I've been meaning to share my thoughts all week, and rather than let another Sunday pass before I make some random comments about October 31, I felt compelled to say something, even if it is not as elegant as I would like.
I am in an isolated (and insulated?) minority, because this date means "Reformation Day" to me.
Grocery markets enjoy an influx of business for Thanksgiving, but other than that it seems to escape the glut of commercialism that burdens the other holidays. Now we find Halloween rivaling all other holidays (besides Christmas, of course) for it's commercial appeal. Horror movie DVDs, candy, costumes and frightening lawn decorations are proliferating wildly in my long experience on earth. Here in Lakewood we even have a store that is named simply, "Halloween". For weeks they have paid some out of work college kid to wear a costume and swing an arrow sign with the name of this store. He stood at the corner of Lakewood and Candlewood, gesturing toward the store. The great theme parks went to great expense to hire more of these enterprising college kids to spook the wits out of the teenagers who venture there.
At least 99 people out of a hundred (probably a lot more) will tell you October 31 is Halloween. But I say it is Reformation Day! It is the eve of All Saints Day, and so it was called "hallowed even" which eventually slurred into "Halloween".
It was on that day back in 1517 that Dr. Martin Luther challenged clerical scholars to debate several propositions, all of which questioned common practices in the church. They were called "theses" and there were 95 of them. The bulletin board for posting such academic challenges was the great wooden door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg. But because God had providentially prepared for it, this activity began a political, religious and social firestorm that has not yet fully subsided.
There was general unrest in the social milieu just waiting for an excuse to rebel against the politial authority of the church. There were other Bible scholars who also realized that the Bible clearly teaches salvation by grace alone. It is the gift of God, and can never be earned by works, and is never dispensed by the church. Luther was a tenacious and courageous spirit like no other of his time. Someone local just happened to be present, who translated the theses from the academic Latin into the common German of the people of Wittenberg. God further provided the invention of Caxton's printing press just in time to print and distribute these 95 theses far and wide before Luther was even aware of it.
So last Sunday, before sweet little children were committing extortion ("trick or treat"), we were being lifted into glory by the Holy Spirit, speaking clearly in Scripture. He was pointing us to Jesus, as is His promised practice. Pastor Dan Overduin read Jeremiah 5, which is about God looking for a real man of true integrity, and finding none. He developed this theme just far enough for us all to get the point that none of us can fill the role. Every man falls pitifully short. All have sinned.
Pastor Dan took us to Jeremiah 31 where the Lord promises a new covenant in which He will change the hearts of His people, call them His own, and forgive their sins. Then he showed us Jeremiah 23 where God promised a descendant of king David would be a righteous "Branch", and His name would be, The Lord our Righteousness". This is our Jesus, who is set forth in the New Testament as being in the lineage of David, and as being the righteous One who takes away our sin.
As we were being thrilled by seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, the world outside our door was preparing for ghoulish foolishness.
I wish they could all see my loviing Savior instead of what they are doing.