While October 31st designates Halloween for most people, and a time for trick-or-treating and costumes, for Protestants, the day signifies something else. That is especially true this year. During the month of October, Protestants everywhere will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Way back in 1517, on October 31st, a Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses, or questions and propositions for debate, to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, and set off a chain of events that would change the world, and the church, forever. It is because of Luther that we have denominations other than the Catholic Church today.
So why is this important? It is important because Martin Luther introduced the world to grace, or God’s unmerited, unconditional favor. Grace means that people cannot do anything to earn God’s love (favor) and cannot do good works to others in order to earn a place in heaven.
This is especially important in hospice work because as people reflect back on their lives and consider all the wrongs they have done, or “bad things” they are ashamed of, a frequent conclusion is that they are not good enough for God, or that they are not good enough for heaven. But nothing could be further from the truth!
Because God gives grace to us all, the message of the Reformation is that God loves us despite our sins, that God prepares a place in heaven for us even though we are sinful. Christians point to Jesus’s death on the cross as the reason why: the punishment for our sins has already been paid. So it really doesn’t matter how many “bad things” we are ashamed of or how many wrongs we have done, God gives us grace and forgives all those sins and loves us anyway. Further, Luther said that God gives us grace even if we don’t ask for it. So if your loved one can no longer talk or is not responsive, do not worry: he or she has already been forgiven by God because of grace.
Thanks be to the God of grace who forgives our sins and makes all things new!