October 31st is not only Halloween, it is also Reformation Day, a day set aside to recognize, remember, and celebrate the Protestant Reformation. It especially remembers Martin Luther and the central role he played in the reform movement that split the western church of Rome.
That is the day in 1517 when Dr. Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This year we celebrate the 500th anniversary of this momentous event. It was Luther’s act that caused the initial furor that resulted in the Reformation. Luther chose October 31 because it was the day before All Saints’ Day and he knew that on the following day the church would be packed with worshippers, many of them educated and literate.
Luther argued that salvation could not be obtained by purchasing indulgences, through works of charity, by making a pilgrimage, or by performing other acts of piety and devotion. He argued that salvation was an act of God, given by grace through our faith in Jesus Christ. God has already provided for our salvation by the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus; and salvation is ours to accept through faith, not to achieve through works. A second major theme of the Reformation is the priesthood of all believers, meaning that Christians do not need an intermediary between them and God. It was the right and duty of all Christians to enter into their own personal relationship with God, to read the Bible and worship in their own language, and to pray directly to God rather than through another’s efforts.
Why not use this occasion for a celebration of our Protestant heritage or if you are Catholic, of the transformation that is possible when we allow God to transform our views of life and faith?
Why not have a celebration at church where all get dressed up as characters from the Reformation. Children’s Ministry International has developed a small booklet, Heroes of the Reformation, which will give you some great ideas on who to think of as role models like John Calvin, John Knox and Martin Luther. If you can’t think (or don’t like) these 16th century role models, dress as a Bible character or another well known saint like St Francis or St Clare who challenged the status quo and brought radical transformation to the church.
In this article, Brad Winsted has some great suggestions of things to do to redeem October 31st as a celebration of Reformation Day. For example: consider transforming your fellowship hall or your living room into Wittenburg, Germany or Geneva. Spend time meditating on the great “solas” of the Reformation: by Scripture alone, by grace alone, by Christ alone, by faith alone, and to God be the glory alone. Have people explain them. Draw murals of Reformation events. Show a video of one of the reformers, like this one of Martin Luther.
Plan something fun to go along with it – Brad suggests some wonderful ideas like medieval line dancing (a lot like Scottish line dancing), medieval relay races (put the indulgences in the bottle), bobbing for apples, German cover dish dinner, acting out your character (don’t tell anyone who you are, but act it out — the ideas are limited only by time, imagination and background).
Let’s make October 31 a day of great remembrance (and educational opportunity) of our Reformed heritage.