Halloween vs Reformation
written by Rev Gary Heard

Halloween never figured much in my childhood. The days surrounding Halloween were focused on much more exciting prospects, with Guy Fawkes’ Day looming into early November, and the opportunity to enjoy the mayhem of penny bungers, throwdowns and Catherine Wheels were just some of the delights which entranced the mind of a young lad. Guy Fawkes, as I understand, was often described as ‘the only person to enter Parliament with honest intentions,’ and he went in an attempt to blow it up! In our more terrorist-aware days, the celebration of his (failed) actions now seem somewhat bizarre.
In more recent years the church has turned its attention to All Saints Day, which falls on November first each year. This might be a reaction to the Halloween phenomenon which is derived from the evening of what was once known as All Hallows Day, but more likely as a way of affirming the unity of faith which all Christian churches share. All Saints provided a day of remembering all who had been martyred for their faith.

The consequence of this is that another important date has slipped from our radar: Reformation Day falls on October 31, and commemorates the most dramatic shift in history in the past 500 years. A Catholic monk named Martin Luther first publicly challenged many of the practices of the Catholic church of the time, using a theological foundation to repute the practices, and thus setting in train the Protestant reformation. There are consequently over 39000 Christian denominations throughout the world, a figure likely swell to over 55000 in the next 20 years, according to Joel News.
Luther is famous for the catch-phrases, “by faith alone”, “by Scripture alone” and by “Christ alone” – renewing emphasis on the responsibilities of the individual Christian for their relationship with God, and severely diminishing the power of the church. Luther argued that salvation did not belong to the church but was open to all who placed their faith in the work of Jesus Christ. It was a refreshing release from many of the exploitative church practices of the time.

The only problem is that Luther opened the floodgates for endless debates about theology, and created an environment where one’s theology became more important than how a person lived. This was the complete opposite of Luther’s intent. A person could ‘do what they liked’ so long as their theology was correct. How we need to turn that around! What is needed most is a lived faith, a lived theology, which embodies the call to ‘do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God’.

May it be that we are known to be people of faith because our lifestyles and attitudes declare it so!  Theology – the ability to articulate the whys of faith – remains important, but secondary to a life well-lived.

October 21, 2007
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