Monday, February 3, 2014
Forty-four years ago today I was a last quarter senior at Asbury College. It has been a long time. The reason today is remembered has to do with what happened on that day. The campus was covered in snow as we went to the required ten o'clock chapel service in Hughes Auditorium. What took place was not the usual chapel service we had grown to expect, but the beginning of a revival which caused classes to be canceled for a week and students to travel all over the nation and world witnessing about the way the power of God can change hearts. God made Himself known in that place in an extraordinary way and it might have been missed completely if the faculty member in charge of the chapel that day had been so married to his plans that he could not step aside to let the Holy Spirit have His way.
For me it was one of those life shaping divine moments which had an impact on my faith and ministry as I moved forward. One of the lessons learned through reflection on that time is the need to be open to the surprising presence and work of the Spirit. Sometimes those of us who lead worship are so insistent on following our plans and the prescribed ritual that there is no room for any unplanned breakthroughs by the Spirit. While I have never been one to throw plans and ritual aside at a whim, there have also been those moments when I was afraid not to do so. Perhaps, our hesitation to be open to the changes the Spirit wants to initiate in the moment have to do with our lack of expectations.
When God's spiritual leaders and people gather expecting only a repeat of last Sunday's ritual, worship is truly diminished to meaningless form. It is unfortunate we gather with such low expectations. It is unfortunate that any sense of things getting out of control, or uncomfortable for us, becomes so frightening that we immediately immerse ourselves more deeply in what we figure to be appropriate for the moment. The Word says in I Thessalonians 5:19, "Do not quench the Spirit." Sometimes I fear we do.