Friday, July 10, 2009

Happy Birthday John Calvin!

500 years ago, God gave a great gift to the Church. While he's so well remembered as a theologian, we do him a great disservice in forgetting that he was a pastor. His most especial duty as a pastor was the preaching of the word, which he did a minimum of five days a week (often six). Calvin's sermons deserve to be read. Moreover, his dedication to the pure preaching of the word deserves to be emulated in the deadened pulpits of our day. T. H. L. Parker’s 1975 biography tells why:

And so we trace him preaching on Sundays with one hundred and eighty-nine sermons on the Acts between 1549 and 1554, a shorter series on some of the Pauline letters between 1554 and 1558, and the sixty-five on the Harmony of the Gospels between 1559 and 1564. During this time the weekdays saw series on Jeremiah and Lamentations (up to 1550), on the Minor Prophets and Daniel (1550-2), the one hundred and seventy-four on Ezekiel (1552-4), the one hundred and fifty-nine on Job (1554-5), the two hundred on Deuteronomy (1555-6), the three hundred and forty-two on Isaiah (1556-9), then one hundred twenty-three on Genesis (1559-61), a short set on Judges (1561), one hundred and seven on 1 Samuel and eighty-seven on 2 Samuel (1561-3) and a set on 1 Kings (1563-4).

Before he smiles at such unusual activity of the pulpit, the reader would do well to ask himself whether he would prefer to listen to the second-hand views on a religion of social ethics, or the ill-digested piety, delivered in slipshod English, that he will hear today in most churches of whatever denomination he may enter, or three hundred and forty-two sermons on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, sermons born of an infinite passion of faith and a burning sincerity, sermons luminous with theological sense, lively with wit and imagery, showing depths of compassion and the unquenchable joyousness of hope. Those in Geneva who listened Sunday after Sunday, day after day, and did not shut their ears, but were “instructed, admonished, exhorted, and censured,” received a training in Christianity such as had been given to few congregations in Europe since the days of the fathers. (92)

Thank you, John Calvin, for believing in the majesty of the word and for demonstrating by your life the glory of preaching the Bible.

And for making it look easy!

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