The legendary account tells us that one cool October 31st in 1517, the priest Martin Luther defiantly nailed his protest notice to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. These 95 thesis were a list of abuses and errors that he understood were a corruption of the purpose and mission of the Church. In reality, the Ninety-five Theses were most likely sent to his Archbishop. And the list was not really a defiant protest as much as it was a sincere call for the Church to begin addressing some of its problems that Luther felt had obscured the Gospel message.
In any case, Luther hoped that his Theses would be seen and discussed as a step toward renewal of the Church, so that people might know the truth about God’s forgiveness for their lives. The powerful passage from Romans 3:19-28 had fired his soul and he was so overflowing with joy after years of guilt and a need for forgiveness that he had to share the truth with all that he could. Little did he know the enormous impact on the world that his one simple act would have. His willingness to stand up to pope and emperor in the name of the Gospel of Christ changed the face of history, and the face and direction of the entire Christian Church.
Today we do not celebrate division. Rather we celebrate the movement of the Holy Spirit in our Church and our hearts. It is this movement of the Holy Spirit that brings us newness and renewal, both in our personal lives and in the life of the Church. When we pray, "Come, Holy Spirit!" we know that the whole Church is always in need of reform, and we each are always in need of dying again in Christ in order to be raised from the dead, so that we might be truly free by the grace of Jesus the Christ in our lives and Church. "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:31-36)
Yet beyond those issues, traditionally in the Church the two days of All Saints Day (November 1) was valued as a time to celebrate heritage and those Christians of the past who faithfully transmitted the Faith to succeeding generations. Martin Luther actually chose All Saints Eve to send his Ninety Five Theses to the Archbishop. His challenge to the Church and its leaders to reform was set against the background of the heritage of that Church.
Today, UCCSA and many Protestant churches combine the two traditional days into the observance of All Saints Day. However, the day focuses not only on honoring departed members of the Church and local congregations, but also those still living who have contributed to the work and ministry of the Church in significant ways. . Some of our churches combined All Saints Day celebration with Reformation Sunday (last Sunday in October) as a way to focus on heritage.