Halloween & Reformation Day

Happy Halloween!   Happy Reformation Day!  We’ll be posting on both of those holidays today.  Both have reference, of course, to the really big holiday of the church year on the day after, All Saints’ Day.   All the ghosts and devils were thought to come out the day before All Saints’ Day, since this was their last chance before the holiness of “All Hallows” banished them back into the darkness.  And Luther pounded his theses onto the church door before the big festival the next day.

Can you make any connections between Halloween and Reformation Day?  How about between each of these holidays and All Saints’ Day?  (For example, both Halloween and All Saints’ are days of the dead, one recalling the wages of sin and the other eternal life in Heaven.)

Luther rap

For Reformation week. . .

Bondage vs. Freedom

Our pastor said that each one of us is a “filthy, rotten, putrid, maggot-infested cesspool of a sinner.”  But he meant it in a nice way.   See his Reformation Sunday sermon, drawn from John 8:31-36, on the bondage of sin and the freedom that Christ gives.  Excerpt after the jump. [Read more...]

Co-opting Halloween for Reformation Day

Today is Reformation Day.  Children will wear masks, symbolizing vocation (as in the princesses, ballerinas, and cowboys) or our sinful nature (as in the witches, zombies, and monsters).  We will give them the free gift of candy, symbolizing the Gospel in all of its sweetness.

The pumpkins. . . ummm. . . .When we are connected to the vine of Christ, our faith brings forth fruit.  Big fruit.  The size of pumpkins.  They have faces carved into them to remind us that our good works need to benefit an actual person; that is, be in love and service to our neighbors, whether they are smiling or looking mean.

Help me out here.  What other Halloween customs could we co-opt for Reformation Day?  Bobbing for apples?  Ghosts?  Getting scared?  What else?

 

“We are beggars; this is true”

The Reformation can be summed up in six words, according to our pastor in his Reformation Day sermon last Sunday.  Not the solas, not some version of “Here I stand,” but the words written down on a scrap of paper that Luther had in his pocket on his deathbed:  “We are beggars; this is true.”  After the jump, read what Pastor Douthwaite says about these words. [Read more...]

Reforming the Church

Today is Reformation Day, the 495th anniversary of Martin Luther posting the 95 Theses against the sale of indulgences.  Some people have been criticizing Lutherans and others who celebrate this day.  Why should we celebrate the shattering of the universal church?

First of all, the posting of the theses did not shatter the universal church.  Luther was reforming the church, and it needed reforming.  Financial corruption (the sale of church offices, the indulgence and relic trade, profiting from Christians terrified of purgatory), sexual immorality (popes with illegitimate children whom they named bishops, brothels for priests, the notion that fornication is better than marriage for clergy under vows of celibacy), and political power (popes with armies waging war against other countries, popes claiming temporal power over lawful earthly authorities).  Even worse, the gospel of Christ was obscured in favor of an elaborate system of salvation by works.  To be sure, the medieval church taught Christ’s atonement on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins, but in practice that was relegated to baptism only.  After baptism, Christians had to atone for their own sins in a complex penitential system, requiring the confession of each sin, works of penance, and even after absolution the punishment of those sins after death in purgatory (unless an indulgence was purchased or rewarded).

That the church needed reforming because of these practices is proven in part by the Council of Trent, which addressed the most blatant financial and moral faults, while keeping the penitential system, though also encouraging personal piety (another fruit of the Reformation over against what had become a mechanistic approach to religion).

The splitting of Christianity came when the Roman church excommunicated Luther for his stance on indulgences, even though it would later grant most of his points.

Reforming the church, though, is something to celebrate and something to keep working on.  I would argue that the same issues that sparked the Reformation are still problems in today’s church, including protestant and Lutheran congregations:  financial corruption (the prosperity gospel, religious scams), sexual immorality (scandals among pastors and church leaders; the pornography plague), political power (the new social gospel of both the right and the left).  And now, as then, we see the Gospel consigned just to first becoming a Christian, so that many people think of Christ’s atonement as applying to conversion, but feeling themselves now as being under the Law.  They have lost the sense of God’s grace and forgiveness as a continuing reality, available through the Word and Sacraments as the constant life force for the Christian life.

So we still need Reformation Day and we still need the message of the Reformation.


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