and yes, he’s on his way! (Rev.1.4-7.MSG)
... and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
… cast off falsehood and speak truthfully
…Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
That idea of inhabiting a new identity and letting go, getting rid of the old identity.
If we think of ourselves as sinners, we will sin.
If we think of ourselves as Saints, we’ll be holy.
Remembering that we are not who we were, but who we now are.
Saying when Satan tempts us “this isn’t me any more”…”I don’t do that any more”…
Yet the problem is we get too attached to our old sinful identity and sometimes chucking old and bad ways into the fire is something we struggle with… sometimes we try and snatch out of the fire our old bad and destructive ways.
The problem is we don’t often see or fully understand the beauty of this new identity as a child of God, a new creation, where the old has gone and the new has come.
A great, better new identity… that we need to inhabit and walk in, not with head bowed low, but knowing we are loved.
I’ll close with two bits of a hymn…
“All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood”…
“The things of this world grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace”…