Don't Tell the Children: Halloween Is Really Therapy, Rev. Arthur G. Severance

Start Date

HEAVEN AND HELL

While walking down the street one day, a corrupt Senator was tragically hit by a car and died. His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.  "Welcome to heaven," says St. Peter. "Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official so we're not sure what to do with you."  "No problem, just let me in," says the Senator.  "Well, I'd like to, but I have my orders. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell, and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity."  "Really?, well I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven," says the Senator.  "I'm sorry, but we have our rules", and St. Peter escorts him down to the elevator and he goes down, down, down, to hell.  The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a beautiful green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse, and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.  Everyone is very happy and run to greet him. They shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had, while getting rich at the expense of the people.

They played a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and the finest champagne.  Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy having a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are all having such a good time that before the Senator realizes it, it is time to go.  Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises...  The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens in heaven, where St. 

Peter is waiting for him to visit heaven.  So, 24 hours pass with the Senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the day has gone by and St. Peter returns.  "Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity."  The Senator reflects for a minute, then he answers: "Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell."  So, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.  When the doors of the elevator open, he is in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags, as more trash falls from above.  The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulders.  "I don't understand," stammers the Senator. "Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?" The devil smiles at him and says,...."Yesterday we were campaigning ...Today, you voted.."

Vote wisely on November 2, 2010 for the least corrupt candidate, for the one who you believe will make a difference and help us live out our Unitarian Universalist purposes and Principles of transforming the world into a loving, just, peaceful, and green place, staring with our own corner.

      I love Halloween. When I was a kid, I thought it was just fun. I honestly didn�t know that you were supposed to psychoanalyze your costume, eat ethically, and be familiar with all the mythological reasons for the holiday! I had no idea it was an ancient form of therapy to help me become more comfortable with death, fear, and black cats. And all the various religious connotations that have developed over the thousands of years. What? You didn�t know that either? You also just thought it was supposed to be fun? Boy, you�re lucky you came here today then!

            Actually, it should be fun, and probably for the last 50 to 75 years it was just that, fun. No religious or psychological significance, at least on the surface. The church had their holidays the next day. All Saints Day, November 1, All Soul�s Day., November 2 and the SouthWest Hispanic culture had Dia de los Muertos, day of the dead also November 2, probably dating back to Aztec days, when graves were cleaned and extended families went to the graveyards and often had picnics there, celebrating with the ancestors, one way of revering them and thus of course, also not fearing them. You know the difference between All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day? You'd probably have to be a good Catholic, because, of course, Protestants don't have saints. All Saints' Day or All Hallow's Day (Halloween being All Hallow's Eve), was the celebration of those saints, or actually the dead, who are actually IN heaven having lived saintly lives, and All Souls' Day is for those who are in purgatory, still making up for their sins before they can graduate and finally go to heaven.

            Halloween was a Celtic holiday call Samhain predates Christianity by about 500 years! Did you know that it survives virtually intact from the earliest days of European history and it is arguably the oldest continually observed holiday in the Western Hemisphere!? Think about that for a minute. If Christianity is about 2000 years old, that means Halloween has been celebrated for about 2500 years!  Don�t tell me there�s no deeper meaning, no primeval instincts here still being touched, no ancient druid therapy, no wiccan wisdom still cooking in that great caldron, or wait - was it a chalice, or even the holy grail?

            And in the fall it is harvest time, the green leaves turn into rainbow colors, and how would ancient humanity explain that, do you suppose? What magic explain the exquisite colors painted upon landscape, just before the falling of the leaves which lead to the barren trees, then the cold of winter. Autumnal old age and winter death until the resurrection of spring! Oh myth and religions intertwine with magic and metaphor, with the ancient way of psychology. How to explain, how to deal with it, how to protect ourselves from fear, from the haunting of the dead? How to answer the questions of where do we go when we die?

     Oh, we try to make things up for our children, especially when our pets die, for instance, and our children ask us, where our pet cat, Tom is now that he has died. We try to think, not quite knowing what to tell them and then perhaps say, "Well, Tom is now in heaven with God," and our child, who is very wise, says, "What would God want with a dead cat?"

     Death remains mysterious as it is supposed to be.

            One of the most common poems requested for funerals or memorials services was often listed as anonymous, but was found to be written by Mary E. Frye, 1932, for we all know that �anonymous� was a woman:

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn rain
when you wake in morning hush.
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there, I do not sleep.-

      So here is my advice, my therapy: when you worry about what happens when you die, laugh, and ask yourself why you never worried about what was happening before you were born?  Do you remember not being? Of course not!  Because there is no such thing. How can we be born from nothing?  How can we die and return to nothing? Surely there is a connection somewhere.

     The Bible actually says very little about life after death, and Jesus doesn�t talk much about it either. Oh, we hear about Heaven and Hell, of course, but very little actual details from scripture. Most of what we think we know comes from later interpretations from those called the �Church Fathers,� and then other Popes or Theologians who, of course, claim divine inspiration.

            My mother and father�s earthly bodies are both gone from this earth, but my mother and father are still with me and with my brothers and sisters and everyone who knew them and especially those who loved them. All our memories are intertwined somehow, I do not know how it works exactly, I only know that though the husk of them is gone the seed that was who they most truly were was planted in many places and in many hearts and so continues. On Halloween, for instance, as on other holidays, I  remember my childhood, I recall the creative costumes my mother would craft for me as my older sister and I would go around the small New Hampshire town Trick or Treating. No we were not participating in ancient Druid rituals, we were just having fun, and I am deeply grateful to my beloved parents, EvaMae and Harry Severance, as they continue living in my memories, my heart and in my children.

Happy Halloween.

Amen, Peace, Shalom, (Peace in Hebrew), Assalaamu Alaikum (may Peace be upon you in Arabic), Abrazos a todos (Hugs all around) Namaste, (A Hindu greeting the divinity with me greets  the divinity within you) Blessed Be, and  one more blessing that I adapted from the Spanish long before I went in to ministry. �Vaya con Dios� is Spanish for Good-bye, but literally is �Go with God,� So I adapted it to say �Vaya Con Su Dios,� �Go with your idea or interpretation of God.�

Peace, Love, Shalom, Salaam, Blessed Be, Namaste, Abrazo a Todos,Vaya con su Dios

Benediction

Hold on to what is good even if it is a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe even if it is a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do even if it is a long way from here.
Hold on to life even when it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand even when I have gone away from you.
~Pueblo Blessing ~

Event type
Worship Service