Saturday, February 14, 2015

An Interesting Juxtaposition

My church does not have its own building. We rent space in a Spanish Seventh Day Adventist church building. At times, this creates some interesting conflicts and dynamics. This week is one of them. The Adventists are having a revival this weekend, and on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Why not Wednesday night, too? That’s our night to use the building, and it’s Ash Wednesday.

So notice the contrast: although I have not been to an Adventist revival, the revival model is to stir up the people to action using emotion and motivational speaking. Nineteenth century America was awash in this kind of effort (which is when Adventism was born) with tent revivals and itinerant rvivalists. One of the most famous was Charles Grandison Finney, and a book (historical fiction) about this is Elmer Gantry - an entertaining read. Our church is having a kind of revival too, but of a much different sort. It is a call to repentance and the discipline of Lent. It is a call to look at our sins in sorrow and focus on the cross and forgiveness of our Saviour in joy. 

At first, the difference between these two might seem to be outward versus inward - revivals focusing on being on fire and going out to win the world for Christ, while Lent is focused inward, on self examination and repentance. But the difference is far more significant than that. It is really the difference between a focus on what man does and a focus on what God does. Revivals speak of Christ, but the focus is on you and what you do. So get out there and do it! But Lent is focused primarily on what Christ does - a season leading to the remebrance of His death on Good Friday and His resurrection on Easter. Yes, repentance is a focus, but even this is the work of the Spirit in man (John 16), convicting of sin and turning us to our Saviour to receive His gifts.

And it is this focus on our Saviour and His work for us that produces deep and lasting results. It is not a few days dedicated to special and fervent service, followed by burn out and a return to life as we know it (which often cannot measure up to the emotion of the revival, and so quite a let down), but a change of heart that can only occur through Word and Sacrament. A change of heart not for a few days and then a return to life as we know it (or which now seems worse), but to “create in me a new heart” (Psalm 51) and a return to our life callings (vocations) for the long haul. To live for others where the Lord has put us, in those callings He has given us, as parents, spouses, children, workers, friends, neighbors, and more. Callings that are intricate parts of our lives, not outside of them.
So on Tuesday and Thursday, the building we meet in will be filled with fervor and the stirring up of emotion and excitement. On Wednesday night, it will be quiet, reflective, and repentant. On Tuesday and Thursday, the word will be “go out and do it!” On Wednesday night, the words will be: Dust you are, and to dust you will return . . . I forgive you all your sins . . . Take, eat, this is My Body; Take, drink, this is My Blood. Quite a contrast, don’t you think? If only those walls could talk . . .

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