“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”
- Revelation 22:17 (New International Version)
If the things that are happening at the church Nancy and I attend (Victory Fellowship, Emporia, Kansas) are happening in churches all around the United States, I believe they’re very significant. The bride is in the final stages of preparation for the Bridegroom!
I’ve been through seasons of revival during my 49 years as a Christian pilgrim, but this season of revival is different than anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s as though the rhythms and flows of the Spirit are perfectly timed. One moment our congregational response is exuberant; the next it’s quiet and reflective. And, unlike in times past, our response is both universal and uniquely individual. There are as many beautiful responses as there are people. Some of them are very visible; some seem to be hidden from view. Added together, the responses reflect the powerful reality that Jesus has taken the baton. He’s the worship leader. The ebb, flow, and the dynamism are His doing. As it is written: “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. He says, I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters in the assembly I will sing your praises.” (Hebrews 2:11-12)
This morning’s Pentecost Day service was a perfect example of what I’m sensing. It began for me when we sang a song titled “Even So Come.” As the musicians began to play, the sounds of the violin, the keyboard, the drums, and guitars seemed to be perfectly balanced. Then, the worship began in earnest. It’s was as if Jesus, our Maestro, was saying, “Now…..respond to my grace in the manner I’ve created each of you!” Some people began to spontaneously dance down the aisles. One woman glided effortlessly down one aisle, then another, and another. Grace itself seemed to propelling her along. Then, others got up and also responded in dance. One woman took the hand of a young woman in the row in front of us and the two of them twirled around together, caught up in the moment. The joy on their faces lit up the aisle. Some people clapped their hands. Others raised their hands in surrender.
The beauty of what was happening was that there was no single response that was more appropriate than another. Me? My response to sensing the presence of God has always been tears. So, I cried. The tears didn’t come because I was sad. They came because I was overwhelmed by the grace and love God was shedding upon me. If I’d tried to respond in dance, I’d have only be acting a part, not truly being myself. My tears reflected me as I really am. As Bob Dylan put it so well years ago, “For all those who have eyes and all those who have ears, it is only He who can reduce me to tears.” (“When He Returns” – 1979)
My tears also reflected an inner longing for the day that will one day dawn “when the crooked places will be made straight.” I’ve felt that longing during my time here living near the Flint Hills. I’ve felt it at dawn as I’ve stopped at Mile Marker 109 on the Kansas Turnpike to reflect on my life, realizing that, while I’m a very small speck in a very large universe, I am known and loved. It’s at moments like that I would find myself falling to my knees, then shedding those tears of longing and joy. More than once I’ve found myself praying, “Even so, come Lord Jesus…even so, come! Today would be a perfect day for You to return.”
Nancy has finished reading a really interesting novel titled “Tiger Lily.” A couple of days ago, she read a few pages to me. They were powerful. The main character was describing her father, a blind Episcopal priest. The most memorable thing she remembered about him was that he truly enjoyed being in the presence of God and walking with Him. As she put it, he just didn’t know about God, he knew Him intimately.
Can you imagine that? Enjoying being in God’s presence. That’s not the way many of us moderns look at it. The talk on the street all too often seems to be, “This God thing will make you miserable…You need to accumulate things or cling to some politician to solve your problems or scratch you where you itch or kiss you where you like to be kissed.
How do we manage to get it all so wrong?
Maybe one of the reasons this revival of worship seems different lately is that the veneer has been scraped off the world systems and we’re seeing just how ugly it really is. In a way, this is an absolutely wonderful thing to contemplate. It seems that the more we accumulate the more miserable we are. I’d be willing to bet there’s a mathematical formula for it. Mathematicians would probably call it the misery equation. In politics it’s either Hillary or Donald. Don’t they make you want to vomit? They can’t fix what ails us. Even if they thought they could, we all know they’d steal the pennies from a dead man’s eyes if they thought they could get away with it. As soon as either one or the other of them takes the oath of office, we’re doomed. As the folks on 42nd Street sometimes say, “They’re gonna’ shoot us right through the grease.”
Well…..Hallelujah! Things are being set straight. God Himself is the one who will be doing the straightening.
The Westminster short catechism asks a simple, yet profound question. It’s been around for centuries, but most of us moderns miss its meaning. “What is the chief end of man?” The answer, to the modern mind, also seems counter-intuitive: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
Can you imagine? The modern mind says that God will make you miserable and the politicians, trinkets, baubles, smart cars, smart phones, designer clothes, yachts, and other crap will fill your life with joy. It’s all backwards.
It would be bad enough if only those who want nothing to do with God believed that and acted those beliefs out. The problem is, unfortunately, that it’s even gone viral in the household of faith. It’s as though the Church itself has bought the formula that adds up to “garbage in…garbage out.”
You see, the truth is this. God will make you happy. It’s the world in all the facets I’ve described that will make you miserable.