Prayer, Plain and Simple

Today is “All Saints Day,” following last night, “Halloween” or “All Hallows Eve.” What we call “Halloween” has its origin in an ancient Celtic festival to remember the dead called “Samhain.” By the 800s the Celts had become Christian and they “converted” their pagan celebration into a Christian holy day honoring those who had had died and now continued their life in heaven. They called this new synthesized celebration All-hallowmas or All-hallows, meaning All Saints. The night before – the old Samhain begn to be called All-hallows-eve and finally Halloween.

From ancient times, pagan and Christian, this day commemorates the memory of those who have died. Death of course is a universal human experience, both dealing with the passing of those we love and finally with our own final demise. Death happens.

The difference for Christians, and the fundamental distinction between pagan Samhain and Christian All Saints Day, is that Christians claim evidence for the death of Death. Many religions have myths of gods  who die and come back to life. Christians claim that the myth happened in history, the Jesus of Nazareth suffered actual death at the hands of Romans, then three days later in a real time and place returned to life in the same body, now transformed into a new form. For Christians this isn’t myth, it is myth made history.

A Christian celebration of the Dead (All Saints) is always rooted in hope anchored in history. We really believe. Yes we do. Death for us is still filled with uncertainty and sadness and even grief. It hurts. But it does not terrify or lead us to despair. Paul, the Apostle puts it this way: “Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory?”

Christians have redeemed this ancient time for grief and fear and turned into a time for remembrance and hope. In that form, Thank God for All-hallows Eve. Thanks God for All Saints Day.

Argentina is in shock today. Former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, died suddenly of a massive heart attack Wednesday. The leftist Kirchner, 60, was current President Cristina Fernandez’s husband and was considered the leading contender from the dominant Peronist party to succeed her in next year’s election.

“God, we pray today for Argentina.  Use this time of grief, instability and uncertainly to reveal your destiny for the nation.  Remind Argentines that they cannot trust in any human savior. They cannot build hope on politics or economics or any system of human design. They need you. In the void that will follow, give followers of Jesus the courage to rise and fill the void with a message of the Kingdom of God, and the hope of YOUR strength and salvation and healing and provision and pardon and deliverance and love. You are enough for Argentina.”

Shame by association seems to be sweeping the Sooner Nation today. Jeffrey Landrigan, who escaped from an Oklahoma prison in 1989 then robbed at gunpoint and murdered an Arizona man, was executed last night uttering his last words, “Boomer Sooner.”  Bummer!

“Boomer Sooner” is the proud battle cry of the University of Oklahoma. Sooners across the nation are groaning in collective disgrace at a fate worse than losing to Texas…  to find themselves and their great University forcefully associated with pitiful creature like Landrigan.

Every family and fraternity can relate. There’s Aunt Myra who drinks too much, cousin Ed who talks a blue streak and couldn’t can’t keep a family secret if it killed him, Brother Tom who’s been bankrupt three times… the roommate who eats way too much… We all have forced associations that shame us. Then again, we ourselves have probably embarrassed the family name a time or two ourselves.

But we don’t have to be victims of association… Jesus himself had more than one loser in his family line. In his genealogy recorded in Matthew we find a prostitute, a murderer, a couple of adulterers, and a long list of crooked kings who seriously abused power. Still, the shame of family didn’t corrupt him. Jesus stood above it.

There are no perfect families in the world. There are no perfect Universities, churches, or social clubs. To join anything is to be marred by residual scum of human folly connected to that something. And we are not only victims of this; we are perpetrators ourselves.

But it doesn’t doom us. Like Jesus, we can associate with the dirt and rise above it. We can be IN but not OF the world! Welcome, Sooner Nation to the fate we all face – being accidently associated with the garbage heap of life. The good news: being a “Sooner” or a “Longhorn” or a “Trojan” or whatever does not have to be our core identity. We can be a “Jesus Follower” and never fear being shamed by association!

Nigeria is in the midst of its worst cholera outbreak in many years. Nearly 40,000 cases and more than 1,500 deaths have been reported in 2010. The number of cases this year is nearly three times the total for all of last year and 7 times the number in 2008. The Red Cross estimates that women and children account for 80 per cent of these cases.

“God, stem the tide of cholera in Nigeria. Give officials wisdom to aid the process. Purge the nation of this dreaded disease. In the name of Jesus, the Healer.”