October means Hallowe’en is just around the corner. I love Hallowe’en. When I was a little boy, I loved the trick-or-treating. Now, I just love pumpkin pie. And the coming of fall in earnest. You’ll note the apostrophe in how I write Hallowe’en. I was carefully taught in school. The apostrophe is there because Hallowe’en is a contraction of “hallow(s) even(ing).” October 31 is the night before All Saints’ Day, a holy day. So the eve of the holy day is a “hallowe’en.”
October 31 is also sometimes called Reformation Day, because it was on October 31, 1517, that a monk named Martin Luther tacked up his 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, challenging the theory and practice of indulgences in the Roman Catholic Church of his day. Following his saying what lots of people thought, but nobody had yet dared say, Germany blew up. So did the Church. It was the beginning of what we call the Protestant Reformation.
But the heart of the Reformation was not just protest, but also the finding of something so wonderful that it couldn’t be contained. When the Emperor Charles V demanded that the nobles who followed Luther’s reforms give them up, the aged George, margrave of Brandenburg, replied, “Before I let anyone take from me the Word of God, I will kneel and let him strike off my head.” Against such resistance all the invocations of authority could not succeed.
The Church is always in need of reform, and so is society. Today, there are many forces within and without the Church who insist that we should all go along to get along, denying any inconvenient beliefs or values or commitments that restrain us from conforming to the ideal offered by the apostles of the latest thing. To resist could mean loss of friends. It could mean loss of job offers. It could, in the last analysis, mean losing one’s life. There are places, all over the world, where that happens every day. We blithely sing Luther’s words,
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;But do we mean it? Until we are put to the test, we won’t really know. I pray that we are NOT put to the test, but that choice may not be mine to make.
The body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
So here and now, let me say: The promise I made to Christ long years ago, I still affirm. And the vows I made when I was ordained I will keep. And the truth I pledged to teach I still unfeignedly believe and will maintain. If that means I lose friends or family, so be it; only let me never be parted from Christ. If it means that I become an embarrassment or a problem to those in authority, so be it; only let me be true to him who called me. If it means I become unemployable or lose a tax exemption or be reduced to a crank in the eyes of all the right people, so be it; only let me hear Christ say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
As Martin Luther said, “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.”