6/15/23 Devotional from Ed
June 15, 2023
Text: Isaiah 43:1-2
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
There must be others like me during childhood, maybe even now - those who heard John Calvin’s name at church, maybe even mentioned by a preacher, and immediately felt their mind drift. Preacher, why can’t you just tell me a funny story? Why do we have to get all scholarly right now?
Truthfully, I still have a hard time reading some of Calvin’s works, despite my Presbyterian upbringing and attending a Presbyterian seminary. I like to move quickly on everything, including reading, but when I’m asked to look at some of Calvin’s writings, I have to really slow down. I didn’t love reading Shakespeare in high school (don’t judge), usually needing a study guide, and I find myself needing a study guide for John Calvin’s writings.
Why am I telling you this? A church member called yesterday and explained his rough circumstances, and just this morning I read the following summary of an important Calvin argument from Serene Jones, president of Union Seminary in New York City. This is the Spirit at work:
“The central human protagonist – which is every single human being at the end of the day – is an underdog, the little guy or gal, the besieged in all of us. According to Calvin’s story about humanity, almost no one falls outside this broad description. To be human is to be downtrodden and struggling against the odds, whatever those odds might be.
Speaking to the downtrodden, Calvin then acknowledges that the task of simply staying alive under such conditions, must less thriving amid them is hard. At times, it is seemingly impossible. But he encourages you to move forward nevertheless. And do so knowing God is with you all along the way, encouraging you, pulling for you, giving you the strength you need to keep on going, even when you stumble and fall. This divine imperative to strenuously press forward in the face of life’s hardships is constant. In fact, it’s the most basic feature of Calvin’s story of humanity’s quest.”
May we keep moving forward, despite our struggles.
Prayer: Holy God, thank you for giving us strength, and thank you for those in our lives who are your hands, voice, and feet, those who also encourage us. Fill us with your Spirit this day and beyond. Amen.
Work Cited: Jones, Serene. Call it Grace: Finding Meaning in a Fractured World. (New York: Penguin Random House, 2019), 26-27.