Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Reformation Day

Tomorrow is All Hallows Eve, or Halloween as most of America has come to know it. There is such a large division between what people believe, feel comfortable celebrating, and interpret as the meaning behind this ambiguous day. Many evangelical Christians do not celebrate this event because of its Celtic roots, siting the ungodliness of the pagan rituals as reason to abstain. Without showing my own hand I would offer a question for the acceptability of Christmas, also founded on pagan rituals surrounding the winter solstice. Jesus was probably born sometime in spring - shepherds watching their sheep would have been out pasturing them during lambing, not typically done in the middle of winter *wink*. Even Easter is not without controversy, with opposition over the exact dating of the observance and how linked that dating is to original calendaring of the Nisan month (Jewish month which holds Passover). So, will our children be out trick-or-treating? Nope. And I will tell you why.

In today's culture there is little knowledge of an event called Reformation Day. Most people, many Christians included, don't understand how pivotal October 31, 1517 is to today's use, belief and understanding of orthodox Christian doctrine. And since this little blog is my personal soap box *chuckle* you get a free seminar in Reformation Day 101.

Once upon a time there was a monk named Martin Luther. He was German, and lived during a very turbulent time in the Roman Catholic Church's history. The Church held great power over the masses using illiteracy, and man-made traditions to secure frightful obedience to its policies. More than a religious refuge, the Church ruled politically often using injustice to secure lands, prestige, and greater power for its upper ranks. One of the most famous instances of these abuses was the selling of Indulgences, pieces of paper which, when purchased, secured the purchaser's way to heaven. It was basically a fund-raising campaign to rebuild St Peter's Basilica and it preyed on the peasants fear of a vengeful God who only accepted prayers from the Church leadership. Martin Luther became increasingly concerned over these discrepancies he saw between Church practice, and what the Bible actually taught.

On October 31, 1517 Luther posted a list of 95 instances where he believed the Catholic Church was in violation of God's biblical law. His desire was to discuss, and win over with evidence the Church leadership to accepting responsibility for their mistakes. What followed was not exactly what Luther planned. The Catholic Church excommunicated him, after trying him for heresy. When asked to recant his objections he refused, and the Protestant Reformation began! Ultimately the Reformation, as it became known as, would boil down to these five main tenets.

Sola Scriptura - "by scripture alone"
Sola Fida - "by faith alone"
Sola Gratia - "by grace alone"
Solus Christus - Christ alone
Soli Deo Gloria - glory to God alone"

One of Luther's greatest acts in protest of the Roman Catholic Church was to translate the Bible into the lingua franca (language of the people) for the first time in centuries. As literacy increased and the masses personal ability to read scripture for themselves grew, the grip of men who had wielded power for their own gain, using God's holy name and Word to accomplish unholy acts, was permanently loosened. The Lord used the Reformation to bring his gospel to so many people; the good news that while you may be subject to authority in natural circumstances, spiritually your only true authority is Christ.

Instead of celebrating death with an emphasis on dark, sinister forces that really do frighten small children (and big adults) we choose to celebrate Life. It excites me that I can teach my children about the importance of Reformation Day, not only historically but spiritually as well. You see one day they will be asked by their Creator why they should be accepted into his perfect presence. Answers such as: my parents believed you; I went to church; I confessed to a man who said I could get into heaven now; I worked hard to be good and I never cheated on my taxes will not cut it. My children need to know that they are separated from God because they can never be perfect. Their motives and hearts' desires, regardless of their actions, constantly lead them to impulses which are contrary to God's perfect moral code of conduct. Their opportunity to enter God's absolute perfection ceased the first time they acted out from sheer defiance (can anyone say infant?).

So what do they say? Simply this - Christ was perfect on this earth, never once going against the moral law of God. When he died he literally exchanged places with me for the punishment I deserve in being cast out of God's perfect presence forever. Because he exchanged places with me, when you look at me God, you see only the perfection of Jesus which pardons ALL the mistakes - both known and unknown - I have ever made. I am acceptable to enter into your perfect presence forever!

That is SO much better than orange and black M&Ms from some stranger's house.

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