Monday, October 31, 2011

Reformation Day

The church history geek in me much prefers to acknowledge reformation day than halloween on the 31st of October.  That said, this year, on the day when so many people are acknowledging one of these two "festivals", it occurs to me that neither is particularly in the spirit of where my heart is at.  On this day before one of the most significant anniversaries of my faith journey, I am pondering these two festivals, and reflecting on the places in my heart that thoughts of them are touching.

I don't like halloween.  There's something about a holiday that demands the use of costumes and masks to disguise oneself, and seems to embrace the imitation of evil that just doesn't do it for me.  This year I'm thinking particularly about the use of masks and costuming.  After spending the vast majority of workday on Friday listening and observing as two coworkers planned, shopped for, and then tried on their costumes for a Saturday night party, I am struck by the need to hide one's identity.  What sort of day requires the putting on of masks?  The hiding of who one is, and assuming an alternate identity.  There is something about this that seems beyond the child's play and fun the world seems to preach.  For me, it's simply this - when I have fought so long to find an place of joy and comfort within my own skin, why would I choose to embrace another identity, and particularly one that is evil?

And then there's Reformation Day.  Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to a church door in Wittenburg, and the world changed.  In the past I've written posts about Reformation day, seeing it not so much as a reminder of the splintering of church factions, but as a reminder of the need to be constantly re-formed.  To be constantly open to being made new.  I still think about that.  I've thought about it a lot in this year where my One Little Word is "heal".

But this year I'm thinking too about the splintering.  I've seen much splintering of friendships that I'd thought were permanent over the past years, and it's nothing in comparison to the splintering set off by Luther's act.  And while I'm a member of a protestant church, in faith somewhat a daughter of Luther's act, this splintering grieves my heart deeply.

I am one who has spent a chunk of this year realizing that my heart loves deeply, and once it loves, is intensely loyal.  If you have found space within my heart, I will welcome you openly.  And yet, I've learned that at times that loyalty breaks me.  And so, today, I find myself thinking of the shattered body of Christ called the church, and grieving just a little that we would celebrate this day.  Mark it?  Yes, I think it's one that needs to be remembered, but celebrated?  No.  I am reminded again of a passage I've prayed often over the last years, as I've experienced some of those shattered relationships.  The words of Jesus, praying shortly before the crucifixion, "I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one - as you are in me, Father, and I am in you.  And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me...May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me."

So, October 31st.  I'm thinking about another Monday, October 31st, six years ago.  About how the events of that night led into the following day, and ultimately changed my life.  I'm thinking about the journey of the last six years, and coming from a place of not wanting to wear a mask, but not being comfortable without one to a place of celebrating the work of reforming that Jesus has done within me to make me more wholly present with Him, in my own unique role created for me by Him.  And I'm thinking about celebrating the process of being healed, of being made new, acknowledging that there are times that this process causes pain and splintering, and that my heart remains heavy to pray for unity - for the healed wholeness of my own spirit, and for the healed wholeness of Christ's body here on earth.


kirsten said...

Lisa, your thoughts here are so heartbreaking and beautiful. I love where your heart is at.

I see so many of my friends who claim affinity with the Reformed tradition celebrating this day. Ever since I was little, long before I knew anything about denominations or the Reformation or the modern day Catholic/Protestant divide, I had a burden for the unity of the church. As a seven- or eight-year-old, I remember I kept asking adults at church: If we all love Jesus, why do we have so many denominations? A simplistic question perhaps, but one with a not-so-simple answer.

And lately, I hear people calling all these denominations "diversity." Ha. Diversity? Why do we insist on giving something like schism a nicer name? Try splintering. Try Christ's body broken all over again. Try rendering the body of Christ impotent to do what it was made and called to do. We shouldn't be celebrating, but rather mourning.

Praying that they would all be one today. That the masks would fall off, and that we would all be healed.

christianne said...

Such beautiful thoughts, Lisa. I also loved reading Kirsten's response to yours, too.

You voice exactly my aversion to Halloween. Tonight ended up being more cheery an experience than I ever expect of Halloween, and I was glad fro what it became for us. But in general, this day gives me the creeps, and so much of that (for me) has a lot to do with what you put into words about masks and costumes. In fact, earlier today, I was trying to articulate what bothers me about people in costume to a friend, and I landed at this idea of people being something other than what they actually are. It really bothers me.

But for some reason, the kids in costume this year didn't bother me. I think it's the adult celebration of the holiday that bothers me more than the kids doing it.

Lisa said...

mmm... thanks Kirsten. Praying indeed for that unity. Diversity is indeed a misnomer for this splintering and shattering. May there be healing anew in the year to come...

And Christianne - somehow it is a bit different with kids in costume. Perhaps it's that the adult celebration tends to lean so much more to the embracing of sexuality, becoming someone else entirely with masks and costumes, and even the embrace of evil. I mean, I'm not opposed to a child dressing up and embracing imagination, so why not halloween under certain costuming conditions? There is something inherently different between a child dressed as a princess or animal or favorite cartoon character (thinking of a friend who has a child who loves Buzz Lightyear!), than a vampire, witch or other sort of ghoul. It is particularly the masking of ones own identity by taking on an identity that is admittedly evil that truly disturbs my spirit.

Glad to know that I'm not the only one who struggles with the weirdness of a holiday that embraces people being something other than what they actually are!