Friday, July 10, 2009

Calvin tour onward to Noyon

9 July, 2009… One day to Calvin’s quincentenary! We loaded the coach and set off for Reims and Calvin’s birthplace, Noyon in Picardy, the rolling hills of Alsace Lorraine alternating between golden wheat and lush green cornfields flank the coach as we motor to our objectives. I led us in prayer at the coach microphone, a prayer Calvin included in his commentary on the book of Hosea. Calvin seems to be redemptive historical in his approach to expounding the Bible so even in this Old Testament, Minor Prophetic book , he is full and overflowing with Christ the Redeemer.
We then sang Johann Heermann’s hymn, Ah Holy Jesus, the grand spire of Strasbourg Cathedral growing smaller behind us as we leave the city. Heermann studied at the University of Strasbourg and may have gotten early inspiration for his marvelous hymns from hearing the grand organ reverberating off the stone vaulting of that great cathedral. He later pastored a church in Westphalia during the 30-Years War, in which Heermann labored to comfort his beleaguered congregation against the brutal troops of the Holy Roman Empire closing in with blood and destruction on all sides. Twice he was wounded while attempting to guide his flock to safety, once fired upon repeatedly while crossing a river at night.

Paul Darby told us a wonderful story of his father’s heroic role as platoon leader in the conquest of Metz in WW II, and of how in his fear for his life he fell to his knees one night in a French farmhouse near Metz and begged God to save his soul and spare his life in the hellish conflict in which he found himself. It was a thoughtful witness to our Dutch coach driver, Bert. Bert spends heaps of time with us, often having meals with us, and strolling around, viewing historic sites, even listening to my talks; he actually applauded in Worms!

I read an excerpt from Stand Fast about C. S. Lewis’s time in WW I as we passed by Verdun, the Battle there commencing February 21, 1916. Lewis was wounded in 1918 at the Battle of Arras, taken to a field hospital in Etaples (remember Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples the Wycliffe of France?), then back to England and a hospital on the Salisbury Plane where he began writing bitter, arrogant, atheist poetry--atheist poetry cursing God for the horrors Lewis had experienced in WW I. He eventually would see his own inconsistencies, perhaps better than most.
We stopped for lunch in Reims where the German’s surrendered to the Allies in WW II before the official surrender in Berlin. We strolled around the old town and visited the magnificent cathedral, “The Westminster Abbey of France,” the tomb of many French monarchs and VIPs through the centuries. No Calvin connection, to my knowledge, but, hey, a body’s got to eat lunch somewhere.

Noyon and the Hotel l’Cedre, directly across from the cathedral where Calvin received his benefices first in 1521 (while Luther shouting, “Here I stand!” to the emperor), and “two steps,” according to the hotel web site (it’s actually two short blocks), from Calvin’s birthplace museum. We’re here and tomorrow is his 500th! Imagine 500 years ago this night, July 9th, 1509, as Gerard and Jeanne Franc reviewed their La Maus (sp?) breathing exercises and prepared for John Calvin’s birth next day. Little did they know the role God had set their son apart for in the years ahead.

No comments:

Post a Comment