New Awakening: Get On Board

God’s new Awakening comes with the invitation for us to be part of it, serving as co-creators with God in the advancement of it. But that’s not easy, foolproof, or without risk. We cannot wait until we are in the whirlwind to decide how to live in it. Similarly, we must “incline our hearts to the Lord” (Joshua 24:23).

First, we must decide resolutely. Being instruments of God’s peace is intentional. We decide to ‘do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8). We set the GPS of our soul before we begin the journey. As Matthew Fox puts it, we do the inner work so that we can perform the outer acts. We become mystics so we can be prophets.

Among other things this means that love (agapé) is the core of our theology, with the Sermon on the Mount, the two great commandments, Paul’s love chapter, the fruit of the Spirit, and John’s first letter defining what love means. To this we bring the Old Testament’s teaching about steadfast love (hesed) to bear in the practice of justice (fairness, equity, inclusion, the common good) and mercy (grace, forgiveness, and compassion) for all. [1] We do this in the name of Christ who is all and in all (Colossians 3:11) and is at work to reconcile everyone and everything to God (Ephesians 19-10).

Second, we select our engagement prayerfully. Richard Foster was the first person to show me the importance of this. He shared with me how he came to realize that God is doing more good things than we can imagine—too many for us to be part of. Discernment is essential. [2] Richard pointed me toward the devotional classic by Thomas Kelly, ‘A Testament of Devotion,’ where I mined a mother-load of insights about selectivity in spiritual formation. I recognized the necessity and wisdom of doing a few things well.

In recent years that principle has led to my focus on LGBTQ+ people and the harm they are severely experiencing today. But for you, God’s call is to ”ask, seek, and knock” and allow the Spirit to give you your “marching orders” (E Stanley Jones’ term for discernment) in relation to being an instrument of God’s peace in the new Awakening. As we say in the Wesleyan Covenant Service, “Christ has many services to be done.”

Third, advocate personally. There is no such thing as secret discipleship. Following Jesus in the new Awakening means “going public” relative to the things in which you most deeply believe and seek to live out. It is in this aspect of getting on board where we face opposition, and it is the aspect many come to and turn back from becoming engaged allies and advocates.

In being servants in God’s new Awakening, we eventually have to decide if our primary desire is to be liked or to be faithful. If it is to be faithful, personal advocacy becomes our mission, and we then go on to learn how to do that in a spirit of love and with nonviolent resistance.

Fourth, invest locally. The things we feel called to be involved in almost always have local groups and ministries already engaged. They need our encouragement, participation, and financial support. The New Awakening is incarnational, with the Word becoming flesh in and through us to do justice, live kindness, and walk humbly with God nearby. Spirituality and locality are woven together into a tapestry of compassion and justice. We should be cognizant and contributive to new-awakening ministries and agencies close to home.

Finally, support globally. We cannot go everywhere, but we can connect with global efforts which promote the common good. We should design our financial stewardship to become ongoing donors to particular ministries, and add to that giving to specific needs which arise unexpectedly.

Writing about this, I remembered a song from the new Awakening we call the civil rights movement. In 1965, the Impressions sang the hit-song, “People Get Ready.” It’s the way I want to end this series. The lyrics are for us right now as we see and become part of God’s new Awakening,

“People get ready, there’s a train a comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith, to hear the diesels hummin’
Don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.

So people get ready, for the train to Jordan
Picking up passengers coast to coast
Faith is the key, open the doors and board ’em
There’s hope for all, among those loved the most.

There ain’t no room for the hopeless sinner
Whom would hurt all mankind, just to save his own,
believe me now,
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
For there is no hiding place, against the kingdom’s throne.

So people get ready there’s a train a comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith, to hear the diesels hummin’
Don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.”[3]

[1] The renewal of love for all people is running through the new Awakening. I recommend two books for seeing and connecting with it. Thomas Oord’s book, ‘God’s Pluriform Love’ and Valerie Kaur’s book, ‘See No Stranger.’
[2] Because of Foster’s and Kelly’s testimony to the importance of discernment, I studied it, practiced it, and wrote about it in my book, ‘Walking in the Light.’
[3] “People Get Ready” (1965), written by Curtis Mayfield.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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