Saturday, May 2, 2009

5/2- Importance of Church

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

7 Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: 8 There was a man all alone;
he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. "For whom am I toiling," he asked, "and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?" This too is meaningless— a miserable business! 9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If they fall down,
they can help each other up. But pity those who fall and have no one to help them up! 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4)
Calvin: [Ordinances for the Supervision of Country Churches written by Calvin- passed by the Genevan Council 2/3/1547- )
1. Everyone in each house is to come on Sundays, unless it be necessary to leave someone behind to take care of children or animals, under penalty of 3 sous.
2. If there be preaching any weekday, arranged with due notice, those that are able to go and have no legitimate excuse are to attend, at least one from each house, under penalty as above.
3. Those who have man or maid servants , are to bring them or have them conveyed when possible, so that they do not live like cattle without instruction.
4. Everyone is to be present at Sermon when the prayer is begun, under penalty as above, unless he absent himself for legitimate reason.
5. Everyone is to pay attention during Sermon, and there is to be no disorder or scandal.
6. No one is to leave or go out from the church until the prayer be made at the end of Sermon, under penalty as above, unless he have legitimate cause.
Church is important. The Genevan council agreed (above) that it was to the benefit of the city to have a healthy church. When Calvin was in exile, and the church was regulated to a secondary place, the city sped downhill in terms of crime, immorality, and safety. Despite all the failings of the church, it still remains one of the only consciences of society. The government also serves as a conscience, but as many have said, “You cannot legislate morality.” Of course all laws are agreed upon morals. But, the keeping of laws has to come from the heart. In Calvin’s day the government and the church worked together for what they perceived was the good of the people. That was true in America until 1962- today. Though we had freedom of religion, the majority religious beliefs informed the state. There is a tremendous difference between freedom of religion in which the state openly recognized the value of morals and faith to its people, and freedom of religion in which the state disavows itself from any such recognition.
Today in America fines for not coming to church would be rebelled against. But the secondary purpose of such fines was that those who did not come did not give. The church was the sole institution that took care of the poor and the sick. So, a fee was instituted in part to elevate the importance of church to the state, but also to make sure that everyone played a role in the church’s secular mission to the needy.
The other thing to notice about Calvin’s statement above is that it is a bit legalistic. It is trying to maintain order by rule. One of the distinctions of Calvin’s thought was a desire for order and decency (I Cor. 14). Yet how else is order to be maintained? Calvin was concerned that worship be placed in an important position in our lives, and that we listen in the presence of God.

Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to see the importance of worshiping with your people. Lead me and my family to your house where we might find strength and hope.

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