“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good.” – 3 John 1:11
There was a house where I used to trick-or-treat as a kid that turned off all its lights on Halloween. There was no candy to be had at the front door. In fact, they hung a sign on it telling all who ventured that far that Halloween was a demonic holiday and that Christians should not celebrate it.
Years later a woman visited a church where I was preaching and became outraged by my sermon. I had talked about a lesson I had learned on faith from Harry Potter. Afterwards she caught me by the door and lectured me about how J.K. Rowling, the author, was a satanist. “No ma’am, I replied. “She’s a member of the Church of Scotland.”
I never saw her again. But I wonder what she and those neighbors would think to see the members of my church standing at the big red front doors of our building, bowls full of candy for trick-or-treaters in our hands, pumpkins carved by the youth group all around the steps, and some of us dressed like Harry Potter. I’m sure they would think we were bound straight for hell on the Hogwarts Express.
But this is what I see instead. I see our neighbors, many of whom have never come to our church doors before, walking up the front steps. I see them ask to look inside. I see their kids getting complimented on their costumes by church members of all generations. I see the big building in the center of town, as scary and unknown to some as a haunted house, suddenly becoming a familiar and welcoming place.
This world is full of far too little joy, and childhood vanishes so quickly. When the kids of my neighborhood come to the front door of my spiritual house, I want the doors to be open. And I want what they find inside to be even sweeter than candy.
God, help us not to be scared of the things that go bump in the night. And help us not to be scared to open our front doors. Amen.
Emily C. Heath is Senior Pastor of The Congregational Church in Exeter, New Hampshire. She is a frequent Huffington Post blogger and a regular contributor to the UCC’s NewSacred.