Halloween or What?

This banner (see gallery), designed by one of our St Peters Arts students, has appeared above the Chapel entry, just as we are approaching Halloween on 31 October!

While this Irish-American observation has spread in recent years, it certainly wasn’t on Martin Luther’s mind when, in 1517, on the day before All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows’ (All Hallows’ eve is Halloween), the Augustinian monk and lecturer of Old Testament at Wittenberg University published 95 Theses calling for a public (university) discussion of the custom of selling indulgences, widely practiced in the church at the time.

Indulgences were official papers issued by popes or, sometimes, archbishops or bishops that could be purchased and that promised the owner a reduction of time in purgatory; a kind of temporary hell people had to endure to pay for their earthly sins before they could be admitted to heaven.

Luther had (re)discovered the scriptural truth that salvation was actually a free gift of God available to all through Christ whose suffering and death had paid for all human sin (Romans 1:17 – ‘The righteous shall live by faith’). Thus, he questioned the pastoral value of indulgences and implicitly threatened a lucrative fundraising system. His Theses were soon widely published across Germany, thanks to the advent of the printing press, causing a major storm that evolved into what we now call the Reformation.

This year marks the 500th anniversary of this world-changing event that impacted not just the church, but society at large, and set in motion the forces that eventually led to the spread of Western European culture and thinking across the world. We owe much of our cultural and societal foundations to Luther and his fellow reformers, who built on the foundation of Christ and promoted the importance of individual conscience, the reading of scriptures and education, for all.

So, whether you celebrate Halloween or not, take a moment to reflect on the courage of those reformers and their focus on Christ and the freedom he brings to all; a freedom which enables us to live in hope, facing the world in an attitude of service and care, because we know we are loved and cared for by God. Give thanks for their lives and ask yourself what this may mean for your life, your focus, your attitudes in the midst of the challenges of our time. May God bless and keep you always.

Pastor Thomas Böhmert, Chaplain