October 31st is Halloween for most of America. For those of us who are Lutheran, it is also Reformation Day. I know that for some of the other Protestant denominations, there may be the remembrance of Reformation Day but for the most part, I feel that many churches have forgotten about the events of this day. In fact, many churches and many Christians, have no idea what Reformation Day is all about. Some think it is a time for the Lutherans to worship Martin Luther. Wrong! No worship of the man here. Nor it is a time to remember how great it is that the Lutheran Church broke from the Catholic Church. Wrong again!
What makes today so important is that it begins a return to the central teaching of Scripture - justification by grace through faith. This is an extremely important doctrine (teaching) of the Bible. Without a good understanding of justification by grace through faith, all the other doctrines get messed up. What does it mean? It means that God saves us. We don't save ourselves. God does it all. We don't do any of it. It means that God is the giver and we are the recipients. We are like the children that will trick or treat this evening. They come with their hands open, hoping to receive something from each one that they come to. And they will receive candy from you - not because they have the best costume or are the cutest thing this side of paradise but because YOU want to give them the candy. It comes because of the desire in your heart to give the children candy. They do not get it because they deserve to receive from you. In fact, you might not even know the children that knock on your door. But you still give them candy. (Now the analogy will break down if you push it too far, so please don't.)
On this Reformation Day, we remember that Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517. That action started the series of events that ultimately would reform the Christian Church (leading to another split in Christendom). We remember today because of the wonder of the power of God, working through Holy Scripture, to change the heart of a little known monk in Germany so that he would begin the work that would bring the Church back to the central teaching of justification by grace through faith. Celebrate today. (Here at St. Paul's, we celebrated that event all weekend.) Rejoice in the grace and mercy of God shown to us in Christ's death and resurrection. We give thanks to God for His Word and for those servants who have given of themselves so that we could hold firm to this central teaching of Scripture.