I did not grow up with All Saint's. Like everyone else, it was Halloween I looked forward to. Getting pumpkins carved, making our own costumes, and overdosing on candy were perfect for me as a child with a short attention span. And while we knew ghosts and goblins weren't real, there was just enough uncertainty to keep us watching in the dark.
As parents of young children, Cynthia and I continued these basic traditions, as the rest of America became fascinated with Halloween. Now we've just become "old foggies" and hardly note its occurance. This year small packs of popcorn and pretzels replaced the sugary treats we handed out at the door, and there wasn't a pumpkin anywhere near. I googled "Halloween sales" and learned that the National Retail Federation predicted we'd spend over $5 billion on Halloween this year, with the average customer spending $64.82. Guess we let them down.
But today is All Saint's, a day of cosmic warping. Heaven bends near and all the earth becomes a thin place, for those with ears to hear. I awakened this morning at 5 to the laughter of the apostles, somewhere in the distance. Came to my study chair to read and write and realized the desert mothers and fathers considered my arrival to silent prayer to be tardy, and possibly disrupting. Saints and theologians, some ancient, but many not, peer out at me from the line of bookshelves in our study. We are not alone on the spiritual journey, and today is the day the faithful witnesses delight in reminding us of this.
I prepare myself for the rabble of the day, the kind of hub-bub that greets you when you enter a party late, and so many people are engaged in conversation. The writer of Hebrews called it a "cloud of witnesses surrounding us" but he (she?) could just as easily have said "chatter of witnesses," for it seems they each have a word of encouragement. It would be uncomfortable to be gazed upon and commented about by all these saints, except I recognize some of the voices, and the smiles here and there are from those I have known and loved.
As a child I was mildly concerned about the spirits out on Halloween night, for fear of what they might do. As a grown child, I now am concerned about the spirits out on All Saints, not for fear of what they might do, but for fear of my behavior. They look to me, to you, for us to be faithful, to run our laps with patience, looking to Christ, the pioneer and perfector of our faith, until the time comes for us to pass the baton on. Today heaven comes near, and the whispers become cheers, and I do not want to disappoint those who would not fail me.