Waking up is one of the oddest feelings in the world. Our mind is still working while we are sleeping, but our state of consciousness is gone, so waking up is a re-acclimation with our current state of reality. This can be positive if the night and days leading up to that moment were positive, or negative if your days and hours have been full of challenging moments. I hardly pondered this when I was younger, but as an adult who has responsibilities to handle every day, it is a common thought. I wake up and first take inventory of my behaviors, problems, and most demanding jobs. Yet no matter my current state of affairs, I am relieved of all my burdens because of the Reformation and All Saints Day. I know, you’re probably thinking I’m a crazy pastor because I think of the church year with such importance, but hear me out.
As a church body, we have let the church year and its importance fall off the map because we quit explaining its relevance. In nine and a half years of being a pastor in a conservative denomination, I have come to this conclusion: I want to explain it more. I want to practically proclaim how the traditions of the church are relevant still today.
Let me take us back to the time of the Reformation, and let’s snatch Luther out of the picture to see how 2016 might look if the Reformation didn’t happen, and how that would affect All Saints Day. – Zap. Luther & the reformation never happened. — Now jump ahead to 2016 – I’m in my bed, waking up after a night of sleep. Getting my consciousness about me again, I take inventory of my behaviors, problems, and most demanding jobs, and I’m miserably disappointed. I have always been hard on myself, but now I have little or no relief. I begin my morning routine anxiously awaiting confession. I head to Mt. Calvary Catholic Church and I confess my sins and failures to another priest. I leave, paying my indulgences and praying that my family will make it out of purgatory and into heaven. I’m still unsettled, but I have to carry on. Occasionally my thoughts drift, and I realize I’m trying to convince myself that I am a faithful man of God. But it’s easy to see that I’m just lying to myself, so I fall back into my prison of sin, saving every penny to buy indulgences and waiting for the opportunity to confess my sins again so I can feel a brief moment of release.
Now comes my “Back to the Future” moment, where Marty enters the reality of Biff taking the almanac and changing his entire world. If you are not a “Back to the Future” person, it is like the United States without Independence Day. It is the United States without the freedoms we enjoy. As you look back at the 2016 morning described above, you might think that it is far fetched. Surely the Reformation didn’t really change all of that? Yes it did!
The church had once stolen the freedom that Christ came to give. It had put people back in the bondage of sin, and the plague of never feeling forgiven. It changed how people see the saints; the faithfully departed were still in their sins even after death. If left that way, All Saints Day would not be a celebration, but another burden. We would be trying to free our ancestors from the consequences of what they had done. But, in our current reality, Reformation and All Saints Day speak of the freedom Christ came to give, and the promise of true freedom in heaven!
Now, because of the Reformation, I can wake up, inventory the previous days events and hear the Holy Spirit speak, “You are forgiven and you are mine!” With that assurance, I am able to quickly move to the vocations God would have me do with the gifts He has given. I quietly celebrate with those who have died, that they no longer take inventory of anything, and I wait upon the day when my consciousness will have no sin, pain, or sorrow.
So why don’t we talk about the Reformation and All Saints Day? Honestly, I think we have just assumed that our current generation could care less about church history, rather than speaking to its relevance in our current culture. In my personal mission statement, I debated long and hard about referring to Scripture as ancient words. My coach even challenged me on it. I think too often we think of celebrations like this weekend as ancient, and at times, we even think of Scripture that way too. But if we adopt that point of view, we miss the hope, promise and freedom they give to our current reality.
Reformation and All Saints Day are pinnacle celebrations in the church year. They speak of the freedom we have in Christ. They speak what Jesus has done for us, and they proclaim to our sin burdened lives that we are free because of the work of Jesus. They remind our burdened conscience that one day we will no longer wake up taking inventory of our sins, but rejoicing with all the Saints.