Sunday, March 21, 2010

Revival

When we think of revival, we may think of a big tent and a service to move our souls to repentance. But in his book, The God of Second Chances, Eric Kobell returns the reader to the authentic meaning of the word, revival. It means to make alive again. To make alive again is what Jesus does!
Now if we need to be made alive again, then there is the presumption we must be dead! In fact we are dead. We are dead men walking! Everyone of us will die. It is our reward for the sin we inherited from our primal parents eons ago. Long ago, first man and woman were created in the image of God, eternal. Adam and Eve were in their naked splendor playing in the Garden of Eden. (cf. Genesis 3:1ff) This garden had at its center the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. To make freedom real, Adam and Eve were given choices. But choices do have their consequences. For if you eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, on that day you will surely die, God said with loving authority. Tempted by a talking snake, Eve bites the fruit and gives it to her husband. As the story goes, their eyes were opened and they saw they were naked. Now let’s pause right here! Were Adam and Eve blind stumbling through the garden inventing words to say when they stubbed their big toe on a rock? No! They could see. But everything they saw was without judgment. They did not know what they saw bad or good! Once, they ate that juicy fruit, they had the capacity to make a judgment. And that judgment was whether something was good or evil! And so they looked over each other and did not like what they saw and were ashamed. Their nakedness was not a God created piece of art anymore, it was something that needed to be covered up as Adam and Eve were different from one another. Their true self did die that day in the Garden as a false self pretending to act like a god took over. When we recognize our differences, we often make a judgment defining what is good and bad! No longer could Adam and Eve be with each other. They had to hide from each other and ultimately from God who is perfect in Being! So in a sense, they died to the potential of their being. And God could not have them living forever with this capacity to judge what is good and bad as they could no longer see as God sees. Forbidden to partake of the Tree of Life, they would indeed die one day.
We can see the effects of this wayward knowledge by contemplating the humble half-glass of water. We all know the half-glass of water is a litmus test for humankind. The pessimist sees the glass as half empty and the optimist sees it as half-full. In truth, we do not know if the glass is being emptied or being filled. But we make a judgment based on our desire to know what we think is true. We pretend to be God! We cannot be all-knowing like our Creator. Like Adam and Eve, what God sees and what we want to see can be two different things. To solve this problem, God sent His Son into the world to save us from all judgment. But Jesus’ incarnation was not just about defeating death, the cost for our disobedience, but to show us how to be alive once again. After all, He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6)
St. John the Evangelist tells of an encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well. (cf. John 4:1ff) Jesus is thirsty and wants a glass of water. That’s right, the proverbial glass of water existed in Jesus’ time! But the Samaritan woman could not see a thirsty man. Because of sin, our separation from God and one another, she could only see a Jew, just one more man whose people have been mean-spirited to her people. She could not see the possibility that this Jew did not mind associating with her! Jesus responds with His Being, His desire to give life, revival to her soul by saying, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink’, you would ask Him and He would give you living water.” The woman still cannot see beyond her reality. “Where’s your bucket?” she demands. “Just how can you give living water if you have no bucket?” But Jesus, not missing a beat, says this well will have to be drawn many times as we all get thirsty. But He will give us water that will be like a well within us springing up for eternal life. We will never be thirsty again. Seeing an opportunity to avoid the gossip of the well, she asks for this water. And Jesus asks that she go get her husband at which point she confesses to Him that her partner is not her husband. Jesus knew this all along and tells the truth about the temporary nature of her relationships. Now the Samaritan woman sees who Jesus really is, the Christ, the Giver of Life. She goes home exclaiming to everyone, “Come, see a Man who told me everything I did!” Can we hear the excitement in her voice? Gone are the categories that seek to define who we are. Jesus sees her nakedness and seeing His non-judgment in her desire for revival, goes and exclaims to all who will listen, “Come, see the Man who sees me as I am!”
Most of us hide who we really are. We have learned to judge ourselves as either half-empty or half-full when all along we are just a glass of water. But Jesus desires to fill us with new life, to revive us. He knows who we are. We cannot impress Him! We are naked to Him. Our need to be like God desiring to know what is right and wrong gets in the way of seeing God in our midst. Remember God walking in the Garden after Adam’s and Eve’s disobedience. His call was, “Where are you? Who told you were naked” But now Jesus invites us, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Mt. 11:29) How we go about life can be a burden if we do not look for what God is doing, for He is present in our midst. The Samaritan woman was burdened by the collective story of her people as outsiders, and by her story of failed relationships. But Jesus says to her come, and drink from my well. Let Me revive you! You do have a second chance!
Korbell writes, “If in our estrangement we are to be brought back to life, it will be less because of the circumstances of our lives change than that our perceptions of them do.” (p. 132) The woman at the well was still a Samaritan not married to the man with whom she lives. But she became alive telling all in her community who was willing to give her eternal life in spite of her condition. We become connected to God and each other if we allow that well of life to feed our souls, to revive us.
This happened to me not long ago while standing at the checkout line at Hannaford’s. There I am at the express line waiting for the woman ahead me. Here I am in the express line with only one item to purchase and she had a cart with several items. Not a small red basket but a big cart with wheels. One at a time she would put her items on the conveyer belt. I was certain in my all-knowing way she had 15 items when the sign said 14 maximum. Once all items had been tallied, the customer proceeded to make sure the clerk would have the exact change which meant a detailed search through her purse for every penny that was hiding. How much longer will this take I ask looking at my watch. Out of my self-centered impatience, I beseech God asking to move this woman along! Then in the silence of my heart, God showed me what He saw. There before me was his daughter, my sister, an heir of His Kingdom. She may not have known it but as far God the Father was concerned, He saw her as precious. I, too, then saw her as He saw her. Time did not seem to matter anymore. In fact, she could take all the time she wanted. After all, she was on God’s time. I said a silent pray asking that she may see herself as God saw her. And asking my Father in Heaven to forgive me for not seeing the world as He saw it! In spite of my sin of being self-centered, I saw her in a different light. I was given a second chance to see what God sees by being refreshed with the well-spring of life! Rather than judging the glass of water as having to be something to fit my category, I just saw a glass of water. I just saw this woman as a child of the living God, neither too slow nor too fast! Neither too young or too old. God sees us as we are, naked with nothing to brag about. It is we who judge ourselves and each other. We make ourselves live under the judgment we inherited from our first parents in Paradise long ago. But through Christ, we can live again. No longer do we have to be blind to the beauty of others seeing only liberals or conservatives, blue eyed or brown eyed, smart or dumb. If we want, He will revive us when we accept the simple invitation to drink from His eternal wellspring of life seeing life as he sees it!
In fact, we are left with these words of our hope in Jesus by John who writes in the last chapter of our bible, “Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.
No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.
Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life. The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come. ‘Let anyone who hears this say, ‘Come.’ Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.” (Rev. 22:1-5, 14, 17) Revival is God’s promise for us in Christ Jesus. It is ours if we see our lives as He already sees it! Amen.