Today is October 31st. That means that today, all across America, neighborhood children are going to come knocking at your door to try to coerce you into giving them candy by threatening retribution if you don’t comply. We call it Halloween, and yes, in its modern form, it’s innocent enough. In fact, as I wrote in this post earlier this week, Halloween is a great opportunity for Christians to think missionally, as it is the only day of the year when most of your neighbors will come knocking on your door.
However, October 31st is a much more historical and significant day in the history of the world. Before anyone considered dressing up as a superhero or a robot, October 31st was celebrated for a different reason: It is the day when in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the All Saints Church (ironically on the eve of All Saints Day) in Wittenburg, Germany. This event is generally regarded as the catalyst of the Protestant Reformation, thus – for centuries before Americans came along and capitalized on Halloween and commercialized it, October 31st was celebrated amongst Protestant Christians as Reformation Day.
These days, Reformation Day is still a big deal in Germany and other parts of Europe, but in America it is only celebrated by a handful of Lutherans, Reformed Christians and other protestants – albeit, most of them celebrate it as a Halloween alternative, and still get dressed up and hand out candy to kids. If you really want to make a splash at one of these events, here’s a tip: dress up as Martin Luther. You’ll probably be the only one (no you won’t; I was being facetious). If you really want to wow all your Lutheran friends at the Reformation Day party, then you should actually dress up like Johann Tetzel – you will be the hit of the party (not really). By the way – I’m allowed to make Lutheran jokes; I went to Lutheran school growing up – Missouri Synod baby. That’s right.
Anyway, obscure Lutheran references aside – I am thankful for the work of the reformers. Men like Luther and Calvin, and Hus and Wycliff before them. I’m thankful that we have been given the freedom to read the Bible for ourselves, in our own languages – and consider for ourselves what God says to us in the scriptures. I am thankful for the return to Biblical theology that these men worked for.
I used to speak at an annual Reformation Day gathering in Hungary, and what was always said at those meetings was that we must remember that the reformation of the church is never over; it is a continual need, that we come and examine every practice and every doctrine according to the Word of God, even in our protestant churches. The Word of God must always remain our standard and our guide in all things.
I hope you have a great October 31st, and remember today that the fact you can have a Bible in your own language, that you can read any time you want, and have God speak to you personally through it – that’s not something to be taken for granted! The teaching of grace that you (hopefully) hear in church – that’s not something to be taken for granted. These things were fought for – and we reap the benefits. Keep that in mind while you eat “fun size” candy bars for the next several weeks, and give thanks to God for what happened on October 31st, 1517.