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John Calvin's Birthday 2010

John Calvin's 501st Birthday Celebration

Monday, July 12, 2010*

Bonjour, Mesdames et Monsieurs! For a very long time now I have been aware that many people in your Christian Reformed tradition have assumed that I, oui, I, Jean Calvin, am Dutch. To that assumption I have long replied, “Mais non! Je suis Francaise.” That is, until this past week. Because this past week I have found myself wishing to be from Holland after all. And now after yesterday I can say that almost did I change my nationality for a time. But then, I think the Dutch team did well. They could not overcome the fact that Spain had been elected before the foundation of the world to win. So therefore on this day I will declare that I am a “theologian a la Orange!"

But truly I have never been one much for sports. It brings out the baser competitive side of our depraved and fallen estate. It dams the river of love that God would have us feel for all people. To paraphrase the blessed apostle Paul, “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels and have not love, I am a blaring vuvuzela.” Oui, the vuvuzela. Seldom before in history have we seen the truth of the Bard’s great line about being full of sound and fury but signifying nothing, n’est ce pas?

But the grassy surface of the soccer pitch puts me in mind to mention another thing to you this morning: and that is to declare my wonder at seeing that part of your lovely campus that is called “Calvin’s Nature Preserve.” Will it shock you that I love having my own preserve? I know I have received the reputation of not caring about the creation of our great God. How did this happen? Je ne sais pas. But I do love creation. I love the mountains and the birds of the air. I love the stars. People forget that I had my own theory as to why the Lord God made us to walk on two feet. We do not walk on four legs the way the animals do. We walk upright on two feet and I know the reason why: God wanted us to be able to lift up our heads and see the stars he set into place! Yes, oui, I wrote that.

And so I think your President Byker should have my face painted onto the white dome of the observatory out there. You could even include my hands from my most famous portrait. You remember I was pointing upward. Yes, that is right, I was pointing to the stars! Maybe seeing my face always looking to the stars will remind you that I did not only stay in my study, and neither should you! So consider a new capital campaign to raise money to put my face on the observatory. For surely that, too, can count as “No Greater Task: Hearts and Minds Renewing My Image!”

But we must enjoy also the bounties of creation, and that includes food and drink and this morning, my cake. So bon appetit, merci beaucoup for coming! Merci! Au revoir!

* Actual birthday is July 10.