“Shunning Ostentation” & How Calvinism Has Screwed with Me

Related to this central affirmation of God’s sovereignty are other great themes of the Reformed tradition: A faithful stewardship that shuns ostentation and seeks proper use of the gifts of God’s creation. From F-2.05 in the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Sometimes groups want me to lead their retreats/training/workshops and – because I am not Jen Hatmaker – I have no agents and no contracts.  Asking people to complete and return a contract before I will put them on my calendar smacks of my thinking too much of myself.  As if I’m all that.

But over the weekend, I realized that I have double-booked myself: two women’s retreats with two different churches from two different towns, blessedly at the same location on the same weekend.  My options – in addition to obviously revealing my lack or organizational skills when it comes to my outside gigs include these:

  • Go back and forth between the two groups in hopes of covering both retreats even if it looks like an episode of I Love Lucy.
  • Just say no to one church.  (They literally asked on the same day -hence my confusion and how hard it would be to pick.)
  • Ask one of them to reschedule.  (At least one of these groups made reservations at the conference center a year in advance.)

One sure thing – not optional – is that I have disappointed people.  This is part of life and it’s definitely part of Church – but I hate it. And I blame John Calvin.

We Presbyterians are taught to shun ostentation.  One of my siblings literally asked me once what I would think of him if he drove a Mercedes – because he found a good deal on one.  After a serious conversation, he decided to pass on the Mercedes because of the way it would look for a Christian to drive a Mercedes.

We Presbyterians – and definitely we Edmistons – are not like Joel Osteen  – or any other tradition that believes that displaying great wealth = displaying one’s blessedness and therefore inspires others to aspire.  (I can feel my parents shudder in their graves as I type this.)

But with me personally, it has meant taking myself seriously as a person who is asked to lead things beyond my regular day job – which is also a night job.  I love meeting with new leaders, women, men, youth, seminarians, other denominations, secular organizations, etc. because it gives me hope and energy.  And it – so far – doesn’t take away from my regular ministry.  In fact, it enhances my regular ministry and I always learn things to take back to my corner of the Church.

We’re not talking about scores of invitations here.  We’re talking about a handful over the course of a year.  But I’ve been so busy shunning ostentation/considering that what I do is important enough for a contract that I’ve found myself in a pickle.  Two retreats on the same weekend.

I need to write and require a Covenant for groups to complete before I agree to meet with them – unless they are part of my day to day ministry.  This makes me feel like I think I’m hot $#&^.  But it looks like I need to organize this ministry better.

And to be fair, Calvin is not all bad.  Sometimes he is right on target:

“We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours. Conversely, we are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal.”  John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.VII.1

Also Jesus.

Image of my new covenant form.  

One response to ““Shunning Ostentation” & How Calvinism Has Screwed with Me

  1. What a dilemma! Any way you can help 1 congregation find a substitute for you? I cannot imagine the amount of emotional energy (physical, too!) trying to bird dog it between the two would take, but I’m sure it’s excessive. My mother is Presbyterian and I’ve always been attracted to the austerity of it. A little austerity is good for us all, IMO. But not at the cost of exhausting yourself. You will make your choice and abide by it, and for all I know it will be the right one in retrospect–heck, it may even end up being a gift as so many of these dilemmas do, longterm. But I hope you don’t wear yourself out–that serves nobody at all, not even God. 🙂


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