BTW, Who's Jesus, Part 2
So just when I decide to go on vacation, what is being called the beginnings of another Great Awakening happens in Kentucky. And while I was supposed to be on vacation, I could not vacate my natural propensity to ponder church and religion matters.
noticed in my two plus years here that I often use the word “ponder.” Pondering
is part of my nature.
Revival is on the minds of a lot of church folks these days. It is in the news.
It’s the subject of articles and discussions in American religion and church publications
given their 2 cents in regards to Kentucky revival at Asbury University, which
has spread to other Christian colleges, including to a university Holly and I
attended for a time – Cedarville University in southern Ohio.
honest, my first reaction was that its just another viral Tik-Tok moment. But
it has turned out to be much more than that.
mentioned in the sermon before I went on vacation, there is a real, deep interest
in learning about Jesus when it comes this new generation, Gen-Z it is called.
That Tik-Toks of a Jesus-themed revival went viral again and again and sparked
a movement, it comes out of this interest, I believe.
been criticism of the movement. It has come from the Mainline side of the faith
mostly, which includes the Catholic tradition and even United Methodists which
Asbury University is affiliated with.
criticism is understandable to me. Faith based in mere emotions and feelings
that are temporary by nature, that is not a long-term solution to the church’s
or the world’s problems. Nor does it make up for the church’s historic and
present-day exclusion and even harm of LGBTQ folks.
But to quote
Stephen Stills, “Something’s happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.”
We can’t ignore it.
response to the Asbury Revival I’ve come across is from an essay shared by Rev.
Tamara Moreland, the former area conference minister of our Farmington Valley
Association. It was written by Rev. Tom Fuerst, a UMC pastor and scholar. The
essay is titled, “Hopeful Discernment: The Asbury Revival and SacredConversation.”
basically calls for a middle way between the general Evangelical way that receives
God’s grace and responds with deep human emotion and the general Mainline way that
ponders the Christian faith and seeks to intellectually understand how to
practice that faith. Fuerst writes,
“The Evangelical, revivalist bent of American Christianity desperately needs the critical distance offered by the Mainline church. And the critical distance of the Mainline church desperately needs the revivalist urgency of the Evangelical movement… the weaknesses of both traditions suggests that, on their own, they lack something necessary in being the complete body of Christ. If anything, my argument is that both-sides-are-wrong without each other. The church needs urgency. The church needs discernment. The church needs warm hearts. And the church needs Oxford fellows.”
I will end this
part of the conversation by expressing something else that I thought as I
pondered. On the same day the Asbury Revival started, students at Michigan State
University, after losing 3 of their classmates to gun violence gathered for
prayer vigils. In their collective grief, they cried out for change.
of Asbury University's joyous chapel revival and Michigan State University's
campus wide grief struck me. The spiritual uplift of a revival is important and
beautiful. Revival is a profound part of the Christian tradition. But beating
swords into plowshares, turning weapons of war into structures for peace, resisting
hate and cultivating love, ending forms of exclusion and conflict and creating
space for acceptance and affirmation... that is the kind of revival I think God
truly wants most – a revival that transforms a society stuck in its own egoism,
groupism, and greed.
peacemaking and compassion-building is the point of spiritual revival. What is
changed inside us through revival must result in collective change outside of
us. Without this external change, revivals are, well, rather useless.
me move on as I come to a close and focus on the question of the Reflection – who
is the Jesus? Who is the one whose name revivals since the beginning have
invoked? Who do you say he is?
beginning the season of Lent. It feels not too long ago that we finished Advent
and we celebrated Christmas and baby Jesus’ Manger. From the Manger, we now journey
toward the Cross and the Empty Tomb. Yes, Jesus is the One whom the Cross will contain
and the Tomb will not be able to contain.
But too often we highlight the Cross and the Empty Tomb at the expense of the Sandals. The Sandals, the sandals that Jesus walked in, worked in, shepherded in, taught in, lived in.
We must not
forget the Sandals. If we do, we miss something essential to Jesus and about the
faith of Jesus. We miss the life he lived. By the way, the life expectancy in
Jesus’ day was 35. Jesus died around 33 or 34. In other words, he lived a full life.
If we want
to truly understand the Cross and the Empty Tomb, we must ponder the Sandals
and what Jesus did in those Sandals. When we do, when we spiritually ponder Jesus’
whole life, we’ll see that the Manger, the Sandals, the Cross, and the Empty
Tomb are all of one singular, indivisible piece. If you want to know what the
Manger, the Cross and Empty Tomb means, look at Jesus’ life, his teaching, and
his life as a teaching.
that from small things, humble things, close to the earth things, big things
arise. Jesus’ life mirrored this teaching. He was one of what we’d now call “the
little people.” Born in the small-town of Bethlehem. Raised in the backwoods,
nothing town of Nazareth. His father was a builder, a tradesman, a carpenter.
His mother was deemed morally suspect, having conceived and birthed a son out
of wedlock. Jesus himself would have been deemed morally suspect as well, born from
sin. In other words, Jesus would have been seen as the littlest of the little
death followed suit. The rejected and despised man of Nazareth was executed as
From this littlest,
humblest, earthiest human life and death, a big thing, the biggest thing, arose
– our refuge, our rescue, our renewal in God.
And here is
the application piece. Here’s what it means for us. We no longer have to carry
the guilt and the shame that keeps our spirits down. We no longer need to carry
the debilitating thought that we are not good enough. The nobody from Nazareth,
despised and rejected by men, but beloved by God and epitomizing God who is
Love, has taken the guilt and the shame on our behalf, making us good in God’s
eyes. And it is only God’s eyes that matter in the scheme of things.
loves an underdog,” it has been said. Well, Jesus epitomized the underdog. And
we have salvation to thank for it. Our faith is in the underdog of underdogs
from Nazareth. I for one would have it no other way! How about you?