The Calvin Jubilee Sermon Writing Contest and Me

Today the results were announced officially: I am one of four winners of an international sermon writing contest put on by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Swiss Protestant Church on the occasion of John Calvin’s 500th birthday.

I don’t think of myself as the kind of person who wins contests. Usually, I don’t even win board games. And when I was in seminary one of my preaching professors told me that I was a miserable preacher who would never amount to anything as a clergyman. I’m pretty sure she was just being petty and insecure, but still, those kinds of comments can stick with you, nagging, mocking any sense of self-worth, belittling even the smallest accomplishment.

So it feels good to be one of the winners of this competition, good to be reminded that we’re not defined by our inner voices or by the opinions of our teachers.

And here’s the best part: the World Alliance of Reformed Churches is flying me to Geneva to attend the official worship service celebrating John Calvin’s birth, and my wife, Anne, gets to come along. To be with my favorite person in my favorite city is about the best gift imaginable.

Who knew winning could be so much fun?

P.S. I don’t think I own the copyright for my sermon so I cannot publish it here, but you can download a copy from the Calvin Jubilee site.

10 thoughts on “The Calvin Jubilee Sermon Writing Contest and Me

  1. Hi, Ben. Great sermon! Is it ironic or just God’s sense of humor that the cathedral in Geneva is St Peter’s?

    The Byzantine Churches have long shared the tradition of worship in the language of the people. Unfortunately, when the Church travels from the original home of the people, sometimes there’s a bitter battle over adapting to the language of the new home of the people, which in just a couple of generations becomes the new language of the people. I believe, and I try to practise in my congregation, that the change has to come from within the people. We have to offer the riches of the Tradtion in the new language, but we cannot force it. Sometimes people want to hold on to the “old Country” language beause worship sounds right to them in it; but sometimes they are just waiting to discover how they can praise and pray in their new language. I’ve got so accustomed to Liturgy in Arabic and in English that sometimes I’m not even aware of which language is being used–and I don’t SPEAK Arabic! Maybe that makes me a little bit pentecostal.

    Thanks, as always, for your good words. Peace & blessings,

  2. Thanks, James.

    Maybe God uses lots of irony in his sense of humor. I hope so. I never really thought about the cathedral’s patron saint–I’ve always thought it was funny that they still call the building a cathedral, given the fact that its been something like 476 years since any bishop set foot in the place as anything but a guest or a tourist. Ah well.

    It’s an interesting balancing act, keeping enough tradition to teach and enrich our spiritual lives while remaining relevant. Call it the great ecclesiastical dance…



  3. Pingback: John Calvin’s 500th Birthday: Reason to Celebrate at

  4. my morning pentecost

    This morning I read a friend’s sermon. As I sat in contemplation, I had a vision. I was joined by people of varied places, of many ages, and even from different times in human history. There was drumming. There was chanting. Here is what I heard and some of whom I saw.

    Pentru draga mea venerabil frate

    Se ţine pe păstrarea pe.

    Te iubesc, copilul meu criminal al lui Dumnezeu.

    – a lonely and scared young woman of the street in Romania

    Att min käre Pastor bror

    Håll på att hålla på

    Jag älskar er, mina barn om Gud.

    – Albert Nobel in the tongue of his homeland (Swedish)

    Mi querido hermano reverendo

    Mantener en el mantenimiento de

    Te amo, mi colega hijo de Dios.

    – a group of children using the tongue of la teología de la liberación (Spanish)

    To my dear Reverend anh em

    Giữ trên giữ trên

    I love you, tôi người con của Thượng đế.

    – three elderly Vietnamese men who witnessed to the atrocity of war

    à mon cher frère, le révérend

    continuer à garder le

    je t’aime, mon cher enfant de Dieu

    – John Calvin in his native tongue (French)

    To my dear reverend brother:

    Keep on keeping on.

    I love you, my fellow child of God.

    – Brothers Malcolm and Martin – a great many others & me

    You show me God. You show me that faith remains alive. You bring tears of joy to my eyes.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.