October 23, 2014 by Pastor Ben McIntire
For most people, October 31 is a day when church is the farthest thing from their minds. Kids dress up as pirates, ghosts, princesses, fairies, zombies and vampires and go out at night to get candy from the neighbors—Halloween. If asked, however, most people would have a tough time explaining what it’s all about. All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve dates back to the early Christian church. Pope Gregory IV named November 1 as All Saints’ Day in 835AD. Today, All Saints’ Day is a time when we remember and honor those who are traditionally named “saints” as well as our own departed saints, our faithful friends and family who have died. This tradition is laid over the ancient Celtic pagan festival of Samhain, which was an end-of-summer festival and thought to be the day of the year when the border between the living world and the spirit world is opened.
All that aside, October 31, 2014 marks the 497th anniversary of Martin Luther’s famous (or infamous) 95 Theses being posted on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. This writing is often credited as the beginning of Luther’s Reformation movement. While it is true that he intended his 95 “theses,” or points, to be discussed as steps for change within the church, Luther did not desire a split in the Church. In fact, his original intention was to “reform” the errors and abuses that were ravaging the church at that time. Further conflict finally resulted in Luther’s excommunication (getting kicked out) from the Roman Catholic Church. After his expulsion, Luther and other like-minded theologians and clergy worked to establish a set of Confessions, a list of specific beliefs, that they could set forth as an explanation of their faith. These Confessions are centered on faith in Jesus Christ as our crucified and risen Savior, and the authority of the Bible as God’s Word to us.
I think it is helpful for us as Christians to be aware of the many layers of history on this 31st of October so that when it is dark and spooky, and ghosts and witches come knocking on your door, we can remember that this is a day that the Lord has made. Our Lord is the One and Only who has become the bridge between the living and the dead. He holds us all: living and dead, sinners and saints, in his hands and has promised to raise all the faithful on the Final Day.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the promise of eternal life and the hope of the resurrection from the dead. Help us not to fear death, but to remember that we are mortal and so we must make the most of this precious gift of life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.