Today we celebrate Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler. Both lived in the 1500s, although they were born about a century apart. If you remember, Copernicus was the first to put out the theory that the sun, rather than the earth, was the center of the universe, around which the planets rotated. Kepler helped solidify this theory. Both men saw no conflict between their theory and their faith. Copernicus dedicated his work to the Pope, and Kepler saw in the relationship between the sun and the rotating planets the image of God. But as you may also remember, religious thought was uncomfortable with this idea. A great debate ensued, as though science and religion could not operate together.
Truthfully, I am not sure we have ever recovered from this debate. There are still Christians who believe faith and science are not compatible. Many centuries after Copernicus and Kepler, we are still pushing scientific minds away from the church. I think part of the challenge is that our favorite stories from Scripture, especially like the part of the creation story we heard today, do not always make logical sense. As we become older, we fear that if we start questioning those stories, our whole faith might unravel.
But the saints of God have been telling us differently for centuries, if we are willing to hear. Copernicus saw no conflict between his theory and the authority of Scripture. Kepler was able see the image of God in his work. “Both men, through their life’s work, testified to the extraordinary presence of God in creation and maintained, in the face of both religious and scientific controversy, that science can lead us more deeply into an understanding of the workings of the Creator.”
Just over our vacation, we had coffee with an old friend. She had been struggling with her faith because she saw so many discrepancies between what she knew as a scientist and teacher and as a woman of faith. In our conversation, I was reminded of a campaign the Episcopal Church ran many years ago. It said, “Jesus died to take away your sins, not your mind.” Like the beauty and wonder of this place we live in that God created, God also created us in God’s image. God invites us every day to live fully into the gifts, talents, and mind that God has given us. Amen.