By: Rev. Dr. Richard Hillenbrand
October 31st. A day of contrasts!
As a Lutheran pastor, I think of October 31st as Reformation Day – a day that Lutherans and some other Christians remember the strong spirit of Dr. Martin Luther when he nailed his 95 Theses to the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany – a bold challenge to the church of his day. That took place on October 31, 1517, and eventually led to his likewise strong statement of faith when he was pressured to recant his writings questioning many teachings of the established church. He said, “Here I stand. I can do no other. May God help me!” Luther was convinced, based on Holy Scripture, that his challenges were legitimate, and refused to act against his faith or conscience.
Of course, October 31st in our society is looked forward to by many as Halloween – a day for children, and sometimes adults, to dress up and to disguise their identity, all for the fun of it … and maybe for candy, too!
There’s nothing at all wrong with dressing up and having fun. It occurred to me, though, that Jesus in the Scriptures also talks about disguised identity. In Matthew 7:15, he speaks about “wolves in sheep’s clothing” – those who pretend to follow the Lord, but whose underlying purpose is to get what they want even if it means doing harm to the Good Shepherd’s faithful flock. So that we can recognize the good from the bad, he says, “You will recognize them by their fruits. Every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.”
Jesus continues on in that chapter speaking about those who fool themselves into thinking they have one identity, when they actually have quite another. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Even to those who claim to have done mighty works in Jesus’ name, the Lord tells them “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Again, the good is set apart from the bad 𠇋y their fruits” – by the evidence of their lives.
Whether you’re Lutheran or some other faith, will you take hold of sacred gifts and responsibilities given by God to connect you to Him and others, and use them for your own ends? Or will you stand strong on godly beliefs and principles and show them in the person you are and, visibly, by what you do? Remember who God calls you to be.
Martin Luther had confidence to do what he did because God’s Word assured him of his identity in Christ: that he was God’s own child.
Who are you?