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What is Reformation Day, and Why are we Celebrating it on Halloween?

St. Peter's Basilica is a beautiful place. The first building was built by Constantine between 319 and 333 A.D. on the site of St. Peter's tomb. The current building was started in 1506, and was finally finished in 1615. Today, it is the largest church in the world, and the Pope presides over many functions and events here. But today we are not so much concerned about this important church, but about a seemingly unimportant Catholic friar.

In 1505, Martin Luther joined the Augustinian friars because he wanted to be holy, and everyone believed that joining a monastery was the best way to do that. In 1509, he moved to Wittenberg, which was in the German territory. In 1510 he took a trip to Rome, and then went back to Wittenberg and became a professor of theology. As he studied and taught, he realized that it was faith in God that made one holy, not one's own goodness. This made him very excited, and he wanted to share this with everyone. However, his newfound freedom in Christ did not sit well with the rest of the church leaders.

To get back to the Basilica, how do you suppose the church paid for this amazing building? Well, they got money from the Christians in the Roman empire, of course. But how did they do that? One way was through the selling of indulgences. This goes back to the holiness problem. If you didn't know that holiness was a result of faith in God, but thought it had to be obtained through your own behavior, you would be likely to do whatever the church told you to do so that you would go to Heaven instead of Hell, right? Well, the church had come up with a very easy way for people to atone for their sins: they could buy their way out. All they had to do was buy an indulgence - a certificate which was issued by the Pope or the bishop. This got them out of difficult punishments both in this life and in the afterlife. They could even buy indulgences for people who had already died, in order to get them out of "Purgatory," a holding place where people went to be purged of their sins through fire before they could enter Heaven. In both 1507 and 1513, the Pope announced a special Jubilee Indulgence specifically to raise money for the Basilica.

In 1517, Luther wrote a list of 95 Theses, or arguments, against the selling of indulgences. He sent them to Archbishop Albert, and also nailed a copy to the door of the Wittenberg church. This was a challenge to the other professors to debate him about his ideas. He nailed them to the door on October 31, the day before All Saint's Day, when everyone would be attending church, so that they would not be missed. But his church friends were not as excited as he was to find out that the Bible said salvation was free. This led to a breach between Martin Luther and the Roman Catholic Church, in which Luther was excommunicated from the church, and started a new life and a new way of worshipping God, which was called the "reformation." As protestants, we remember his sacrifices and rejoice that:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NKJV)

So we are celebrating Reformation Day instead of Halloween! A day of freedom through Christ, not a day of darkness and fear.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.

Ephesians 5:8-11 (NKJV)

If you would like to celebrate with us, come to Second Baptist at 1:00 p.m., October 31, 2021. For more information, see our Sunday School page. We would love to see you.

*information about Martin Luther was taken from the book "Martin Luther" by Judith O'Neill.


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