Pumpkin Lessons

Salt and Light

Let me tell you why you [plural, i.e., y’all, you guys, you all, etc.] are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16 (The Message)


Pumpkin


What do pumpkins have to do with the body of Christ?  Today we are going to explore what it means to be the body of Christ, to live as a community of faith, a new creation, and to be salt and light in the world.  

I love Halloween.  No, it is not because of the bookoodles of candy or ghost stories, but rather it is the family memories.  From Camp outs, to my Uncle Mike singing "Monster Mash" with a flashlight under his chin, to the annual pumpkin carving, my heart is warmed when I think of Halloween.  Each year, around this time of year, my Dad and I would go to pick out our pumpkin that we would carve together.  We would pick the pumpkin up and turn it around looking for the side to carve.  Making sure that even if it had blemishes there was enough space to carve an image on at least one side.  Then we would take it home, dust it off, and wash it.  Then we would lay out newspapers on the floor.  Daddy would cut out a top, and the stem would act as a sort of handle.  Then we would begin scooping out the gunk and seeds.  We would carefully separate the seeds from the gunk.  Then Mom would gently wash the remaining gunk off of the seeds and prepare them to be roasted in the oven.  She would lightly coat them in olive and then dust them in salt and them bake them in the oven.  Meanwhile, Daddy would let me sketch the image on the side of the pumpkin.  Then he would cut it out.  After it was carved we would place a votive candle in the bottom.  Daddy would light the candle and we would put it out on the front porch. 


Worship (Acrylic on Canvas)


For centuries christians have repurposed pagan holidays.  For an example of this trend,  visit:  

http://www.ucg.org/holidays-and-holy-days/how-christmas-date-was-set/

When I was in seminary we had a saying, "That'll Preach."  This saying was evoked when something in life acted as an object lesson or teaching moment.  One of the jobs of the preacher is to use the things of our lives and make them relevant for our life in Christ.  Brother Lawrence reminds us that God can be found in everyday living.  God meets us where we are.  Whether we are washing the dishes, doing laundry, mowing the grass, driving to work, or whatever things make up your day, all these things should be done in a posture of prayer.  We can encounter God when washing the dishes.  We can encounter God when mowing the lawn.  We can encounter God when folding laundry.  May we have eyes to see God in the everyday things of life.  That said, whenever this time of year comes, I am reminded of how a jack-o-lantern is like the body of Christ.  Each of us are like pumpkins.  And together we as the body of Christ are like one pumpkin.  As the body of Christ, we are bold and beautiful but we also have blemishes.  As the body of Christ, we strive to continually surrender ourselves to God.  God picks us up and cares for us.  And in the hands of God we open ourselves to receive God’s love and presence.  God lovingly helps us to sort through the gunk and the good.  God encourages us to hold one another accountable and lovingly walk with each other.  With those who hold us accountable we are reminded of the good they see in us, the God they see in us.  We are also lovingly reminded of when we are stepping out of the dance, when we have things or habits in our lives which help draw us away from God, self, and one another.  In each one of us is the image of God, and yet that image has become corrupt.  We as the church bear the image of God and are meant to let that light shine.  So as we separate the gunk and the seeds, we are reminded of both the good and the sin, to that which draws us closer to God, self, and Others and that which separates us from God, self and others.  And when we wash the seeds we are reminded of baptism and the cleansing power of God that washes our sins away.  The seeds remind us that in each one of us as individuals, and as the body of Christ, there is both good and purpose.  Then those seeds are tossed in oil that anoints us for a purpose.  We are salted and seasoned to be the salt of the earth, to help the flavors of God to be known in the community in which we live.  Then we are tossed in the oven into God’s refining fire.  It is both warm and challenging.  It lovingly surrounds us but also shapes and stretches us into whom God is calling us to become.  Then as we sketch an image on the pumpkin, we are reminded that in Christ we are a new creation.  By the grace of God we are able to see the image of God in us.  And as we carve the pumpkin, we make space for the light of God to shine through us.  This act of carving reminds us of God coming in and lovingly cutting away those things that block us, that alienate us from, God, self, and one another.  The candle we place inside reminds us of our call to reflect the light, to reflect God’s presence in this dark and hurting world.  

CARVING A JACK-O-LANTERN AS A SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE:

Today, I am going to recommend that you  carve a pumpkin with your family, with some friends, or in a ministry setting.  This particular spiritual discipline is meant to be done in community.  Once you have your small group, you will figure out your roles.  Each of us has a purpose and a gift within the body of Christ.  No matter how old or young you are God has a way of using you.  You matter and have a purpose.  Perhaps you want to help sketch the image or come up with ideas for the image.  Perhaps you are good at carving.   Perhaps you are good at scooping out.  Perhaps you can separate seeds from gunk.  Perhaps you are good at encouraging others.  Perhaps you are gifted at cooking and want to be in charge of the seeds.  Make sure everyone in your group gets to participate in some way.  This activity is meant to embody what it means to work together as the body of Christ.  At the end you will be invited to place a light within the pumpkin, reflecting on what it means, as the church, to be the light of the world.  You can carve whatever you want on the pumpkin.  Perhaps you want to do a Christian symbol, perhaps an image of a face.  Whatever you want that represents to you the image of the body of Christ, the church, as the light of the world.  Feel free to be creative.  It is not about the outcome but about the process.  Repeat after me.  “It does not matter what this pumpkin looks like.”

As the pumpkin is being carved stop along the way to think about the symbolism.  As you cut off the top, be reminded of being surrendered to God.  Start to imagine what it would look like for your small group to in some way reflect God's light, God's image in the world.  As you scoop out the gunk, be reminded that in each one of us there is both the image of God and that which separates us from God, self, and one another.  As the seeds and gunk are separated, think about the process of holding one another accountable, about practicing spiritual disciplines as a way to nurture the seeds and remove the gunk.  Remeber that in the seeds there is potential for hope, joy, peace, love, and joy.  As the image is sketched, contemplate what it means to be a new creation, both as individuals and as part of the body of Christ.  Ponder once again what it means to be light in the world and what that looks like.  As the image is carved remember that somethings in our lives need to be carved a way, but what remains is the image of God shining in us.   As you place the candle within, may you be reminded that you are the light of the world.


PUMPKIN SEED RECIPE

You are invited to roast the pumpkin seeds in the oven; they make a wonderful and nutritious snack.  As you wash them, remember your baptism and be thankful.  As you coat them in olive oil and dust them in salt, remember that you are to not only light but also salt in the world.  May the seeds remind us that we may not always see what God’s full purposes are, but in each one of us, and in us as the body of Christ, God has planted hope, promise, love, and peace.  Our calling, as a church and as individuals, is to be faithful and to place the results in the hands of God.  We are to be a diverse community of worship, who, inspired and filled by the word and presence of God, are  sent out to be salt and light in the world.

Gently wash seeds removing any residual pumpkin goo.  As you rinse the seeds remember your baptism.  Be reminded that through God’s love and presence you are washed and cleansed.  In you there are seeds of hope, of promise, of love, and of joy.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  In Bowl mix pumpkin seeds with enough oil (extra virgin, canola, safflower, or whatever oil of your choosing) to lightly coat seeds.  May the oil remind you that you are anointed for a purpose.  Sprinkle with salt, for you are the salt of the earth.  Then spread pumpkin seeds out onto a sheet pan.  May you live in such a way that you spread the love and presence of God to all that you meet.  Bake for about 7 minutes, until light brown and crispy.  May we not be afraid of God’s refining fire that forms us and shapes us according to who God is calling us to become.


BENEDICTION:

We are bearers of God’s light in the world and we carry God’s flavors in our lives, so let us shine the light of God in a dark and hurting world and let us continue to show God’s flavors of love, hope, peace, and joy in the very way that we live.  Amen.


BONUS MATERIAL:



Jack O’ Lantern Poem*

 

I am a Jack O’ Lantern

My lights will shine so bright

For I’m a Christian pumpkin

My symbols tell what’s right

 

My nose is like the cross

On which our Savior died

To set us free from sin

We need no longer hide

 

My mouth is like a fish

The whole wide world to show

That Christians live in this house

And love their Savior so!

 

The story starts at Christmas

My eyes are like the star

That shone on Baby Jesus

And wise men saw from far

 

My color, it is orange

Just like the big bright sun

That rose on Easter Day

Along with God’s own Son

 

And so on Halloween

Let’s set our pumpkins out

And tell the trick or treaters

What God’s love is all about!


*Source Unknown

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