A couple of years ago on Pentecost Sunday my priest Kira delivered the best sermon on the birth of the Church I have ever heard. She talked about the movement of the Holy Spirit, the giver of life and how the Spirit gave birth to the early church through its breath; the word pneuma literally meaning breath in Greek. Then she spoke of the demonic forces at work in the world around us robbing people of their very breath of life; COVID, the death of George Floyd and even failing healthcare systems. About how anything that robs humanity of its breath is something that stands in direct opposition to the movement of breath that is characterized by the Holy Spirit giving life to the church. This sermon moved me and reminded me of what the action of The Holy Spirit does in the world. How it breaks down dividing walls and lifts up the lowly and the unloved for the sake of all being reminded that they are all loved and accepted by God.
Today, a couple of years later we see what is being described as a revival happening across college campuses here in the US. It’s kind of exciting if you look at it from an outsiders view point. Young people getting excited about Jesus. I spent a majority of my adult life trying to get people excited about Jesus and even preaching revival. And I’m hoping this has that potential. Unfortunately I think there might be a misunderstanding with the word revival. I think we like to take the literal definition of revive and apply it to the condition of the evangelical church: to return to consciousness or life : become active or flourishing again. But is this revival? If we’re just active and flourishing in the same way we have been for the last few hundred years is this what God is calling us to?
A majority of the Old Testament prophets would take issue with this. Joel would say, “rend your hearts not your clothing”. Amos would say, “Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Isaiah would say, “When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Micah would say, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Now, I’m not saying that what is happening couldn’t result in this…it could. We could see amazing social programs, massive large scale repentance, a laying down of swords and spears (read guns and weapons of destruction), dismantling of racial inequalities and systems, acceptance and radical love for the marginalized rather than political action against them (read LGBTQ+) and a true stewardship of creation care for this planet that seeks to care for those who would come after us. This could truly be a moment of repentance and transformation for the church if they actually rend their hearts and not their clothing. If they realize that reacting and living out of fear is Anti-Christ because perfect love drives out all fear. If they actually own up to all the ways in which the church has desecrated the name of Christ and hurt and alienated people who didn’t look like them, act like them, think like them and opened up their hearts to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, then yes…this would be a movement like unto Pentecost. And that is what I am hoping for. Only time will tell.