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Location: Charles City, Virginia, United States

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Medicine for the Sick, Life for the Dead

John Calvin sometimes gets a bad rap. People accuse this 16th-century refugee theologian of creating a cold, heartless God who enjoys frying people.

But that's not the Calvin I see when I read his commentaries on the Bible, or his Institutes of the Christian Religion. I see a pastor-scholar-theologian who's awestruck at God's love and beauty, excited about the Holy Spirit at work in our world, passionately concerned about helping the ordinary uneducated folks who just want to know how to love God and love their neighbors, and wickedly sarcastic when confronting the wolves who've been preying on those everyday folks.
I've been especially helped by reading Calvin's observations about the Lord's Supper...serving the Supper to people is one of the most amazing parts of my pastoral work, but it's also one of the most mysterious. Calvin certainly leaves lots of room for mystery, but he's good at explaining what can be explained. This passage, on deciding whether we feel "worthy" to receive the Lord's Supper, was beautifully encouraging:
[after discussing and rejecting the false idea that we must root out all our sin before coming to the Table]: "Surely the devil could find no speedier means of destroying men than by so maddening them that they could not taste and savor this food, with which their most gracious Father had willed to feed them! In order, therefore, not to rush headlong into such ruin, let us remember that this sacred feast is medicine for the sick, solace for sinners, alms to the poor; but would bring no benefit to the 'healthy,' 'righteous,' and 'rich'--if any such could be found! For since in it Christ is given to us as food, we understand that without him we would pine away, starve, and faint--as famine destroys the vigor of the body....Therefore, this is the worthiness, the best and only kind we can bring to God: to offer our vileness and our unworthiness to him so that his mercy may make us worthy of him; to despair in ourselves so that we may be comforted in him; to accuse ourselves so that we may be justified by him...moreover, to aspire to that unity which he commends to us in his Supper; and, as he makes all of us one in himself, to desire one soul, one heart, one tongue for us all...we shall think that we, as being poor, come to a kindly Giver; as sick, to a Physician; as sinners, to the Author of righteousness; finally, as dead, to Him who gives us life."

3 Comments:

said...

I see the same Calvin. It's nice to know I'm not alone.

6:36 PM  
said...

you know i love it when you quote calvin

3:43 PM  
said...

Keep up the good work.

5:18 AM  

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