It's that strange time of year, when it's humid and warm here in the southernmost part of the U.S. Halloween is tomorrow, and we will not carve our pumpkins, hoping they will last longer on the porch. We celebrate Reformation Sunday today, and we will watch the World Series tonight. On Tuesday, I will pause for the Feast of All Saints, and on Tuesday, the Feast of All Souls, while others celebrate the Day of the Dead. Somewhere along here is also the Hindu holiday of Diwali.
Let me think about these intersections.
Even if you're not a church going type, the Reformation has changed your life--after all, you can worship in your own language and read the Bible and think about theology for yourself. I won't cover 500 years of history here, but suffice it to say that those Reformers launched us further down the road towards modernity than we would have been without them. I have argued that Martin Luther did more to promote literacy for the masses than anyone before or since--and that's just one example.
This week, The New York Times had a great article about Martin Luther. It talks about the Reformation pamphlet, which Luther perfected--it could be read to illiterate masses, and it was short enough that literate Germans would actually read it. He knew how to use imagery and how to choose collaborators. He could write quickly--and he knew the publishing process inside and out, in terms of the mechanics and onward.
The article ends this way: "'He [Luther] created a media storm with virtually no precedent in the age of print and became the most published author in the history of publishing, up to that moment,' he [Dr. Pettigrew, a Luther scholar] said. “Great men and women seize the moment, and I think he did.'”
It's good to remember that individual people can change the course of history. If you could travel back in time, before Luther became so famous/infamous for his work, would people believe that Luther would be the person that changed the world so much? A tortured monk and a university teacher? I can imagine most people saying, "Who? Not the emperor? Not the pope?"
Is there a religious person or group that is even now working to change the Church in such ways that we will barely recognize it 500 years from now? Or is the lesson that we don't recognize the true reformers in our midst?
The other day, I heard one person say to another, "Are you going to wear your tentacles today?" They were talking about a costume, but it made me think about all the comments we don't usually hear in everyday life that we'll hear as Halloween approaches.
Tonight I will go to a Gospel ukulele group at the parsonage. I will take brownies which I will drizzle with orange icing. In past years, I might have taken pumpkin shaped sugar cookies which I would have decorated imaginatively. Not this year.
Wait! Do I have food coloring or did I use it all during Vacation Bible School? OK, I still have some--my plan will work.
How will we celebrate tomorrow? I'm not sure. We have several friends in the neighborhood, and we could go to their houses to hand out candy. We could stay on our own front porch. Tomorrow is my first day on the new job, so I have no idea how I will feel. I'm staying as flexible as I possibly can.
My only Hindu friend said it better than I can: "Happy Diwali! Celebrate the conquest of wisdom over arrogance, of knowledge over superstition, of right over might! Light lamps, decorate your home with sand art, sweeten your tongue with richness of mithai, and woo the goddess of prosperity!"
The World Series
Last night, I heard my spouse shout at the TV, "I've seen better baseball in the Pee Wee league!" He's been frustrated with some of the bad baseball of the Cubs, while being very impressed with the Indians.
It's great to have a series that inspires such passion on his part--he often doesn't even bother watching the Series, because it's obvious from the beginning who will win, and it's the team with the biggest bank account. Not much suspense there.
This year is different.
All Saints and All Souls and Day of the Dead
I would like to make a special bread for these days, but I likely will not. Sigh.
But I will remember those who have passed on to the other side.
And maybe I will make bread next week-end. My church will be observing the Feast of All Saints on Sunday, Nov. 6, although we probably will not use the very Catholic language of a feast day.
A variety of religious traditions have recognized this time period as a "thin place," the time when the separation between worlds becomes thinner. It's a belief rooted in pagan times, about parts of the seasonal year when souls from the other world might slip back. In a world lit only by fires, one can see where it would be easy to be spooked this way.
But this year, especially for me, feels thin, where I'm moving from one job to the next, where I'm not sure what to expect, where I've been dreaming about old friends and new shoes and the dead have come back to visit. I'm catching ideas for characters and their stories and hopeful/fretful about the chance to write them out into fully realized fictional lives.
I feel like I'm vibrating on several different levels this year, and I'm trying not to shut down any channels.