Sad to say, I rarely talk to strangers about religion so today when standing at a store checkout I was caught totally off guard. The young man in his 20's (clearly not of Dutch descent) asked me how my Halloween was. I stumbled a bit and mumbled something like, “good.” But my conscience wouldn’t leave me there and after a brief struggle with my fears I said, “we don’t actually celebrate Halloween but we commemorate Reformation Day.”
“What does that mean?” he asked enthusiastically.
“Have you ever heard of Martin Luther?” I asked, and after a brief pause he assured me that he did. Wrongly I assumed that he was thinking of Martin Luther King and thinking how could I explain who he was in 2 minutes while at a checkout counter with people waiting behind me, I would just leave the conversation end there. But he wasn’t through with me yet.
“Why do you have Reformation Day then…what does that have to do with Martin Luther?”
“Well,” I said, “Have you heard of the 95….”
“Oh,” he interjected, “the 95 thesis. I have heard of that.”
And so the questions went on. Him wondering exactly why and how we commemorate the Reformation and more specifically when we go to church what kind of service to we have. All the time he was saying what a neat thing to go to church for.
Finally, he said to me, “Would you mind me asking what religion you are?”
And again me assuming he was very ignorant I said, “Well we are Reformed.”
“Oh, Christian Reformed?” he asked his face lighting up.
“Yes like Christian Reformed,” I said figuring that would be a starting place for him to understand the Christian faith, it being a well-known denomination.
“Wait,” he said stopping his work, his face clearly showing a mixture of sadness and bewilderment, “I’m Christian Reformed and….we don’t celebrate Reformation Day, we have trick or treat day at church.”
Now he needed an explanation who we were and why we differed from the CRC and just why his church didn’t celebrate Reformation day. At that moment we both realized how far even the Christian Reformed church has come.
At this point I was finished checking out and the next customer didn’t look very interested in our conversation so I urged him to look up Martin Luther and the Reformation online so he could learn more about it to which he assured me he would.
And then as if knowing my fear of talking to strangers he loudly said as I was walking away, “thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me, I am so happy that you did.”
I left the store with a mixture of sadness and encouragement. Sadness, seeing the confusion on this young man’s face and yet so encouraged to speak again. Who knows what seed could have been planted in this young man…may my mouth more and more be opened for His name and to His honor and glory.