Tag Archives: reconciliation

How Richard Twiss helped me to believe in revival again

Community Transformation

This post is my second contribution to the MennoNerds Anabaptist Missional Spirituality Synchroblog event.

Before discussing such a dreamy topic as “revival” or what others call “renewal,” I must come clean. Every time I hear or read the word, “revival,” I run and get my gun. Yes me a pacifist who desires to not own any lethal weapons, reach for my imaginary gun. Why you say? Because everytime I hear or read that word “revival” coming from conservative evangelicals, more often than not, its from an imperialist Dominionist point of view. Revival understood in this manner is when Christians are lead by white Conservative (more than likely Reformed) evangelical men, who give minimal head nods to Charismatics and multiculturalism with dreams of hegemonic, violent takeovers of the national culture (Conservative Republican political means). Two examples of this are the Acquire the Fire movement and Methodist but hardly Wesleyan Institute for Religion and Democracy.

As a Baptist Christian, as a continuationist with Charismatic tendencies, I do hope for a Spirit-led, Christ-centered renewal of our national culture in general. As James Cone called for in Black Theology and Black Power, there needs to be an exchange in value systems. See the problem with the popular versions of revival is that they resort back to the days of Jonathan Edwards and Charles Finley, and imagine that God will move the same way. We Christians commemorate these revivalists and year to year go on hoping that revival/renewal will look like it did in the past. We hope for a cycle, we know this only as a cycle that happens naturally. And that’s part of the problem. Revival is about cycles being broken, with the in-breaking of the Holy Spirit arriving anew in fresh and unexpected places, and God’s standards for holiness being revealed in the lives of some of the least ideal persons.

I like what Micael Grenholm has to say about revival, that we can’t separate peace and justice from conversionist modes of religion. Reading through the late Richard Twiss’ One Church Many Tribes: Following Jesus The Way God Made You, I once more found a hope for Christian renewal in the USA. Twiss’ challenge to Evangelical Protestantism is still a much needed word, and his contention that we should start viewing the First Nations as a mutual party when it comes to missions, and that Native culture has something to offer (AND NOT JUST RECEIVE). There is something rather impossible when you read Twiss’ words because what he wrote, we have not yet witnessed with our eyes. While folks talk about revival, relying on things seen, by faith, Twiss taught me once more to believe in revival, the likes we have never seen.

Twiss’ post-colonial vision of widespread renewal reminds me of David Walker’s Appeal in the lone footnote in chapter one:

“It is my solemn belief, that if ever the world becomes Christianized, (which must certainly take place before long) it will be through the means, under God of the blacks, who are now held in wretchedness, and degradation , by the white Christians of the world, who before they learn to do justice to us before our Maker–and be reconciled to us, and reconcile us to them, and by that means have clear consciences before God and man.–Send out missionaries to convert the Heathens, many of whom after they cease worship gods, which neither see nor hear, become ten times more the children of Hell, then ever they were, why what is the reason? Why the reason is obvious,they must learn to do justice at home, before they go into distant lands, to display their charity, Christianity, and benevolence; when they learn to do justice, God will accept their offering, (no man may think that I am against Missionaries for I am not, my object is to see justice done at home, before we go to convert the heathens.) “

For Walker and Twiss, the missional and just YHWH of Hosts requires the righteous fruits of those who have been justified by Christ, and just relations between people groups prior to  worldwide revival, and not vice versa. 

A Covenant of Peace: Ezekiel's Use Of Numbers

Tetragrammaton

Tetragrammaton (Photo credit: nathanleveck)

Zeal, the Knowledge of YHWH and Radicalism

“YHWH spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the Israelites by manifesting such zeal among them on my behalf that in my jealousy I did not consume the Israelites. Therefore say, “I hereby grant him my covenant of peace. 13It shall be for him and for his descendants after him a covenant of perpetual priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the Israelites.”- Numbers 25: 10-13 NRSV

And

” I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild animals from the land, so that they may live in the wild and sleep in the woods securely. I will make them and the region around my hill a blessing; and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. […] They shall no more be plunder for the nations, nor shall the animals of the land devour them; they shall live in safety, and no one shall make them afraid. I will provide for them splendid vegetation, so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the insults of the nations.”- Ezekiel 34:25-26, 28-29

When I was in seminary and taking a class on Ezekiel, one of the questions that haunted the class at the end of the semester is what happened to the language of God’s “Covenant of Peace”? Where did it come from? One of the problems I believes starts with the commentary we depended on, by Katherine Pfisterer Darr, who is rightfully hesitant to explain Ezekiel as a prophet who used the Torah, specifically Deuteronomy (unlike Jeremiah, Paul, and Christ Jesus, for example). I think there was an opportunity missed to talk about Israel’s role in the Ancient Near East, as well as Ezekiel’s role as PRIEST and prophet. The notion of a covenant of peace, as Darr points out, is part of the ANE tradition whereby the gods end their hostilities towards humanity and creation at large. The god’s pledge to be peaceable was signed and sealed with a visible sign. Darr rejects the idea that Ezekiel borrows this idea from any of the Torah writers since he has a theology that deals more with the ritual and ceremonial laws of Israel (a priestly theology if you will). Ezekiel cannot simply be put in a box, I tried that once, and utterly failed.

Ezekiel is more of a hybrid thinker, using the language of the Law and the priesthood. Ezekiel and his disciples were zealous for YHWH, much like Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron (the head of the Priesthood). Phinehas was given a covenant of peace with YHWH because he saw one of his fellow Israelites sinning right in front of the Moses and the congregation, and in the First covenant manner, since blood had to be shed, Phinehas used a spear to sacrifice the man and his lover. Once YHWH saw that one of the priests was concerned, the plague that Israel was suffering ended, but not before thousands had died of the sickness. This plays out as an example of the scapegoat mechanism. A few persons must die for the rest of society to be “saved.” If the spearing and priesthood are the visible sign for Aaron’s family and the covenant of peace, then the destruction of the first Temple (along with the people in it Ezekiel 9 & 10) as well as the raising of Ezekiel’s 2nd temple Ezekiel 39:21 through chapter 48) is the sign of YHWH’s latest covenant of peace with Israel.

When we get to the New Testament, the death of the Son of YHWH, Christ Jesus, is the visible sign of the covenant of peace, that God makes with humanity, creation, and between Jew and Gentile, who are engrafted into the covenant life. The finality of Jesus’ sacrifice is the sacrifice that ends all sacrifices, making all other sacrifices and scapegoating unnecessary.

This makes the old traditional hymn from Black churches, “Showers of Blessing” (inspired by Ezekiel 34) all that more interesting. “There shall be seasons of refeshing, Sent from the Savior above.” Written in the first decade of the 20th century, the peak period when thousands of Negro women and men were victims of lynching, “Showers of Blessing” is a theological interpretation of Ezekiel 34 that protests Jim & Jane Crow Law, and the lynching parties that were its scapegoating mechanism.

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Miroslav Volf: The God of Embrace

“But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”

— Romans 5:8

“Having been embraced by God, we must make space for others in ourselves and invite them in—even our enemies. This is what we enact as we celebrate the Eucharist. In receiving Christ’s broken body, we, in a sense, receive all those whom Christ received by suffering.”

–Miroslav Volf, EXCLUSUION AND EMBRACE, page 129

The death of our Savior on the cross, as the Lone Innocent Victim, is identified with YHWH the God of Israel who finds God’s existence in the experiences of the oppressed. Yet, this co-suffering with the marginalized is not for the sake of simply playing political favorites, but for the common good of all of humanity. The Cross for Christians empowers reconciliation between enemies. A case could be made for open* communion if it is an invitation for everyone to take up their cross, and to live lives of humility.

*Right now, in terms of sacramental theology, I lean towards closed communion– not in terms of denomination even though I recognize the valid reasons that–I am still working out this view.  I am pretty sure if I were ordained, I would refuse the Eucharist to Ken Lay [Enron] and Richard Scrushy [HealthSouth].

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