Monday, October 31, 2016

Reformation Day, 2016

Today is Reformation Day.  It is also Halloween.  Both happen on the same day.  Halloween is when people dress up in costumes and have parties and when kids ask for candy while entertaining others in their costumes.

Reformation Day celebrates the event that happened 499 years ago today, when Martin Luther decided that he could no longer be silent but he had to announce to everyone what he really thought about the practices of his employer (the Roman Catholic Church).  So, on October 31, 1517 he nailed a piece of paper onto the door of the castle church at Wittenberg, Germany.  It listed 95 things that he thought were wrong within the life and practice of the church he served as a priest.  The one that many people remember and recognize has to do with the selling of indulgences.  That was a thing that has been instituted so that people could buy a way for their deceased relatives to spend less time in Purgatory.  The church had convinced many that if they gave more money to the church then their dead relatives would not spend as much time waiting to go to Heaven.

Martin Luther bristled at the idea that money could buy religious favor.  He read the New Testament and came up with the idea that salvation cannot be bought.  It is a gift from God given freely.  If it could be bought, then only the wealthy could be saved but if it is given away by God to whoever asks, then it shows that God is a gracious and loving God, not one that demanded money in exchange for eternal favors.

Martin Luther nailed his complaints to the door of the castle church and then waited for the reaction from the authorities.  Those came quickly along with death threats against him.  Speaking out against authority often results in trouble for those who speak out.  Luther had to live much of his life in hiding and had to defend himself at a trial where he faced many accusations.  Eventually he was able to marry and have children and live in a sense of peace.  He eventually translated the Bible from Latin to German so that the common person in Germany could read it (thanks to the invention of the printing press that happened during the same time period.)

Today, we remember Luther and the other reformers who brought about the Reformation through the courage they had to act on their conscience despite what others may say or do.   They faced persecution and hardship but they taught as they believed and today the Protestant movement is alive and well and very diverse, thanks to their testimony.

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