What's Tony Thinking

Something’s Happening Here


Over the weekend I read two posts about the revival going on at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky. It began February 8 and has been continuous since then. And I mean, really continuous, 24/7. Here’s a moving post from the Free Press.

That story begins with a young man named Gracie Turner, a student at Asbury. Struggling with death and loss in her family, pain in her body, and feelings of deep despair she had lost her faith . . . until she went to the Asbury Chapel and found,

“It was the first time in a long time where I could finally just rest because I felt like I was at peace, and I was protected. I felt like it was God telling me, this is what you’ve been missing.”

Here’s more from that article by Olivia Reingold,

“It all started on Wednesday, February 8, when Zach Meerkreebs, a volunteer soccer coach who had addressed the student body only twice before, gave an improvised sermon about love.

“’Some of you guys have experienced radically poor love,’ Meerkreebs, a tattooed 32-year-old with a penchant for kombucha, told the crowd. ‘Some of you guys have experienced that love in the church. Maybe it’s not violent, maybe it’s not molestation, it’s not taken advantage of—but it feels like someone has pulled a fast one on you.’

“Then he uttered the invitation that ignited a movement: ‘If you need to hear the voice of God—the Father in Heaven who will never love you that way, that is perfect in love, gentle and kind—you come up here and experience his love. Don’t waste this opportunity.’”

The other person whose thoughts on this I read over the weekend was Nadia Bolz-Weber, in a post titled “Longing and the Asbury Revival.” Here’s NBW:

“As I write this, I have a YouTube livestream open and playing in the background, listening to the singing in the chapel at Asbury University in Kentucky – where a regular chapel service that started 12 days ago has not yet ended. From everything I have seen, the ‘revival’ is a quiet one – it’s mostly just singing led by college students – on simple acoustic guitar and piano. I cannot claim to understand it, all I know is that every time I have tuned in over the past few days, it has made me a little teary. Which surprises me. I have not always been prone to mixing sentimentality and religion. Irony and religion, fine, but this Gen Xer usually recoils from anything that smacks of sap. But here I am, longing to sing in that room with 1,000 other open-hearted people.

“What is happening in that chapel (and now in several overflow buildings that surround it), is being called the Asbury Revival. And people from all over the world have now streamed into a small town in Kentucky to join in.

“Noticeably absent from the front of the chapel are: flashy praise bands, lighting systems, projectors and screens, celebrity worship leaders and people over 25.

“There is such a simplicity, and dare I say, a humility to it.”

Of course, social media and internet commentators are eager to fit this into the prevailing narratives of the culture wars, of political left and right, and all the other usual frameworks of denigration and dismissal. But the experience of the Spirit filling open-hearts is resisting all that . . . so far.

NBW concludes her post on the Asbury Revival with these words:

“I know that there can be a lot of cringe-worthy, ego soaked performance-y stuff in church. I know that when it comes to Christianity there are legitimate reasons for commentary and critique at every turn. But, as I like to say, nothing is only ever one thing. Because there is also God’s Spirit, who I believe is still stirring in the hearts of God’s people (is that what is happening at Asbury? Maybe). And while I remain suspicious of most human claims of a human project having “God’s favor” or being “Spirit led” (because it feels conveniently like using divine camouflage for human ego trips) I do trust more and more what I feel in my spirit and in my body.

“I know we are all in different places around our own faith and deconstruction and reconstruction and church baggage and all that. So I will just say this: May we all continue to pay attention to how we might already be changing. May we not just impersonate old versions of ourselves. May we be open to gently walking away from hills on which we have planted flags, but carry with us a compassion for the person we were when we needed to put it there.”

I too hear a voice of a deep, deep longing in the words of Turner, Meerkrebs and Bolz-Weber. I hear that voice in my own heart.

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