October 31st isn't just a good day to visit your neighbors and ask for candy. This haunting holiday is also believed to be the day more than 500 years ago that Martin Luther marched up to the church doors in Wittenberg, Germany and nailed a list of his grievances there. This list of grievances is better known as the 95 Theses (or Disputation on the Power of Indulgences). This document outlined Luther's opposition to the Catholic Church's practice of selling "indulgences" to absolve sin. These indulgences were actual certificates people could buy from the church.
Luther believed that faith in God and divine grace are what save people's souls, not purchasing paper certificates. He argued that our faith in Jesus Christ is what saves us. God offers us salvation free of charge through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In addition to this, Luther's theses had another theme that became the foundation of the Protestant Reformation movement: the priesthood of all believers. This means that people do not need an intermediary between themselves and God. We, as believers, can pray directly to God, worship God in our own language, and ask for forgiveness without confessing to another person.
Reformation Day is October 31st every year, and this year Reformation Sunday falls on the same day. Today, United Methodists celebrate Reformation Day with a sense of moving toward unity and community. Though we are not descendants of Luther, both John and Charles Wesley were priests in the Church of England, so our roots are deep in the Anglican tradition (www.umc.org).
So this Sunday, as you ready yourself for trick-or-treaters, remember the day 500 years ago that one man stood up and changed the face of organized religion as we know it.