This Sunday we once again celebrate the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and the gift of God’s Word. God’s Word is where we learn that sinners are rescued by grace alone, through faith alone, in the Scriptures alone. It’s no secret that this is a day to sing “A Mighty Fortress,” to give thanks to God for God’s ongoing work of reforming the church, to once again point to the cross of Jesus as the place where the salvation of the world was accomplished once-and-for-all with no strings attached. You can give thanks that there is such a thing as “capital-T Truth” in the world…and that in Christ Jesus the truth will set you free (you can read the text for this Sunday here)! What you might not realize is that Reformation Sunday also gives us opportunity to unapologetically give thanks that our heavenly Father has blessed us with “reason and all our senses” as we come to learn and apply what the Truth is and means. Though Martin Luther’s efforts to reform the church from within were founded on his study of God’s Word, the impact of that focus would be felt in various aspects of social and cultural change in his day as education was reformed and literacy in Europe grew. Luther himself once said, “If God chose to keep me away from pastoral functions, there is no other occupation I would more gladly take up than schoolmaster, for next to the pastor’s work, no other is more beautiful or significant than his.” The point is not that the church should be composed of educated elites or that we should champion human reason as a thing in itself. But where the scholar or scientist engages, researches, and tries to understand the mysteries of the world with true humility before his or her Creator…where we are all given the chance to receive the grace of God through the written Word of Scripture…there is no telling how capital-T Truth can inform, educate, and inspire us! There is no telling just how dramatically we will all be set free.
This past week I attended a conference organized by the Southeastern District of the LCMS featuring Dr. John Kenney, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Physics at Concordia University, Irvine. Dr. Kenney told us his own personal story, gave plenty of examples of learned scientists who were people of faith, and otherwise demonstrated in real terms how faith in God and humility in living out one’s vocation as a scientist actually enriches the pursuit of discovery. I was surprised to discover that one of the Lutheran Reformers, Philipp Melanchthon, sent his own protege from the Lutheran University of Wittenberg, Georg Rheticus, to study with Nicholaus Copernicus. Rheticus would become the only doctoral student that Copernicus would ever have and one day facilitate Copernicus’s publication of his On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, a treatise that first argued that the sun—not the earth—was the center of things.
Jesus, in describing the greatest commandments, started with the love of God saying “You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.” As we celebrate our church’s “birthday” again this Reformation Sunday, we give thanks for the gift of Jesus, the “Word made flesh,” for sinners like us. With humble hearts, let us use ALL the gifts God gives so that we too might know the truth.