“but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.” – Nehemiah 1:9
Revival. It’s not something we find much of in the Lutheran tradition. However, in the American context the idea of Revival is central. You might say that the name of Jesus was carried to these shores on the lips of Revival preachers like George Whitefield and John Wesley. The first churches were the open fields and canvas tents we associate with Revival preachers. Most of us, especially those raised in the South, are familiar with this tradition. We’ve seen the tents, passed the signs on the streets, heard the calls of the evangelists…we may have even gone to one of these…perhaps you became a Christian in this context. The tradition of Revival reaches into my own family, my grandfather in-law is a Revivalist and evangelist, and yes, he has a tent.
Lutherans are uncomfortable with the idea of Revival. “That’s not how we do it” we say. True enough, that isn’t how we’ve done it. perhaps though, what makes us uncomfortable about the idea of Revival is that it asks us to do something; to make a change; to respond. Revival asks us to acknowledge that how we are now is not what God intends for us. Revival calls us to leave where we are and enter the vineyards of the Lord. Revival challenges us to grow.
The big Revival books of the Bible are Ezra and Nehemiah. The people of God have just returned to the Promised Land from their exile. They begin to ask the question; why did this happen? They begin to examine their lives and see that they have come up short. They lived wild and free. They ignored the teachings of the Lord…shoot, for a time they flat out lost the Scriptures and had to find them again. Could you imagine! Then again, perhaps we lose them too when our Bibles sit unopened for weeks at a time.
For the people we hear about in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah they resolved to never again have this happen. They had Revival! There was teaching and preaching, study and reading of the word, and there was the putting of that word into practice. You see, one of the Big problems of the people of God that we hear about in the Bible is that they didn’t care for the poor and needy in their midst. This was to change.
So to for us. We are a people in need of Revival. Not necessarily the kind in a tent with a shouting preacher. We need the everyday, down in the trenches kind of Revival. We need the Revival of opening the word, reading it, learning it, hearing it. We also need the Revival of putting it into action. Try this. Read your Bible and ask yourself, “what about me is wrong; what about me needs to change; what about me needs to go away; what about me needs to grow?” Then ask yourself “what sort of life am I being called into?” Do this for yourself. Not for those you don’t like. Not for those who you think need to change or act differently; but do it for yourself. We need this everyday, down in the trenches kind of work, we call it Revival.