The nights are getting longer now and there’s something creepy about this time of year. All the trees are dropping their leaves and only skeletal branches remain. When you live in Anoka, Minnesota, you’re a citizen of the Halloween Capital of the World. You see storefront windows painted with scary scenes – monsters sitting on park benches and ghosts hanging out in trees. There are ghost house tours, haunted houses to be reckoned with and carved Jack-O-Lanterns set in front of every house. There are a number of parades to celebrate this eve of All Saints Day, but somehow the original meaning of the celebration has been shrouded in darkness since medieval times.
We will greet trick or treaters at our doors tonight and hand out candy until it’s all gone. Then we will turn out our lights and go to bed, hoping that our house won’t be egged or TPd during the “witching hours.”
In the time of the Renaissance, the Catholic Church observed November 1 as a day to honor the saints of the church, along with those who had died and hopefully pressed on to heaven. In case you had any doubt that your loved one had passed through the pearly gates, you could purchase an “indulgence” which would limit their time in purgatory. This was only one of the 95 points Martin Luther was addressing when he posted his litany on the church door on October 31, 1517
This was a time of superstition – a time when fear of death was a reality, because of the plague which ravaged Europe. People were very vulnerable to any kind of hope for the future. Witch craft and the evil arts of the devil offered some of them satisfaction, but no real hope. They were seeking spiritual help wherever they could find it. The church should’ve been their sanctuary, but it had become corrupt with time and was more interested in filling its coffers than offering free forgiveness. In a way, our time today is much like that. Everyone is looking for something to hang onto – something greater than they are.
So it is with a mixture of feelings that I observe this holiday. For me it is a time for us to put on a silly costume, enjoy each other’s company and have fun, but it’s also a time to think about and rejoice with those who have already been blessed with eternal life. To me, its also a time when the church was questioned and put to the test. A reformation was about to happen, which would change the way we looked at God’s Word and our salvation. It was a time of renewal of the Holy Spirit – a chance for us to realize that there is no payment required to get into heaven. Jesus paid the ransom with His life and gave eternity to all those who put their faith in Him alone.
Maybe it’s time for another reformation.