Reformation Sunday, All Saints Day, or ??

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I am pretty sure that not everyone celebrated Reformation Sunday yesterday (Oct 31).  I know many of our churches shy away from recognitions that are inclusive of other denominations.  Some of those faith traditions recognized either Refermation Sunday yesterday or All Saints Day.  The church we attended Sunday recognized neither, but we sure had a lot of strangely dressed children escorted by parents last night who came to our door joining in the “merriment” of Halloween, a day that has roots in Christian expressions (All Saints Eve) as well other influences, particularly the Celtic end of Summer recognition, Samhain. Perhaps you are like me and have come through the years when many conservative Christian churches have frowned heavily upon the recognition of Halloween, even identifying it as an evil concoction of devilish influences.  I suppose that reaction comes from the Samhain side of Halloween’s roots, but a little research shows Samhain to be rooted in a belief that on the change of year from the “lighter side” (Spring and Summer) to the darker side (Fall and Winter) the layer between the living and dead is thinned out which makes those who are dead more accessible.  While some of this influence is obviously from sinister sources, I can also see where it has likely been mixed along the way with the proximity to either All Saints Day or All Souls Day (Nov 2) when the Catholic Church and some protestant churches recognize the dearly departed.  I have served in churches where mentioning the word, “Halloween” could get a staff member in trouble.  Most of those churches provided alternative “Fall Festivals” as our competition to Halloween. In one church a creative Minister of Education came up with a “dress like a biblical character” celebration, recognizing that kids wanted to dress up in costumes and get treats.  How interesting that our so-called alternatives have resembled so closely that which we have rejected.  My point is in the next paragraphs, but I wanted first to mention a reality that you may have experienced as well.  Our neighborhood is full of children of all ages.  The truth is that we see more of our neighbors, kids and parents, on Halloween night than any other time of the year.  We have to choose whether to be the house where “those people live,” or to be “the coolest house in the neighborhood” (a response we heard last night while doling out playdough cans and candy to a few of the older trick or treaters – the “after 8 o’clock crowd).  That comment really made my wife smile as the playdough cans were her idea.  We have done the little scripture verse tags on candy or trinkets, tracts, and just tried to be extra friendly to the little ghosts and goblins (though I certainly don’t think the wonder woman costume on a four-year-old qualifies as either).

 

Here is my point for your consideration.  In our quest for puritanical separation from the world and/or from those faith groups with which we may disagree, we may have given over crucial Christian themes to other influences.  Those influences are not necessarily from some dark spiritual underworld as some would have us believe, but also stem from the so-called “secular” which I believe to be even more problematic and certainly the more dominant spirit in our present culture.  We have non-believers trying to overrule Christmas to make it the benign Winter Solstice.  We justly pitch a holy fit!  Yet we evangelicals have long since abdicated liturgical holy days and significant church history days, preferring to keep denominational calendars, or special theme Sundays in which we can emphasize whatever we decide.  Why am I writing this to worship pastors and musicians?  Because most of you plan or profoundly influence the worship language and “flow” in your congregation.  One of my oft-repeated personal ministry themes is to point out that we who select the songs, can place upon the lips of our congregations those themes that connect us to a larger biblical and Kingdom worldview.  It was good to hear about Baptist congregations that sang Martin Luther’s A Might Fortress Is Our God yesterday.  That tells me that someone (possibly the music minister) knew what day it was on the church history calendar.  It was inspiring to see a bulletin article by a Tennessee Baptist pastor who called his congregation’s attention to the profound effect of Luther’s 95 theses.  I feel certain that all of our churches read scripture in their own language during worship Sunday, a result of the Reformation – how important is that?  Wouldn’t it serve us well to pause to give thanks to God for His Word given in the language of the people?  “The Word of God for the people of God.”  I also heard of Baptist churches planning to use For All the Saints yesterday.

 

Those of us who plan the singing worship of our churches have opportunity to help place believers in the larger picture of Christian influence in their own context.  I personally am convicted that such influence takes place not so much by shutting out the world, but rather by shining the light of Christ on all of life, which includes holding strong to those times that have unique Christian themes.  The blatant annihilation of Christianity’s influence on American cultural development may well be as much a sin of omission by those of us who claim the Name of Christ as one of commission by those whose agenda it is to diminish faith’s influence altogether in their quest for a secular society (where they rule).  In worship we can unveil the ways Christ has been central in the lives of those who have gone before us.  What if, instead of focusing so much attention on shaping our environments – music, buildings, “feel” – to be just like the culture we live in, we staked our claim on the moments and days of worship and helped connect God’s work in the world throughout history to the needs, opportunities, and victories that have been, and continue to be won in the lives of people through His matchless grace?  What if we centered worship on “His story” and trusted the Gospel’s power? Seems to me that could be bold contemporary Christian faith and witness.

 

            The Spirit and the gifts are ours
            Through Him who with us sideth.
            Let goods and kindred go,
            This mortal life also;
            The body they may kill;
            God’s truth abideth still:
            His kingdom is forever.
                                                –Martin Luther
 
            O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,
            Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
            And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
            Alleluia!

                                    –William How

 

Semper Reformanda,
Paul
Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Leading Worship, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts

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