The French reformer John Calvin was born at Noyon in Picardy in 1509 and, since he was intended for an ecclesiastical career, he received the tonsure and his first benefice at the age of twelve, not untypical at this time. Two years later he began studying theology at Paris but for some reason changed to law and moved to Orléans where he came under his first Protestant influences. He broke with the Roman Catholic Church in 1533, having had a religious experience which he believed commissioned him to purify and restore the Church of Christ. The first edition of his Institutes appeared in 1536, being a justification of Reformation principles.
Calvin accepted a position in Geneva which involved organising the Reformation in that city and, after a sojourn in Strassburg, spent the rest of his life there. His pre-eminence could be seen in that he wrote to the Protector Somerset in England indicating to him what changes he felt should be made and corresponded similarly with other nations’ leaders. During all this, his literary output never wavered. His immense reputation and influence have continued in the churches of the Reform to the present day. He died on this day in 1564.
Isaiah 6. 1–8
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’ Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’
“Here I am send me to be your hands and feet, here I am send me I will go”, these are the words of the bridge in Vicky Beeching’s song ‘Break Our Hearts’. Powerful words, words God wants to be hearing from us! The second verse of the song goes: “It’s time to move outside our comfort zones, to see beyond our churches and our homes. To change the way we think and how we spend, until we look like Jesus again”. I’m grateful to the work and words of, particularly Lawrence Moore, focussing on how we can be a more Jesus-shaped people, in a Jesus-shaped Church, making a Jesus-shaped difference. The words of Vicky Beeching very much resonate with this idea. Calvin’s work also hinted at something like this too: Living our lives and proclaiming God’s sovereignty to the world. Research says there’s nothing to dislike about Jesus, a large majority of people see Jesus as someone positive. However these same people’s opinions on Church are, however, far less positive. How do we solve that? Make Church look more like Jesus! Our churches need to ensure that no-one is left out, that they are places of welcome, places of sanctuary. They need not be confined by the four walls but be outgoing and open to change.
Dynamic God, Speak through our hearts today, As you spoke all those years ago to Calvin. Helps us be engines of change, And voices for the poor and marginalised Send us out as your people, filled with your love To do your work, and make your Kingdom come Amen
Dan Morrell, currently attending St Andrew’s, Roundhay is Immediate-Past Youth Assembly Moderator
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