Brothers and sisters,

It’s been almost a year since I took a trip to Salem, MA with two of my closest friends. If you were to dig up your Illuminator from 10-26-22, you’ll see that I wrote about how much I was looking forward to the trip. And it was a great time! We were there the Saturday before Halloween, so Salem was in its finest form. Lots of people. Lots of costumes. Crisp air. History all around us. It was fantastic!

I remember when I came back, folks kept asking me, “So when are you going to work some of your Salem trip into a sermon?” Over the last year, I’ve not found a good sermon to include some of the stories from that trip. But there is one story I’ve told a lot and a related story that I think has some-thing to say about our upcoming Trunk-or-Treat.

Part of the reason I was so excited to go to Salem last year was because of its reputation as “Witch City.” I majored in religious studies at Carolina and so I find all kinds of belief systems fascinating. So, going to “Witch City,” I wanted to wander through some of the more “legit” witch shops—places where people could buy supplies that they believed would allow them to cast “spells.” We went into one shop and I was amazed by everything I saw in there, but two things truly caught my eye.

The first was a big bowl filled with pre-packaged bay leaves—something like 10 to a pack. And everybody that came through was picking up a pack of bay leaves. Curious, I walked over, picked up a package, and turned it over to see why folks were gobbling them up. First of all, this store was selling just 10 bay leaves for $16, which is crazy enough on its own! Second, the package said that witches believe that if you place a bay leaf in the heel of your shoe as you head into court, you’re more likely to win your case. And remember, these bay leaves were flying off the shelves! I wanted to turn to the folks and say, “How many of you have court dates?! Salem, what have you done?!”

The second thing that caught my eye was a wall of “spell candles.” The idea behind these was simple. Supposedly, a witch had worked a spell and infused it into the candle. As the candle burned, the spell would activate. And when I say there was a wall of them, I mean there was a 6’ x 8’ display! This thing had sections! Candles for getting a new job, keeping your current job, getting a promotion, etc. Candles for finding love, keeping love, breaking up with someone, etc. Candles to win the lottery, find treasure, or just get cold, hard cash! But what made me stop and say a little prayer, was the fact that these candles I’ve listed were not selling. The ones that were selling were things like a candle to find comfort after the death of a loved one, to repair broken relationships, to make rent by the end of the month. The candles that were selling were candles for folks who were hurting and were looking for peace, looking for community.

Obviously, Trunk-or-Treat won’t help folks get a promotion or help them win the lottery. Putting a ticket from one of our games in the heel of your shoe isn’t going to help you win a court case. But for a couple hours this Saturday, we can offer folks a sense of peace and joy. We can offer them community and let them know they are loved. Not through candles or “spells” or anything like that. But through loving others, knowing that God has always loved us.

Happy Halloween,
Pastor Ben