October is a month that heavy-laden with significance. It’s hard to pick one aspect of this busy, beautiful month to write about.
First, of course, there is the splendid display that God spreads out over the landscape in our part of the earth. The trees sport newly painted leaves in orange and yellow and red with the summer’s green still visible in the midst. The dignified colors of the fall asters and chrysanthemums succeed the delicate pastels of summer flowers.
Side by side with the burst of new colors is the harvest. The corn stalks have yielded up their bounty and become available for front porch decorations and hayrides. The fields and gardens are ripe with pumpkins, eggplants, peppers, watermelons, beans, tomatoes, and onions. The trees hang heavy with apples, peaches, and pears. All of them ready to be canned and frozen to supply our tables during the winter. All in all, a wonderful sign of God’s provision and care for us!
IF that weren’t enough, we have the October holidays! There is Columbus Day, which for me has always been a day to go to the apple orchard with children and grandchildren. But that holiday is under some suspicion currently as a proper thing to celebrate, so I will respectfully leave that discussion for another time.
It is the month for the World Series. There isn’t too much for Cubs fans or White Sox fans to celebrate in that area this year, but it was a great and somewhat unexpected blessing that there actually was a baseball season!
Halloween, or “all hallows(saints) eve” as it was originally called, has become unmoored from its rather pseudo-religious beginning and evolved into a fun day for children to dress up as someone - - or something - - else and collect enough sugared sweets to last all year. Here at FPCValpo, our own Trunk-or-Treat - - modified for safety during the COVID 19 pandemic - - will still provide a happy evening for children and adults as it has in years past. Halloween is thematically and historically tied to All Saints Day which is the next day, November 1. That would be another holiday, but it is in November, so it does not really fit into our ‘Highlights-of-October’ theme.
A big holiday for us Presbyterians and for all Protestants - - and really for all Christians - - is Reformation Day, which commemorates the October day in the year 1517 when Martin Luther set the Protestant Reformation in motion by nailing a list of charges against the Roman Catholic church to the door of his church in Wittenberg, Germany. His action served as a catalyst for widespread feelings in Europe that the Roman church had drifted far from its roots in Christ’s ministry and perverted the doctrines of redemption and grace.
The Reform Movement, as it came to be called, spread quickly across Europe and took many different forms which gave birth to many denominations. It was the French speaking Swiss citizen John Calvin who defined the theology of the new faith in his writings Institutes of the Christian Religion published in 1536, which is still a basic textbook of Protestant theology.
Luther and Calvin, while they had many disagreements, both stood by the tenets that have become the pillars of the Protestant faith, that in our relationship with God:
Truth is found only in the Scriptures (sola scriptura);
We are saved only by faith in God’s promises revealed in Jesus Christ (sola fide); and
God’s love for each of us is unconditional, given without any need for us to earn it in any way, and all we need to do is receive it (sola gratia).
The Worldwide Church in all its struggles and shortcomings still shines the light of Christ. My faith is surely the greatest gift that Jesus has given to me, and the church is where I celebrate that faith most joyfully.
Certainly, there are troubles in our midst, both in the news and in each of our lives this autumn. Poverty, racism, disease, pointless wars are still with us. Personal sorrows, illnesses and anxieties still affect us. But there is also much to enjoy and be grateful for that God has given to us during this the Tenth Month of the Year of our Lord 2020.
Blessings and peace,
Nancy Becker, Parish Associate