“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”—Psalm 116:15
On October 31, 1517 an Augustinian monk by the name of Martin Luther took a hammer and nail and posted his now famous 95 Theses on the Wittenburg church door in Germany. That courageous action sparked one of the greatest movements of God’s Spirit in human history. Amazingly it all began on… Halloween?
That’s right. The launch of what would become known as the Protestant Reformation began on the one night of the year where ghosts and goblins rule the streets. If you think that’s merely a coincidence, you’re likely mistaken.
Halloween is short for All Hallows Eve. The word “hallow” is the word for “holy.” You know this because you say it every week in worship when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name” (Matthew 6:9). All Hallows’ Eve was the name given to the night before the Christian feast, All Saint’s Day, which was celebrated on November 1st. All Saints Day is the annual remembrance of those who have died in Christ and gone before us into heaven.
Now, it has been suggested that Martin Luther chose to nail his 95 Theses on All Hallows Eve in anticipation of All Saints Day, because his protest sought to expose the ghoulishness of the church in his day and call it back to the faith once for all entrusted to God’s holy people (Jude 1:3). Luther believed the late medieval church was, in many ways, held captive by a “doctrine of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1), and that the time had come for a return to the historic orthodox belief and practice held by the church throughout the ages. To borrow another phrase from the Lord’s Prayer, Luther wanted to see God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven.
Rehearsing the legacy of faith passed down through the generations is a critical Christian discipline (Hebrews 12:1). Though oft neglected in our day, it’s been common practice in the historic church to pause during this season of the church calendar and remember those who have gone on to glory, giving thanks to the Lord for their lives.
As a way of stepping into that tradition, next Sunday, Nov. 4th, we’re going take time in our worship services to name, remember, and give thanks for those who have died in Christ Jesus. You’ll have an opportunity in service to write that person(s) name on a card and jot a few words of thanksgiving for how God used them in your life. It could be a grandmother who modeled humility, or a coach that challenged you spiritually, or a Sunday School teacher that taught you Scripture, or a work colleague that always knew just how to lift you up when you were down. It could be a historical figure—a missionary, pastor, writer, artist, etc. It can be anyone who has passed from this life into the presence of Jesus Christ that the Lord has used to encourage you.
If you would, take a few minutes this week to consider whose name you’ll write and what you’ll say. The cards are available this morning if you’d like to take one. They’ll also be available next week in the pews. Let’s remember with thanksgiving those we love who have gone on before us, anticipating the day when we’ll join them in glory.