So, is the Christian alternative to wishing someone “Happy Halloween!” wishing them “Happy Reformation Day!”?
Okay, I haven’t read all the “why-Halloween-isn’t-anti-Christian” articles that people have been posting. I just really hate Halloween because I think spiders are creepy and large displays of arachnids are hard to avoid at this time of year. And for some reason, seeing pre-teen girls dress up as prostitutes has never been my fancy, either. I think someone could make the case that Halloween is anti-woman, but this really isn’t a Halloween-bashing post.
It’s about Reformation Day and why it is anything but happy.
I definitely am not the only one thinking about this; note (Protestant) Stanley Hauerwas’s sermon here on the subject from Reformation Sunday 1995.
But, wait. I get ahead of myself.
A little background: What is Reformation Day?
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther purportedly nailed his (in)famous 95 theses to the door of the castle church at Wittenberg, Germany. It is considered by many as the spark of the Protestant Reformation. You can read the Wikipedia article about it here. I know, really academic.
Let’s get personal. I won’t bring up politics or money now, but let’s talk about family. Let’s talk about religion.
Have you ever experienced a major division in your family? Maybe someone decided to get a divorce or someone else withdrew from family events based on ideological grounds or relationship status or something.
If you have experienced this, you know that it is a really painful time.
And when I say really painful, I mean it’s the kind of event that has pushed me into prayer and tears in a way that I haven’t been pushed before. Our family. Not unified. Broken down. Can’t say certain things to certain people. Misunderstanding and refusal to communicate.
There is no glory here.
Sometimes divisions are necessary, and that doesn’t make them less painful. But I would hope that in our family, the division is temporary and that we pray fervently and daily for restoration. That we would seek fruitful communication and hope to celebrate our own Restoration Day.
Maybe you celebrate Reformation Day because you see good come from the splintering of the Catholic Church, the birthing of Protestantism. I dunno, maybe it’s freedom in Christ, salvation preached for what it really is, a stand against corruption and bad theology.
I’ll give you that. For now.
But here’s something to think about: should we celebrate an event only or the One through whom freedom comes?
We definitely celebrate the Cross–an event of incomparable importance and mourning and weight. We celebrate the Resurrection–an event of incomparable importance and glory and significance. We celebrate the person of Jesus Christ, the heart of His Father and ours who sent Him, and the Holy Spirit sent to bring us into right relationship with the Godhead, teaching us all that we need for life and godliness.
But schism? Divorce? Family brokenness? These are not to be celebrated. A victory for true theology? It is only a victory if we believe that a doctrine as more important than love.
Don’t get me wrong: correct doctrine is so important. But it is not doctrine alone that saves us but relationship. Salvation is relationship with the Father through the crucified Jesus as we are sealed by the Holy Spirit.
Maybe you haven’t experienced the bittersweet taste of an ideological victory that severs a relationship. It leaves both parties wounded and searching for healing, even if one or the other doesn’t realize it.
The Church of Jesus Christ is a family, Christ as the head. It is a beautiful collection of people who are called to unity and to love in the name of Jesus Christ, because He came to make us one and to set us free. We are united to Him in His death through baptism, raised to walk in newness of life!
We celebrate Him. We mourn the Cross and we rejoice in it. We celebrate the victory of the Cross and the Resurrection. We eagerly await His coming, when He will judge the living and the dead.
And we mourn at our family division and earnestly pray for His Church to be one, united in love and truth in a way that only the God of all existence can bring about—in the fullness of time, at the request of Jesus and the intercession of His Church.
Make us one! Like You and the Father are One!
So let us not see this Reformation Day as happy. Let us mourn with Jesus at the brokenness within His people and pray with Him as He intercedes for us—that we would be one just like He and the Father are One.
To our knees, saints! After all, it is All Hallow’s Eve.