On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, at the time a Roman Catholic monk and theology professor, nailed a protest letter to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, where he taught at the local university. The letter is known as his 95 Theses, a protest against the sale of indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church. The practice revealed the church’s unbiblical theology (that people can earn credit for good works and get loved ones out of purgatory by paying for an “indulgence”) and spiritual corruption (since the funds were to be gathered in order to contribute to the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome). The theses were bound to create a firestorm, and they did just that, sparking what we now call the Protestant Reformation (from which most all Christian denominations find their roots).
For our purposes, it is important to recognize that October 31 was known as All Hallows Eve, the eve of the day when the church was to hallow all the dead saints. All Hallows Eve morphed into what we now call Halloween (notice how Halloween sounds like All Hallows Eve). Although death was part of the day’s commemoration, it wasn’t the focus. Nevertheless, we can see how the death part has attempted to overshadow the life part, since Reformation Day was the dawning of new light upon the church as the heart of the gospel was rediscovered by folks like Martin Luther.
So as we celebrate the Protestant Reformation this October 31, feel free to dress up and plunder your neighbors for loads of sugar, but don’t forget the real reason for the season—the rediscovery of grace.