Yes, 2009 is indeed the 500th anniversary of the birth of our spiritual ancestor, John Calvin, shown here as his usual jovial self. I know what you’re thinking—“But I haven’t bought a gift!” No worries. His actual birthday isn’t until July 10, so you have plenty of time. And since John doesn’t strike me as a big party animal, you’re probably off the hook anyway.
However, as Presbyterians, we shouldn’t let the year go by without some recognition, so I have decided to preach a sermon series on the theology of Calvin starting this Sunday and continuing through Lent—from a modern perspective.
Before you think that sounds like a real snoozer, look at some of the things John thought were important enough to write about: money and economics (that’s timely, don’t you think?); gender issues in church and society; caring for the world God created (we think we invented this idea); whether or not we should have statues and stained glass windows in church buildings; caring for the poor; education; spirituality; the extent of power the church should have over government and vice versa, or the degree of separation between church and state; who should have vote in local government. Then there are more controversial topics like heresy and, of course, everyone’s favorite—predestination.
We’ll touch on all these subjects and others over the next couple of months. I hope you will revisit those two-dimensional opinions you learned about Calvin from history class because, like all of us, he was very complex and many of the ideas he developed were also complex. Some of them were influential in forming modern Western society, for good or ill. All of them we will look at from our 21st century perspective and needs.
In March I’ll also be leading some Wednesday night programs on the life and times of Calvin so that we can understand better the culture that formed him and his ideas. More about that later.
So let’s get ready to party. Everybody with me this time: ♪ Happy birthday to yooouuu….
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2009