Sunday, October 11, 2009

10-11 Staying in church

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


24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan's so-called deep secrets, 'I will not impose any other burden on you, 25 except to hold on to what you have until I come.' (Rev. 2:24,25); 4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 Those who are victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out their names from the book of life, but will acknowledge their names before my Father and his angels. (Rev. 3:4,5);

Calvin: I shall start, then, with the church, into whose bosom God is pleased to gather his children, not only that they may be nourished by her help and ministry as long as they are infants and children, but also that they may be guided by her motherly care until they mature and at last reach the goal of faith. “For what God has joined together, it is not lawful to put asunder” [Mark 10:9 p.], so that, for those to whom he is Father the church may also be Mother. And this was so not only under the law but also after Christ’s coming, as Paul testifies when he teaches that we are the children of the new and heavenly Jerusalem [Galatians 4:26]. (IV.1.1)

Thought: Why church? Barbara Brown Taylor wrote about “Leaving Church” and that is what many have chosen to do in our society today. The Presbyterians have gone from 6.2 to 2.1 (Maybe 2.5 if you add in the conservative denominations that broke off). The Episcopalians, Methodists, Lutherans all have experienced similar losses. Today even the Baptists and non-denominational folks are feeling the pinch. There is a feeling that church is not “right” for us anymore. But there is always a tension between on the one hand human pride that judges the church and doesn’t want to put up with others, the sinfulness of the church, and on the other hand the command to be a part of the Church and the true blessing of the Church. For Calvin, the Church is not just visible- not just the walls and steeples, or the denominations and institutions. But it is also frail human beings who believe, and seek to rub up against each other. Often we rub each other the wrong way- irritating one another. Yet, the church is a way to grow in human love. It is hard to love our brothers and sisters in Christ without being a part of the church. I have known some who have left church and have formed a group to just help others in service. But that group becomes the church to them. I have known some who have left denominations to make a better church, but soon those churches grow and form other churches and a denomination and new institution is formed. My point is that real Christians who want to serve Christ have a hard time getting away from church. Just as if you are serious about football, it is hard to not watch it or play it with others, so it is hard to not be followers of Christ with others. So, why not do what Paul says and seek not to divide or leave the church? Why not do what the book of Revelation says and “Hold on and stay”? The Spirit did not say to those who were in a church a vast immorality and bad doctrine to split. Some say that Calvin was in favor of church splits for purer doctrine, but that is not the case. Calvin was in favor of reforming the church, but was forced out after his sermon with Nicolas Cop and various edicts by the king of France. Calvin, throughout his life tried to unite the fledgling Protestant churches. He was somewhat successful with the Czeck (Hussite), Hungarian, Zwinglian churches, but not with the Lutheran churches. There is no way to have a perfect church, Calvinism reminds us of our own imperfections in practice as well as doctrine.

Prayer: Help us, Lord to adhere to your Church. Give us grace to be faithful in a faithless age; loyal in an age of rebellion.

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