Monday, October 31, 2011

The Day I Celebrate

Photo Credit
 The early Celts called it "Samhain". Marking their New Year as beginning on November 1st, the various clans also celebrated the eve of their "end of summer and beginning of fall", much like we do for our New Year's Eve. But as is to be expected in a culture that knows not the true God, the eve was marked with deep superstitions; fear of spirits and magic lay thickly in the air, spurring the the ungodly ones to build great bonfires, wear hideous costumes, and perform mass sacrifices in hopes of securing protection from their gods against the ghosts who were believed to roam the earth that night.

Why would I celebrate that?

Later, the Romans came, and with them, eventually, Christianity. Christianity which was soon defined and dictated to by Catholicism. In an effort to maintain the celebration while dispelling the superstitions, the Catholic church moved the observation of "All Saints Day" - in which all religious people were to pray to the saints and martyrs of old, as well as pray for the souls of those still tormented in purgatory - from May 13th to November 1st. However, as often happened when the church attempted to overcome the pagan with the "good" (though I hardly classify praying to and for dead people as "good"), the superstitions of the old were combined with the rituals of the new. Add in a dose of the Roman "feast of the dead," and you have "All Hallow's Eve". Or, "Halloween".

Why would I celebrate that?

Fast-forward 750 years. The Catholic church is in the midst of a money-hungry, power-grasping craze. Those at the top rule the masses by suppression of the truth - by fear. They bully the nobility and puppet rulers with decrees, threats, and the blind support of their ignorant, Kool Aid followers. Like a lone candle in a moldering basement, one monk stands; not to defy his authorities - though in the end he is forced to -, not to overthrow the church - though his goal of purifying was distorted to appear so -, but to assure and make clear the road of salvation to a people who had hitherto lived in deep fear and darkness. On the 31st of October, 1517, Marin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of his church, protesting the clerical abuses and the Pope-sanctioned preaching that indulgences were equal or superior to genuine repentance. A small sampling:

36. Any Christian whatsoever, who is truly repentant, enjoys plenary remission from penalty and guilt, and this is given him without letters of indulgence.

52. It is vain to rely on salvation by letters of indulgence, even if the commissary, or indeed the pope himself, were to pledge his own soul for their validity.

53. Those are enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid the word of God to be preached at all in some churches, in order that indulgences may be preached in others.

54. The word of God suffers injury if, in the same sermon, an equal or longer time is devoted to indulgences than to that word.

55. The pope cannot help taking the view that if indulgences (very small matters) are celebrated by one bell, one pageant, or one ceremony, the gospel (a very great matter) should be preached to the accompaniment of a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

94. Christians should be exhorted to be zealous to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hells.

95.And let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace.
The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God.

If you've ever read all of the 95 Theses (and I hope you have!) you know that Martin was still very Catholic, and supported certain doctrines which one would be hard-pressed to find in Scripture. Yet, in his valuing of God's opinion above man's, in his willingness and diligence to search out the Scriptures and know truly the assurance of salvation, in his bravery to stand tall and declare truths to those who did not - who could not - know, Martin Luther was used of God to plant a seed which soon sprouted and grew to be called "The Reformation".

And that, my dear friends, is something to celebrate. Happy Reformation Day!



Keri On said...

Great post, Sarah!

Lynnae said...

Wonderful post, Sarah! I have never read all the 95 theses, but this post has definitely made me want to. Martin Luther was a wonderful man! Thanks so much for last night, the fun time, the movie at the Coder Theater, and the midnight ride home :)

Lauren said...

I enjoyed how you contrasted the superstition of Halloween with the poignant faith of Martin Luther. Thank you for your reminder of what we should really be celebrating every day of the year--God's grace!

Josiah Woltersdorf said...

How about the first one. The most important: 1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.

The entire life of believers, should be a life of repentance, and how little are churches built on the foundation of this principle! Too often is the church viewed as a place where sinners can feel at home, rather than that difficult place that Eustace found himself in as a dragon, unable to tear off his own scales. This is the gospel. Painful, but sweet in the end. In antithesis, we have the life of a sinner: sweet to the taste, but in the end, it is as bitter as wormwood.

Is it not good to know that our Lord chose us, not for anything we did, but out of his good mercy, so that none of us may boast, but rather have humility in the fact that we are indeed sinners of the worse kind ourselves? If God wills for a man to be saved, then the gospel of repentance, while not being attractive perhaps, will make sense to that man.

So we can pray for Repentance Community Church, longing for our sanctification, and knowing that through Christ, our holiness is not imparted or bestowed on us, but it is imputed to us. So the only righteousness we have is that of Christ, and not of ourselves. Therefore, when God sees us on judgement day, it is not that we did anything with the help of God to be any better (which hopefully [and truly, if we are Christians] we have), but that Jesus lived perfectly, so that God sees Jesus instead of us, and we are brought into his perfect communion.

Thanks for the inspiring post, Sarah. Thanks to a guest pastor at our church also for inspiration. :)

SarahJayne said...

Thanks, mama! :)
Lynnae, I linked to the list in this post - do read them! Very interesting and thought-provoking! (And we loved welcoming you to the Coder Theater! :)
Lauren, Amen!
Josiah - Yep. Grace, grace, and more grace, that was Martin's point. We serve an awesome God and Savior!