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10/31/2014 11:56 am ET Updated Dec 31, 2014

Man Between God and the Devil: Martin Luther and the Reclamation of Halloween

The above title comes from one of my favorite biographies of Martin Luther written by Dr. Heiko Oberman. Oberman looked at Luther not from the lenses of a revolutionary who marked to the church at Wittenberg that fall day in 1517 and posted the 95 these but rather a person in the unfolding drama of human history as an initiator of reform. Oberman claims that God being the originator of human history put the cataclysmic forces of satanic powers to a final end in the collective works of reform in human history.

Perhaps this may thwart Luther's impact a bit although his writing was indeed subconscious as an outpour of his emerging theology what I can agree with Oberman is that Luther was indeed a medieval man, in a medieval context focusing a great deal on the eschatological(end times). His thesis is unique in really examining the motivation of Luther's rebellion against the church or his exhortations against the wiles of the enemy in being locked in profound conflict with Satan himself.

What if I looked at on this Reformation Day Oberman's critique in light of Halloween how would Luther speak today in that reclamation? What would a reclaimed Halloween express? In our culture, Halloween traditionally has allowed us to look at what frightens us -- to experience it, to laugh at it and to come through it. So at the end of October, we are visited by cute Casper's, laughing pumpkin heads and goofy ghouls.

Should the forces of evil be mocked? Should Satan be laughed at? He most certainly should be. At the beginning of The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis includes two telling quotations, the first from Martin Luther: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn."

Ulysses S. Grant once admitted, "I only know two tunes -- one is Yankee Doodle, and the other isn't." It seemed that Martin Luther knew only two tunes -- one is "The Devil's I," and the other isn't.

- Anderson M. Rearick III, "Matters of opinion: Hallowing Halloween," Christianity Today, October 2, 2000.

Delivered from Halloween horror

"I sought the LORD, and he answered me," says Psalm 34, "and delivered me from all my fears" (v. 4). When children become frightened of witches, ghosts, zombies and vampires, they need to understand that the LORD is with them and has the power to deliver them.

Sharing this powerful truth is one way to take back Halloween. Our children need to know that "the angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them" (v. 7). We can seize this moment and allow it to stretch our imaginations. When we dress up, we think of new possibilities for ourselves -- girls become princesses, boys turn into pirates. In the same way, the Bible challenges us to imagine ourselves either as rebels against the ways of the Lord or as faithful followers of God. "Evil brings death to the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned," says Psalm 34. "The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned" (vv. 21-22).

On Halloween, we imagine new possibilities for ourselves. On this ancient day of transition, we stand at a crossroads and wonder if we should take the path of evil, which leads to death and condemnation. Or should we walk the path of service to God, which leads to life and redemption?

Discerning the right path is not always easy, nor does walking God's way guarantee a comfortable life. In fact, the psalm says that "the afflictions of the righteous" are many. To obey God as Luther did means to surrender the moment and to put one's past at risk.

When we are pleasing God, serving God and obeying God, we suddenly discover a tremendous freedom. The accompaniment the devil plays along with his siren song of "I," but tries to keep so soft in the background that we don't really notice it, is one of fear. Was not his argument in the 95 theses he posted speaking of that very device by the Anti-Christ he referred to as the Pope with the use of indulgences? Luther says "with no one other than yourself as a reference point, there is also no one other than yourself to rely upon. Fear that somehow "I" won't be able to "do it all," "have it all" or "be it all," makes the me-only solo a frighteningly lonely tune.

When we surrender the authority over our lives to God, when we finally admit that God is God and we are not, we open ourselves up to a tidal wave of divine compassion and love. Our reclamation of Halloween is in pleasing God, serving God and obeying God is an expression of God's strength, Christ's love and the witness of the Holy Spirit in our lives.