We had a great Halloween. Anna was Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” and Will was a farmer. We carved a pumpkin, and went to the Pumpkin Patch Party at Savannah Christian Church and had a fun time. Will caught on to the whole candy thing real quick!
Halloween is also Reformation Day, which you might not be aware of if you’re not in the Lutheran church, though it really impacts all Christians. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany. He did it to open up a discussion of abuses in the Catholic Church (the only church at the time) – mainly the selling of indulgences. If you had the money, you could buy an indulgence, basically a piece of paper saying your sins were forgiven and you could get out of Purgatory. You could buy your indulgence and then sin away with no worry (like a “get out of jail free” card or a carbon credit)! The church used indulgences to create fear and thus raise money, but they also cheapened the gospel by implying that Jesus was not sufficient for salvation.
Martin Luther was radical in that he actually read and studied the Scriptures for himself (highly uncommon at the time), and found not a God of fear and manipulation, but a God of love and grace, mercy and forgiveness. He put his life on the line to get that message out to the people. He wrote extensively in German, and had the benefit of the new printing press so “common” folk could understand, too. Luther believed the Bible should be translated into the language of the people (a heresy to the all-Latin Catholic church who did not trust ordinary people to understand it), and he completed a German translation. Fully aware of his failings and sinful nature, Luther resisted that anyone should follow him, only wanting them to follow Christ. He was a man of passion, unyielding in his convictions. When pressed by the Church to recant his teachings or face excommunication or worse he said, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God… Here I stand; I can do no other.”
Everyone who is a Christian has a lot to thank Luther for. He paved the way for our religious freedoms. He did not set out to break away from the church, but to reform it from within. But the church would have none of that – there was too much power and money and politics at stake. Still, Martin Luther insisted that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, and had the courage to stand. We have the message of hope, the Bible in a language we can understand, freedom from oppression and manipulation by church hierarchy – thanks to God’s work through Martin Luther. Happy Reformation Day!
PS – There’s a good movie on video/DVD called “Luther” if you’d like to see his story.