It is customary to date the beginning of the Protestant Reformation to October 31, 1517, the day on which a young German monk and Bible scholar named Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of the Wittenburg church.
The Window on the World is our weekly exercise in developing a Christian mind. As we think about our culture from the biblical point of view, we are learning how to obey this command: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom. 12:2a). Gradually, we are discovering what it means that Jesus Christ is Lord of all of life, that “All truth is God's truth, wherever it may be found.”
To all you fathers out there, Happy Father's Day! Somehow Father's Day doesn't seem quite as important as Mother's Day, and it may only be a marketing ploy to sell more greeting cards, but I do want to say a few words to those of you who are fathers, especially fathers who still have children at home.
Now that summer has ended, it is time to reopen our Window on the World. Every week at this time—from September through June—we take seven or eight minutes to look at our world through the window of biblical truth. God’s Word not only gives warmth to the heart, it also gives light to the mind, helping us to see things clearly, the way God sees them.
Window on the World is our weekly opportunity to develop a Christian world view. Often, I speak about one of the great issues facing our culture. But Christianity also has a great deal to say about the little things, like how I spent my summer vacation. (At this point, I’m sure you’ll be relieved to find out that I’m not going to show you any family slides).
For the Jewish community, tonight marks the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Of all the high holy days in the Hebrew calendar Yom Kippur is the most somber. Tonight many Jews will gather in synagogues to read Scripture and to chant the Kol Nidrei, a melancholy prayer in which worshipers ask God to absolve them for all the vows they have broken during the past year. The service always closes with the sounding of the shofar, the ram's horn. When it is blown on Yom Kippur, what the ram's horn symbolizes is the closing of heaven's gates. What pious Jews hope is that before the gates close, their names will be sealed into the Book of Life.
Throughout this year we have been having a series of Windows on the World concerning the last millennium in church history. Each month we take an important person or a significant event from one of the last ten centuries: the Crusades of the twelfth century, the Diet of Worms from the sixteenth century, and so forth. Also, for our Hymn of the Month, we sing a hymn either written or composed in the same century. This month we come to the seventeenth century. (If you want to earn some extra credit, see if you can figure out exactly why I chose “The Sands of Time Are Sinking” for our Hymn of the Month.)*
Last week I went to renew my Pennsylvania Driver's License. Things went better than I had hoped. For one thing, I didn't have to take any tests, which was a big relief, because the last time I had to take the written test I came within one question of failing. For another thing, the Department of Motor Vehicles gave me a chance to change my photo if I didn’t like it. When my smiling face came up on the computer screen, the technician asked if I was satisfied or if I wanted a retake. Actually, the photo looked all right to me, but having to choose does take some of the adventure out of getting a new license.
Last Sunday an unusual worship service was held in Philadelphia. While many of us worshiped here, a very different gathering was taking place at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Tenth Presbyterian Church actually was invited to participate, although we declined to accept.