16 February 2023

"Let us become more aware of Your presence"

The congregation sings the chorus "I Speak Jesus"
(screenshot from source)
These words from the praise song "Holy Spirit" sum up what I've gained from watching several hours of YouTube feeds of the nonstop worship from Asbury University, that began a week ago yesterday.

At the moment, I have the audio from Hughes Memorial Auditorium on my headphones as I write. I'm completely aware of the conflicting ways we Christians view revivals of this sort, or even how we define them. We can see them as worship events that overflow the usual formats we use to fit worship into our lives and schedules. We can see them through the lenses of mass psychology. We can worry about manipulation; we can wonder whose agendas are played out in these events.

As with any group behaviors, we are right to exercise discernment. But after these hours of enjoying (yes, enjoying, in the midst of this time of loss and pain and bondage), I keep noticing these features of what is going on in that auditorium and campus:

  • student leadership
  • prayer from the front, at the edge of the platform, in small groups, and on many faces
  • beautiful, soaring aspirations conveyed with quiet, modest rhetoric
  • no celebrities, no slogans, no coercive exhortations
  • no flashing lights or pounding bass
  • cycles of contemplative songs followed by more lively songs, again followed by contemplative songs
  • expressions of joy, expressions of repentance, of gratitude, of intercession
  • behind the scenes, amazing efforts to keep people safe, fed, moved in and out of the worship space
  • emphasis on God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, without sharp dogmatic elbows
  • No dramatic claims that these days foreshadow End Times; the fruit of these many hours remains to be revealed.

The online coverage has been free and fragmented, with people apparently using their mobile phones to share their experiences, trading off without apparent planning, and no centralized control. I can't recommend any single channel; I've just jumped from one live feed to another as they start and stop. [UPDATE: See rules and schedules now in place.] 

The comments are fascinating, too. I've seen so many languages, including Russian and Ukrainian, the tone overwhelmingly respectful even as occasional sour moments also occur.

In my first few minutes of watching these feeds and clips, I had a twinge of regret that there was no way I'd get to attend in person. That ended as soon as my eyes were opened to the reality that we were already a global congregation, upholding and being upheld by each other, wherever we were. There were people we know who are physically present, and others we know are sharing their reflections—all testifying to the authenticity of this experience.

Wherever we are, we are fulfilling the yearning of the chorus. We are becoming more aware of God's presence.

In case some background to this story would be useful, here are a few links:

"Why students at a Kentucky Christian school are praying and singing round the clock." Bob Smietana, Religion News Service.

Video: Shane Claiborne interviews several students as well as Clint Baldwin of the faculty. Interesting comment from Lena, one of the students, concerning terminology: "… I’m kind of transitioning from using the word 'revival' to an 'encounter' because I feel like with 'encounters,' when we encounter God, God also encounters the people that we’re close to." (Yesterday Shane Claiborne spoke again with Clint.)

The Roys Report, which I'd consider an unsentimental observer of the church, posted this article, "Opinion: What is Revival—and is it Happening at Asbury?"

"We're witnessing a surprising work of God." Thomas McCall of Asbury Seminary (a separate institution; he's writing for Christianity Today).

"When the dust settles." Some thoughts from an Asbury student leader on life beyond the revival.

Quakers were born of revival. May you find a blessing in these sober words from George Fox:

All Friends every where, in the living spirit, and living power, and in the heavenly light dwell, and quench not the motions of it in yourselves, nor the movings of it in others; though many have run out, and gone beyond their measures, yet many more have quenched the measure of the spirit of God, and after became dead and dull, and questioned through a false fear: and so there hath been hurt both ways. And therefore be obedient to the power of the Lord, and his spirit, and his spiritual weapons; war with that Philistine that would stop up your wells and springs. Jacob's well was in the mountain, (read that within,) he was the second birth. And the belief in the power keeps the spring open. And none to despise prophecy, neither to quench the spirit; so that all may be kept open to the spring, that every one's cup may run over.

For you may all prophesy one by one, and the spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets. ‘Would all the Lord's people were prophets,’ said Moses in his time, when some found fault; but the last time is the christian's time, who enjoys the substance, Christ Jesus; and his church is called a royal priesthood, offering up spiritual sacrifices; and his church are his believers in his light. And so in the light every one should have something to offer; and to offer an offering in righteousness to the living God, else they are not priests; and such as quench the spirit cannot offer, but become dull. ‘I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh, in the last time,’ saith the Lord, which is the true christian's time, God's sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and old men shall dream dreams; ‘and on my servants and handmaids I will pour out of my spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy.’ Now friends, if this be fulfilled, servants, handmaids, sons, daughters, old men, young men, every one to feel the spirit of God, by which you may see the things of God, and declare them to his praise; for with the heart man doth believe, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation; first, he has it in his heart, before it comes out of his mouth: and this is beyond that brain-beaten-heady stuff, which man has long studied, about the saints' words, which the holy men of God spake forth as they were moved by the holy ghost: so the holy ghost moved them, before they came forth and spake them. And therefore, as I said before, do not resist the holy ghost....

from epistle CCLXXV, 1669

Nancy Thomas's valentine may not win the prize, but I like it!

Emily Provance begins a series of posts on institutions. "The best thing that institutions do is perpetuate existing patterns. The worst thing that institutions do is perpetuate existing patterns."

We still receive bulletins intended for USA citizens in Russia. Reuters describes the latest such bulletin, which can be summarized in one word: "Leave." (And I keep dreaming of the day we can visit again and be reunited with former students and colleagues.)

An astronomical phenomenon described as "a colossal and utterly spherical blast..." or, in other words, a "kilonova."

Just audio this time: "... You're going to need King Jesus on your bond." Lightnin' Hopkins, Big Joe Williams, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Jimmy Bond.

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