I know I am the self-proclaimed reference and resource guy here at Parking Space 23, but please allow me to break out of my shell just a little this week as I put on my storyteller hat just for a bit. You see one of the reasons I love books so much is for the stories they share, and especially when those “stories” are true and otherwise known as history. Now don’t go getting scared I am not to use this post to provide another in an endless string of internet histories on Halloween nor am I going to wax poetic about all the heroes of the Faith who lived through and contributed to the Reformation. Instead, I want to present some of my personal history and use it as a bit of a parable to help you make choices concerning Halloween and Reformation Day. And who knows, there may even be a book recommendation or two hidden here along the way.
A while back I shared the occasion of my salvation here at Parking Space 23. So, if you’ve had opportunity to read that post or my bio then you know that I spent a good portion of my life (50% to date) in military service. I point this out because I think it is germane to the points I want to make concerning Halloween and Reformation Day in this post.
When I joined the Marine Corps at the ripe old age of eighteen, the first thing they did was send me to Recruit Training. Recruit Training is better known by its popular name, Boot Camp, and it serves an important role in the transition from civilian to military member in all of our Armed Forces. That role of course is better termed transformation and not transition. The purpose of all the yelling, running around, push-ups, and so on is to transform the young enlistee from what they were to what they will be. In my case a United States Marine, I would receive a new identity I would no longer be merely Andy Lynch – no, I would become Private Lynch, USMC.
But not only would I receive this new identity, with it would come a whole new history. I would begin my new identity as Private Lynch, USMC in March 1989 when I was declared a Marine by my Senior Drill Instructor. However, I would actually be over 200 years old because I was allowed to appropriate as my own the entire history of the United States Marine Corps from November 10, 1775 in perpetuity. It was if I had been reborn, with a completely new identity and history.
And as the television hucksters like to say, “But wait, there’s more.” With the new identity and all that history came new traditions as well. I no longer counted time on the twelve hour clock, the restroom became “the head,” and November 10th became a high holiday which must be observed no matter what!
Yet, with all those changes I was still somewhat the same. I still had the same mother and father. I was still the older brother to my siblings, and I did actually retain a real first name. Though I celebrated the birth of the USMC, I did not eschew the celebration of my own birth. Even though I was made new in the image of the USMC, I still retained vestiges of the old Andy. And it was ok that some of those vestiges still found a place in my life, while others needed to be permanently deleted.
Hopefully, you are able to see the point I want to make here, but just in case you aren’t I’ll explain. If you are a Christian, you have indeed been reborn and made anew. You have a completely new identity in Christ – you have become Private So & So in Christ’s service. And like the young and new military member you have inherited a new history. But your new history stretches far beyond November 10, 1775 and it includes but is not limited to that wonderful period known to us today as The Reformation (or even The Protestant Reformation). You are the beneficiary of new traditions such as baptism and partaking in The Lord’s Supper. You have probably even adjusted your views about Christmas and Resurrection Day (you know Easter). You have likely taken on the observance of these things as new and additional to your schedule/life and yet you probably still observe your own birthday, anniversary, and so on. While, I’d bet, you have also put some things from your old life completely aside.
And now for the kicker, this is where I think Halloween and Reformation Day observances fall in to the pattern of life. I wholeheartedly believe that Christians ought to embrace and even celebrate the events of history which led up to, included, and continued after Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Church door. Because these events are part of your new history, a history you are entitled to as a Christian – they are part of the history of our people! However, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have a good time taking the kids out Trick-or-Treating. If your conscience is clear on the matter, have fun, be safe, and try to control you intake of candy. If Halloween is an occasion to prick your conscience and entice you back into past sins, then by all means excise it from your life.
And remember, if you are in the group who chooses to participate in some of the many activities related to Halloween – be kind to your brothers and sisters who choose not to do so. And please everyone; take just a minute or two of your time in the coming week to look up names such as John Hus, William Tyndale, Thomas Cranmer, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Lady Jane Grey, and Anne Bradstreet just for starters. They pursued Christ even unto a martyr’s death in many cases and they are part of your new history.
Finally, I leave you with a quote from Steven Nichols taken from his work The Reformation; How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World.
“Many Churches celebrate Luther and his accomplishments on Reformation Day. It is a day about history, a time to remember what happened on the past. It is also about the present. It is about the power of the gospel to break through the noise and static of the world and to point to Christ. The gospel broke through in the life of a monk bent on getting to heaven through his own efforts.”
And that same gospel is still at work breaking through the sin and despair of the world to save lost sinners like you and me – if that’s not worth remembering and celebrating, then I don’t know what is…