November 2014

Monthly topical articles kindly supplied by a regular visiting               

speaker from Northampton: Stan Burditt.                 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

Green Pastures  Email:- greenpasture@btinternet.com    Listen on WWW.harbourlightradio.org 

      

 

                                                             VIEW FROM THE PULPIT                      November 2014

Too Superstitious      Over the past few weeks, pumpkins have been displayed for sale in prominent places in supermarkets and stores, in readiness for Halloween. A hollowed-out pumpkin with facial features carved on the skin can appear quite scary when an illuminated lantern is placed inside. I remember when quite a young boy taken to a darkened loft above a garage where another boy had carved out a big turnip and put a lighted candle in it. It was very spooky and I could not get out of there quick enough! Halloween today is often portrayed by leaning tombstones and masked people dressed in grey/black robes, with streaks of black on their face. Emphasis is on the underworld, on death and the devil.

Children attire themselves in such a way and knock doors of houses, proclaiming “Trick or Treat?” to the person who answers the door. The word ‘trick’ is a veiled threat to the occupant or the house, if the children do not receive a favourable gift. 

The practice of Halloween with its commercial interests is based upon superstition and is a corruption of a Christian festival called ‘All-Hallows-Eve’ which at the end of October marked the end of summer. The last four words of that sentence remind me of Jeremiah 8:20, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” What an awful thing it would be to come to the end of life’s journey and be not saved. The underworld would then become a reality, not an enacting of a superstition, but an eternity of darkness.    

 

The English language has many peculiarities. One of them is that some words spelled differently are pronounced the same, such as, week and weak, weather and whether, there and their, red and read, etc. Usually these are pairs (not pears!) but the word ‘Too’ is one of three same sounding words. ‘To’ indicates direction, distance or time. ‘Two’ is associated with numbers. ‘Too’ carries the thought of being excessive, ‘Too far’, ‘Too heavy’, ‘Too much’, and so on.

This word ‘Too’ is found forty-seven times in the Old Testament but only once in the New Testament. The word ‘Superstitious’ is also only found once in the Bible and both of them are linked together in Acts 17:22, “Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” Previous verses give the background, from verses 16 to 21 we read, “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)”

 

Athens at that time was recognized as the centre of learning, the notable philosophers of the day frequented Areopagus, or Mars Hill, as it was known; it was the seat of learning and debate. The essence of the Epicureans was that it was not possible to know with certainty what the future holds, so, eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. The school of the Stoicks however reasoned that if one did the best that one could do, it would all work out well in the end, it was a doctrine of ‘good works’.

Paul made two observations as he moved around the city. Firstly their commitment to idolatry, and secondly their, ignorance. The multiplicity of altars around the city ascribing devotion to a mythical god revealed the emptiness and spiritual darkness of the devotees. Zeus, the god of thunder and war was the king of the gods and many others with their mythical creature images were bowed down to. Though professedly this place was the seat of learning it was in abysmal ignorance, they had an altar to ‘The Unknown god’. Many prominent scholars today are in the same darkness and ignorance of the True and Living God.

 

What an opportunity presented itself to Paul! They did not know God and he set about telling them of the great Creator God who brought all things into being. The giver and sustainer of life, the One who holds the breath we breath and orders all the functions of our bodies and the universe in perfection. Paul also told them about the Lord Jesus Christ, the purpose of His sacrificial death and His triumph over death and the grave.

 

Some mocked him when they heard these things, this was wilful ignorance, and they did not want to know. Some procrastinated, they put off a decision that would enlighten their minds and save their souls. The chapter concludes “Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.” Among the mythical gods, the god Dionysus was the son of Zeus and he is said to have gone into the underworld to deliver Semele, his mother. The man, Dionysius who frequented Mars Hill, turned from superstition, he heard the gospel and believed that Christ is the only One to deliver people from the underworld, because He arose from the dead and led captivity captive. Do you believe? If not, why not today, call upon the Lord and be born again? This is no trick, but it is a blessed treat!  God bless.

 

 

Stan Burditt

                            

   

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