Winning Calvin Sermon: 'You Go Nowhere By Accident'
A sermon that examines God’s providence in His care, guidance, will and purpose for all humans was selected as the winning entry in the Alma College Sermon Contest celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin.
Keith Geiselman, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Ypsilanti was awarded the $500 first prize for his sermon titled “You Go Nowhere By Accident.”
Presbyterian clergy, lay pastors and seminarians from the Synod of the Covenant — a region encompassing approximately 800 churches in Michigan and Ohio — were invited to write and submit a sermon on ways in which Calvin’s 16th century theology are beneficial to 21st century Christians.
Alma College Chaplain Carol Gregg presents the first prize certificate to Pastor Keith Geiselman.
Calvin, born in 1509, was a French theologian during the Protestant Reformation and the father of the Christian belief system called “Reformed tradition” or “Calvinism.”
“We determined a year ago to acknowledge John Calvin, who is considered the founder of Presbyterianism, by sponsoring this contest,” said Carol Gregg, chaplain at the Presbyterian Church USA-affiliated Alma College.
“Our team of faculty judges were encouraged that pastors wanted to talk about Calvin’s history in their churches,” she said. “We were pleased with the creative applications of Calvin’s theology and how pastors made them relevant to their congregations. We appreciated all the entrants who took the time to prepare and deliver sermons.”
Winning the $300 second prize was Robert Carlson, pastor at The Presbyterian Church of Okemos. Jeff Garrison, pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Hastings, was awarded the $200 third prize.
Geiselman wrote in his sermon how the simple statement “You go nowhere by accident” reinforces Calvin’s teaching on God’s providence and how God is “involved in our life and creation.” He quoted Calvin, who wrote: “God not only drives the…world and all its parts in a universal motion, but sustains, nourishes and cares for every creature, even for the little birds. … When we speak of the providence of God, this does not signify that God, remaining idle in the heavens, watches over what is happening on earth; rather God is like the captain of a ship, holding the helm in order to cope with every event.”
“Faith is indispensable to anyone who wishes to grasp what the Providence of God is and how far it extends,” wrote Geiselman. “Where a nonbeliever can see only the play of natural forces or the effect of chance, believers will perceive the hand of God.”
The faculty judges described the winning sermon as “inspired, lively, appealing to a wide audience, coherent and on-point from beginning to end.”
Calvin was renowned in his lifetime for his scholarly sermons, said Brian Stratton, chair of the religious studies department at Alma College.
"John Calvin is arguably history's most important Protestant theologian whose influence extends far beyond the Reformed tradition to other Christian denominations and into the secular and political spheres of life,” said Stratton.
Posted: Thu, March 4th, 2010 at 9:00AM