You don’t have to be a Lutheran to celebrate Reformation Day. If your family chooses not to participate in Trick or Treat and other Halloween activities — or if you’d like to add a spiritual dimension to October 31st — consider commemorating the day in 1517 when Martin Luther posted his “Ninety-Five Theses” on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany.
Luther, a Catholic monk, posted the list of items he wished to debate on the door of the church, a common practice among academics of his day, “out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light.” In his list of complaints against the Catholic Church, Luther railed against the practice of enriching the Church and granting false security to members by selling indulgences, fees paid to the Church that were said to shorten the duration of time one spent in purgatory. “The treasures of the indulgences are nets with which they now fish for the riches of men, ” Luther wrote.
The assurance of salvation by letters of pardon is vain, even though the commissary, nay, even though the pope himself, were to stake his soul upon it.
Luther’s “Ninety-Five Theses” sparked a debate between Luther and those aligned with the pope, leading to the Reformation which resulted in a rediscovery of the doctrine of justification—God’s act of declaring a sinner righteous—through faith alone by God’s grace alone. Many agreed with Luther’s teaching — contrary to Catholic Church doctrine — that Christ offered them salvation not because of any good works or righteousness on their part, but because of what Christ had already done on the cross.
The Reformation caused religious, political, social, and cultural upheaval in Germany and across Europe and changed the course of history. Ultimately, the Reformation led to the formation of the Protestantism, which many today celebrate, as Luther originally proclaimed, “out of love for the truth.”
If your family would like to celebrate Reformation Day this year, here are a few ideas to help make your day fun, educational, and even meaningful.