Dr. RB McFee
“Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He’s gotta pick this one. He’s got to. I don’t see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.”
Linus from It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown
Now I ask you, who hasn’t grown up to the wisdom of Peanuts? Most of us have learned something from either the intrepid, never quit nature of Charlie Brown, the insightful advice of ‘Dr. Lucy’ doled out for a meager 5 cents (and sometimes for free), the 5 year old going on 35 thought process of Sally, the rakish courage of Snoopy, and the most wise of all, our resident philosophe Linus.
For those of us raised on Charlie Brown television specials, and Peanuts wisdom books, it is not surprising that we take great joy in this happy month of October, the revels, the decorations, the celebratory mood. It is a month where we all have permission to recapture our childlike innocence.
In keeping with that spirit, the other day my friends and I were working out, in costume of course! And while on the treadmill, with a sweat infused brain, clouds of thoughts popped into my head…images of Halloween, Christians, and Shakespeare.
“A person should always choose a costume which is in direct contrast to her own personality.”
Lucy Van Pelt from It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown
How often can that be said of us? Have we ever behaved contrary to our Christ inspired persona? Maybe it was honking a stranger who was too slow off a green light, or giving a cold shoulder to a fellow congregant, or fired a harsh word when a calm response might have been better?
It’s one thing to choose an alter ego, or even complete 180’ opposite of who we truly are, when selecting a Halloween costume. It is quite another to portray someone different from the expectations of our Savior for our lives.
Shakespeare often commented that we as people portray various aspects of our personalities. He also suggested that we often play many roles in our lives. Best let the Bard use his own words ….
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players….”
William Shakespeare – As you like it, Act 2, Scene 7.
Make no mistake about it. The world affords us many stages. Do we perform, or do we remain true to ourselves in Christ?
Moreover, as players, are these by choice, or dictated by situation? And should we allow situations to dictate our behaviors, or should we invite the Holy Spirit to inform our actions regardless of environment? Easier said than done, but then Jesus expects us to do the right thing, even when it is hard.
Fortunately, just as there are few one man shows, and going alone on Halloween is discouraged, we as Christians are never on our own; God is as close as possible – within us.
In spite of that, mere mortals sometimes behave as if they are alone, or no one is watching. Sadly that can often be said of Christians, too.
So what costume do you wear? What role are we playing? And resultantly how does the world see us? How are we with fellow Christians, or non believers?
Put differently, do our actions – what might be considered our daily costume – belie or confirm our baptism, our faith, our membership in Jesus’ family, our commitment to our Savior?
Let me rephrase in keeping with this article….
As characters in the Halloween party of life, or the stage we are on, do we reflect God’s love? Are we authentic in the role we have allowed to define us? Are we full time Christians, or costume Christians? Do we wear it when we think we are supposed to? Or all the time as we in fact are supposed to?
To quote a military axiom, an officer is by proclamation and profession a gentleman. Can that be said of us as Christians? To be sure, we are imperfect humans. But do we not also subscribe to a code that by proclamation should commend us to our higher angels in all the roles we are called upon to play?
Do we, under the costume of Christian behavior, assume roles that, like the Pharisees, or Sanhedrin, are just that, merely costumes, which make us appear to serve the Lord, when in reality the power, influence, prestige, and position can serve us more?
Do we avoid altogether wearing our faith, fearing censure, or the title of proselytizer, when there are so many ways to portray, which is to say, be the person of faith, through how you live, more than mere role playing.
The true person of faith is clothed not in a costume, but in an authenticity knowing Who we belong to, and work for. We can and should present ourselves to the world based upon a deep understanding of our role in Christ – to be consistently who we are called to be as a follower of Jesus, baptized in the Holy Spirit, devoted to the service of God.
But that service is more that playing a role – whether volunteer, or employed in church, or in the wider world.
In college my friends and I were cast in an action-comedy play. Our director counseled us about the challenges of comedy. He said don’t act funny, be funny. Become who your character is supposed to be, not who you the actor thinks he should be.
The ultimate Director – God - can tell if we are acting, or being, too.
“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
Jesus recognized children are authentic, and when inspired by something, Someone great, they will want to be part of it. In Luke (also noted in other Gospel verses) they approached Jesus with a spirit of openness. They came without playing a role. The children came without artifice, without costume. They sat near our Lord with an abandon of enthusiasm, that we can learn from.
Do we take joy in the Presence of the Lord, like the Children of Luke? Do we hunger for His word, and strive to reflect what He has tried to teach us? Do we allow His Spirit to infuse us?
Do we portray being a Christian, or are we Christian, with all the blessings and responsibilities that attend to that powerful, beautiful term?
Linus approached the pumpkin patch in total sincerity. He was not deifying the Great Pumpkin (to be sure he was Santafying the giant squash). But Linus was reminding us that sincerity – authenticity are essential characteristics. Did he misplace those efforts – sure. But can we learn from him nevertheless? Yes.
““Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.””
When we enter into our Christian family home – church, do we enter it with such reverence as God would want, as said in Exodus 3:5, or with the sincerity of Linus, or the enthusiasm, even authenticity of children as in Luke 18:17?
Are we royal robe wearers or feet washing servants in God’s house? Do we honor Him by our behaviors? Do we share kindness, tolerance, understanding, concern? Or would God be disappointed at how we interact with others – whether friends or those we don’t know well?
Do we represent our values through our actions? The same question applies when we are in the wider world. Can people feel our sincerity? Are we kind and patient when we don’t have to be, or do we hide behind the costume of our job, our position, our title, our ego?
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, Who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.”
1 Corinthians 6:19
There are two types of Halloween Christians….
Those who wear costumes, behaving towards others based upon the situation they find themselves in, playing many roles, but not always the one of Christian servant.
And then there are the Halloween Christians who live their life authentically, celebratory in childlike wonder, representing with enthusiasm the Jesus we proclaim to follow. Our chosen costume is consistency in trying to reflect God’s love regardless of the stage we find ourselves on, and with sincerity to our faith that would even eclipse Linus in the pumpkin patch.
If we recognize we are temples containing the Holy Spirit, we can carry our Lord into the world, knowing Who and what we can share is never a trick, is always a treat, and far sweeter than even the best Halloween candy.