Friday, October 28, 2011

The Ghost of Martin Luther

To most of us it's called Halloween. A few know it as All-Saints Day. But on October, 31st, 1517, an event happened which would change the course of history.

Castle Church in Wittenberg housed the massive relic collection of Fredrick the Wise, the elector of Saxony. Such relics included a cut of fabric from the swaddling cloth of baby Jesus, 13 pieces from his crib, a strand of straw from the manger, a piece of gold from a Wise Man, three pieces of myrrh, a morsel of bread from the Last Supper and a thorn from the crown Jesus wore when crucified just to name a few. And there was a lot riding on these relics. Veneration of these relics was said to be accompanied by indulgences reducing time in Purgatory by 1,902,202 years and 270 days. These indulgences were made possible, it was claimed, by the above-and-beyond obedience of the Saints.

And so it was, that on the day that honored these Saints and relics, one of Fredrick's subjects, an obscure monk named Martin Luther, hammered his 95 Theses to the door of the church. And the world would never be the same.

Luther's act sparked the Protestant Reformation, transformed Western civilization and, more importantly, brought Christians back to the defiantly simple message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The message that it is not by works or ceremony that we win the favor of God. The message that only through faith in Jesus could a man have access to the Father.

Contrast the befuddled and rigorous Roman soteriology with the Christ-directed boast of Luther: "So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: 'I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where he is there I shall be also!'"

So, this Halloween take a moment and remember the simple Gospel that Martin Luther helped draw the Church back to. The message that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.