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John & Kathy

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John Calvin

Calvin’s Life

Born in 1509 in Noyon, Picardy, 60 miles north of Paris.
Came from a home with some difficult experiences
One of five children born to his mother.
Charles, John, Antoine, Francois, and another Antoine.
Antoine and Francois both died young.
John’s mom died when he was no more than 6 years old.
His dad remarried and his new wife gave birth to two more sisters.
Sent away to Paris for college at the age of 11 or 12
Went to a monastery to be trained for the priesthood
In a bad part of town - open sewers, thieves and cutthroats
Up at 4am, classes and work all day, only two evenings with free time a week
Went to the University of Paris to get his bachelor of arts degree before studying theology
Because of Luther’s influence, John was sent from the university to a law school at 16 or 17
During this time he preached in the local church and learned Greek
John’s dad died when he was 21 in 1531, he wrote a letter at the time that indicated he wasn’t close to his father
Fled to the countryside briefly when the plague broke out in Paris, returned a year later with his doctoral thesis on a Roman stoic - Seneca
In 1533, Calvin’s friend Nicolas Cop gave a fiery sermon about reforming the church along the lines of Luther to open the winter session of the University of Paris
The sermon sparked a riot
By December a warrant for Cops arrest had been issued
It is speculated that the sermon was actually written by Calvin who at this time, along with Cop, disappeared from France. John escaped from his bedroom window using sheets and disguising himself as a vinedresser
Calvin laid low around Paris until 1534 when we was forced to flee France after a Protestant defiance of Mass led to the king arrested and executing many protestants
Early Adulthood
Calvin began to openly identify with the Reformation and experienced a transformation in his theology as he sought to be teachable under the Scripture
In 1536, while living in Basel, Calvin finally released the first edition of his greatest work, Institutes of the Christian Religion
Calvin returned to Paris, picked up his brother Antoine and sister Marie, and intended to move to Strasbourg and study, perhaps for the rest of his life
Calvin had to detour because of a local war between the French and the Holy Roman Emperor, the detour was through the Swiss city of Geneva
In Geneva, Calvin met a protestant leader named Guillaume Farel, who recognized Calvin and threatened to curse him if he left Geneva
Calvin settled into Geneva where he would remain for most of the rest of his life
John’s first goal in Geneva was to establish a church that would preach the Word and practice it
He ran into conflict with some of the wealthy Genevans, but eventually was able to submit Articles on the Organization of the Church and its Worship in Geneva and have it accepted by the civil authorities
During this period, Servetus was executed as well
Conflict grew with the city leaders over who was in charge of aspects of the church until the Tuesday after Easter, after being in the city only 18 months, Calvin and Farel were kicked out
Calvin moved to Strasbourg and did a tremendous amount of writing, including a major revision to his Institutes
Farel and others kept trying to set Calvin up with a wife, but he didn’t want to marry...
…until he met Idelette de Bure, a widow with two children, to whom he was married very quickly
They had a happy marriage, but a short one marked with tragedy
Idelette died nine years after marriage, being sick most of the time
They had one son together, Jacques, who died shortly after birth
Calvin was called to return to Geneva in 1540, but didn’t want to initially
“because I know that I am not my own master, I offer my heart as a true sacrifice to the Lord.”
Calvin returned to Geneva, and preached from the next verse in the book he had left off at when he was kicked out of town
Calvin reformed the church and the local government in Geneva
He preached twice on Sundays, and Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
After a break from this rigorous schedule, he preached twice on Sunday and then every day of alternate weeks - averaging 250 sermons a year
During this period he experienced person loss and family shame
His life was publicly threatened by those in the city who didn’t like him
His older brother Charles was accused of heresy and kicked out of the church and then died
His younger brother Antoine, who had a rough marriage, had an affair with Calvin’s household servant and then was divorced
Calvin’s stepdaughter was found guilty of adultery
Calvin wrote that he felt too ashamed to leave his house
Calvin persevered through these difficulties and more attacks from the elites in the city
His sermons also began to be fully recorded - 2,043 of them!
In 1559, after 20 years of planning, he was able to build The Academy of Geneva to train preachers
Final Days
Calvin published the final edition of his Institutes in 1559, now four times longer than the first edition
He had failing health, but taught and served as much as he could
He died in 1564 at the age of 55 and was buried in a simple box with only a mound of dirt as a grave marker, at his own wishes

Calvin’s Legacy

Transformed - the Gospel of Jesus at work in the heart of John Calvin redirected his life from being a priest or lawyer, to a preacher of the Word of God
Humbled - Calvin’s life was dominated by holiness and humility
“I am convinced that [the holiness of God] is one of the most important ideas that a Christian can ever grapple with. It is basic to our whole understanding of God and of Christianity.”
“…if you ask me concerning the precepts of the Christian religion, first, second, third, and always I would answer, ‘Humility.’”
Faithful - He remained joyfully committed to God despite so many losses, difficulties, and setbacks
Caring - He spent a good deal of time comforting people and counseling them through very difficult experiences
Biblical - He loved God’s Word and loved sharing it with others. In contrast to the Roman Catholic Church that didn’t even want to translate the Bible into a language people could read, Calvin preached thousands of sermons and his collected works fill actual bookshelves (well over 100 volumes) of commentaries, theological writings, letters, sermons, tracts, education and civil documents, and more!
Today we often hear people speak of Calvinism, by which they usually mean a particular view of theology that magnifies the sovereignty of God in all things, but I want us to not pigeon hole Calvin into a system of theology, but learn from him as a man who loved God so completely, and was so mastered by God in all that he was, that his life continues to be a blessing to the church right down to this day

Katherina von Bora

Katherine’s Life

Born in January of 1499
Her mother died and her father remarried when she was 10 and sent her to a nunnery at Nimschen
At the age of 16 she took the vows of a nun
She heard of Luther’s teaching in her 20s
She and 8 other nuns secretly met with Luther and plotted to escape, which was dangerous since the duke hated Luther and had executed a man already for helping nuns escape
They were smuggled out by Leanard Kopp, a friend of Luther’s, who delivered smoked herring to the nunnery - this all happened the night before Easter when Jesus rose from the tomb
They arrived in Wittenberg, and were eager to marry
“A wagon load of vestal virgins has just come to town all more eager for marriage than for life. May God give them husbands lest worse befall.”
Luther worked hard to marry the nuns off, including Katherine who was quite beautiful (she was given a gold ring by a visiting duke)
She almost married a young man roughly her age, but he eventually decided against it
Luther tried to marry her to a friend Dr. Glatz, but she sent a friend to let Luther know that she would under no circumstances marry him - but…she would consider marriage to Luther or Amsdorf
Luther did not want to be married “not because I am a sexless log or stone, but because I expect daily the death of a heretic.”
Eventually, however, he gave in to the idea of marriage for the following reasons: his marriage would please his father, rile the pope, make the angels laugh and the devils weep, and would seal his testimony (he was also encouraged to marry by Argula, whom we will meet later…)
Endured sharp and public criticism
“Woe to you, poor fallen woman, not only because you have passed from light to darkness, from the cloistered holy religion into a damnable, shameful life, but also that you have gone from the grace to the disfavor of God, in that you have left the cloister in lay clothes and have gone to Wittenberg like a chorus girl. You are said to have lived with Luther in sin. Then you have married him, forsaking Christ your bridegroom. You have broken your vow and by your example have reduced many godly young women in the cloisters to a pitiable state of body and of soul, despised of all men.”
Faced great danger and was warned by Luther that she would face martyrdom at his side most likely if they married
They were officially betrothed (married) in June of 1525 (she was 26)
Married Life
They married, not because of romance, but because of conviction (Luther), and convenience (Katherine), but they did fall in love with each other over time
“I am not madly in love, but I cherish my wife.”
“I would not change Katie for France or for Venice, for God has given her to me and other women have worse faults. She has a few but her virtues outweigh them.
[A year later and ongoing]
“My wife is compliant, accommodating, and affable beyond anything I dared to hope. I would not exchange my poverty for the riches of Croesus.”
Carissima - dear; Meine Herzliebe - my heart love
“If I should lose my Katie I would not take another wife though I were offered a queen.”
“The Morning Star of Wittenberg” - both a term of endearment and a joke about how early woke up
“In domestic affairs I defer to Katie. Otherwise I am led by the Holy Ghost.”
Began to work on turning Luther from an old bachelor into a proper husband
Luther reported amazement on waking in the morning to find pigtails on the pillow. He also confessed in some of his writings that for more than a year at a time he would tumble into an unmade bed until the straw decomposed.
Luther also liked to run off on a whim, but when Luther wanted to leave for the marriage of a friend even though that meant traveling through a warzone of marauding bands, Katie said no and Luther stayed.
Katherine was much more financially wise than Luther and did much to keep them afloat
She was known to accept financial gifts that Luther tended to reject, and even hid an expensive present that Luther was going to send to a friend once because they couldn’t afford it
Luther sometimes joked in a German wordplay that his wife was not just his Kethe, but his Kette (chains), but also saw how she helped him. His usual greeting was “I and my rib send greetings to you and your rib and all the little ribs.”
Katherine was skilled in ministering to Luther through his diseases, depressions, and eccentricities
“Katherine had great skill with diet, herbs, poultices, and massages. Her son, later a distinguished physician, praise her as half a doctor.” (p. 29)
Once Luther locked himself in his study for three days and Katie eventually had the door removed. Luther also continued to mend his own robes, but on at least one occasion, cut up his son Hans’ breeches to make the patch.
Katherine cared for a teeming household of people
They were gifted the Augustinian Cloister where Luther had lived as a monk
Katherine cared for six children and 40 rooms worth of visitors
The Duke said Luther was conducting an assylum for renegades
Katherine remodeled the Black Cloister, built three cellars and an extra stairway, installed a bath and laundry, and built a brewery
She tended a garden with peas, beans, turnips, cabbage, lettuce, cucumbers, and melons
She had an orchard with nuts, grapes, mulberries, and figs
She bought another garden with a river to catch pike, trout, and carp
She raised livestock including pigs, cows, chickens, pigeons, geese, and the family dog Tolpel (that Luther said would go to heaven when he died)
Katherine also invested in real estate to care for herself when Luther died and bought a farm at Zulsdorf
She loved her children and grieved tragic losses
October 21, 1525 - “Katie is fulfilling Genesis 3:8 where the Lord God said to the woman, ‘In pain shall you bring forth children.’”
June 7, 1526, Hans is born - “Little Hans salutes you. He begins to cut teeth and blithely scolds every one. Such are the fruit and joy of marriage, of which the pope is not worthy.”
Elizabeth, born in 1527, lived less than a year. Two days after her death, Luther wrote: “My little Elisabeth is dead. I am left as weak as a woman. I would never have believed that the hearts of parents are so moved toward their children.”
Katherine taught her children music and art
They lost another daughter, Lenchen, at 14
Katherine was a lively conversationalist
Called Luther Herr Doktor
Asked questions to learn
She asked Luther to define “Dialectic.” Luther replied, “Dialectic is knowing how to do the washing. Rhetoric is getting it done.” She also is recorded to have asked, “How could David say, ‘Judge me according to my righteousness,’ when he didn’t have any?”
Rebuked Luther when he went to far
“Oh come now, that’s too raw.”
Loved application, not just information
“I’ve read enough. I’ve heard enough. I know enough. Would to God I lived it.”
Gave him courage
Joked with him
July 29, 1534: “Grace and Peace in Christ, dear Lord Katie! Yesterday I had a good drink. I thought of what good win and beer I have at home and a lovely wife, or should I say lord? You’d do well to send me our whole cellar full of wine and a flask of beer as soon as you can. I commend you to God with all the young ones and relatives. Dein liebchen (Your darling)”
Cared for him in his old age
Endured the loss of her home twice due to wars
Was injured by horses that bolted over a rough road and never recovered
“I will stick to Christ as a burr to a top coat.”
“Let the wife make her husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.”

Katherine’s Legacy

Changed her whole worldview because of the Gospel
Embraced the fullness of biblical femininity
Was instrumental in the work that Luther would do
Was a source of care and blessing to hundreds through their home
Saw that the truths of Scripture must reach your fingertips
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