Sunday, April 26, 2009

4-26- Calvin on Christian Education

(Cathedral in Noyon France where Calvin grew up; young Calvin talking to a family)

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1) Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. ..Impress these commandments on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:4-6)
Calvin: We see how God, who could in a moment perfect his own, nevertheless desires them to grow up into manhood solely under the education of the church… But as he did not entrust the ancient folk to angels but raised up teachers from the earth truly to perform the angelic office, so also today it is his will to teach us
through human means. (IV.1.5)

In my church, today is youth Sunday. It is a great opportunity for youth to claim the church by leading in worship. It is no accident that Calvin grew up to serve the Lord. One of Calvin’s great memories of his mother (who died when he was 3) was her piety and love for God. His father was the bishop’s lawyer and was eventually fired from that position for disagreeing with the bishop. Yet his father respected the faith if not the bishop. In medieval times there was a system to help young people become clergy. Often it was a political appointment because the clergy were so powerful and rich in a feudal society. Calvin himself had a clerical benefice. It was a way to get paid for being placed in charge of a chapel even though he didn’t preach in it regularly. The process was to become a catechumen, a confirmand, an acolyte, cleric with a benefice as a young boy; go to school; become a deacon; then a priest and perhaps a bishop or greater. Calvin emphasized being taught in the church more than the process of becoming a minister, because the process can become dry and without spirit. The Presbyterian church has gone back to a process of ministry recently- going to inquirer, to candidate, to seminary student (passing seminary, ordination exams, presbytery exams), to ordained minister.
Calvin emphasized instead giving a good Christian education to young people. He said that God could have raised up angels, but instead raises up teachers to lead the children. God works through the church and the people of the church to bring children up. So teaching children and young people is so very important. Too many today downplay the importance of church. But one of the great secondary blessings of church to parents is having someone else reinforce the beliefs and values they have been trying to teach their children. I can remember clearly Dr. John Leith saying that he would rather have as his minister someone who grew up in the church , though not as serious about their beliefs than someone who is very zealous and excited about their faith but did not grow up in the church. It took me years to understand this point of view. Excitement can die down and usually does. But experience in worship as the people of God is an enriching experience that usually keeps the church in the narrow way. Christian education is an important part of the Christian life. Calvin believed strongly in loving God with the mind as well as the heart and soul. One of his cherished accomplishments was starting the academy in Geneva for young people and future ministers. One of the great gifts the Protestant Reformation gave was literacy. Before only the educated clergy and a few nobles could read the Bible, and that was in Latin or Greek and Hebrew. Luther translated the Bible into German. Calvin had the Bible translated into French and English (Geneva Bible). They wanted everyone to read so that they could read the scriptures for themselves. Christian education was not separated from education. Today we need to recapture the idea that education is not just for a job, or for pride (think Tower of Babel-where new technology led to downfall, pride, and separation from God and each other). Education is a blessing that we should use to glorify God. In our increasingly secular society, it is so very important for parents to see the need for their children to have faith. Faith is a gift that helps the young face the problems of life with strength and courage. Faith is an inspiration that keeps young people from making bad decisions. Faith does not come by accident. Even though Calvin believed in the sovereignty of God, he also emphasized the need to use human means to teach young people. God uses the church, its Christian education program, teachers and parents as blessings to children when they seek to honor God.

Prayer: Lord, help us to care for young people. Give us grace to speak and teach our young people.

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