Monday, July 6, 2009

Calvin's pulpit, Sinclair Ferguson preaching

After introducing ma belle, Cheryl and Brittany to Joel Beeke, his wife, his brother and his wife, he said to Cheryl, “What troubles it must be for you being married to someone with so much imagination.” I first met Joel in Cambridge a year and a half ago. He was kind enough to write a perceptive endorsement of The Betrayal. He admitted that he had only had time to skim the book in manuscript before writing his endorsement but that he read it with enjoyment on the flight over to Geneva. Had short chats with Michael Horton, Phil Ryken, David Hall, Steven Lawson, and others.
I had a nice chat with Sinclair Ferguson, and greeted him on behalf of Eric and Irene MacCallum, our good friends in Newmilns, Scotland (where Covenant High School students are graciously hosted on our UK trips), whose children went to St. George’s Tron Church in Glasgow where Sinclair used to pastor and where we had the privilege of hearing him as a family in 2001 (readers of my Crown & Covenant Trilogy have seen his gracious endorsement of that series). He now pastors First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina. His text was Philippians 3:7-15, and he challenged each of us to value our relationship with Christ far above all other things. Of Paul he made the observation that two paths lay before him when confronted with the stalwart Stephen: destroy Christ’s Stephen, or bow before Stephen’s Christ. His application of the text on the surpassing excellence of Christ: Gathered here in Calvin’s church are many dozens of pastors, 6 seminary presidents, 27 seminary professors, 1 archbishop, and authors collectively of over 300 books. Do we consider all these things no better than dung compared with the excellency of being known by and knowing Christ Jesus our Lord.

After the morning service we enjoyed a delightful group lunch at the Les Armures restaurant in the shadow of the cathedral and the Hotel de Ville where Geneva’s City Council has convened for centuries (it is a tourist destination since an American family by the name of Clinton dined here; didn’t know that before we booked some time ago; oh well). Some then toured the Reformation Museum next to the cathedral, others climbed the cathedral tower for glorious views of the city and the lake, others to hear a Canadian choir rehears in the Auditoire, others stopped at a café for a Calvin biere, only to be caught in a violent thunder and lightning storm and get absolutely drenched.

In the 6 PM service, the Rt. Rev. Henry Orombi, Archbishop (Anglican) of Uganda (you have read about him in the news if you have followed any of the American Episcopalian controversies) spoke from Matthew 24:45-51--"Who is the faithful servant whom the Master has set over His household?" Dr. Orombi became a Christian at age 18, and considers himself a spiritual descendant of faithful English missionaries of the late 19th Century, many of whom were martyred there for their faith. He focused on the spiritual decline and darkness of Europe, and the worsening spiritual condition of the American church. It was striking to hear this man of God ask us (pampered Americans that we are), "Where is your boldness for the Gospel?" He challenged the ministers present to feed Christ's sheep by faithfully preaching His Word.
After a reception hosted by the Church of Scotland congregation of Geneva that meets in the Auditoire, there was an evening Psalm singing service, and then Dr. Bryan Chappel, president of Covenant Seminary in St. Louis preached from Ephesians 1:3-6, “In Praise of Predestination.” He emphasized that in his text “in Christ” appears 12 times, that we have been loved forever by a loving heavenly father who chose us not for what was in us but for what is in Christ. I would summarize his emphasis like this: Rather than allowing predestination to become a point of controversy we ought to see it as the ground of doxology. He quoted from an oldie Dan Fogelberg (sic) pop lyric paraphrased as: before the fishes were in the ocean, before the stars were in the sky… I’ve been in love with you. On a far higher plane, so it is with the infinite, electing love of the Father toward his children. Certainly God is absolutely sovereign in predestination, but here we see a loving heavenly father loving unworthy wretches from all eternity, and organizing all human history for out adoption, redemption and sanctification, in Christ. It was one of the most thrilling sermons I have ever heard or read on this foundational doctrine, recovered by Calvin and proclaimed from this very pulpit.

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