Bishop Fisher's Remarks at the Western Massachusetts Revival
Good evening! What a phenomenal crowd. The Holy Spirit is at work.
For the next ten minutes, I’m going to talk about Michael Curry, St. John the Evangelist, St. Paul, Jesus, and Revival. Here we go.
Three years ago, Michael Curry and I were together with other bishops and college students from around the country for a week of studying the Civil Rights Movement. We were gathered in North Carolina where so many incredible things happened for Civil Rights 50 years earlier, in 1965. We were there in the summer, shortly after Michael had been elected presiding bishop.
The schedule was packed. We had so much to learn and discuss and experience. We would start early in the morning and go until late at night.
Now, I try to exercise every day. And I usually do it early in the morning. But this schedule was so full, even the early morning time was taken. On one day, the only free time was lunch. So, at noon I started out for a run. It was 95 degrees. With 80 percent humidity.
As I returned to the conference center, I was soaked in sweat and I was gasping for air. Michael was there. He said, “Brother, do you know you are in North Carolina? And do you know it is July in North Carolina? And do you know it is noon in July in North Carolina?”
Let’s move on from the wisdom of Michael Curry to the wisdom that comes from a story of noon in John’s Gospel. Now, in those days, it was the practice and tradition that women were responsible for going to the village well to get water for the family. They would bring large jars and fill them at the well and carry them all the way home, sometimes a great distance. And they would do it early in the morning before the sun got too hot.
St. John the Evangelist tells us of a woman who came to the well at noon with her family’s water jar. Now, if Michael Curry were there at that time, he would have said, “Sister…do you know you are in the Middle East? And do you know it is noon in the Middle East? And do you know how heavy that jar is going to be when you fill it and carry it home at noon in the Middle East?”
But Michael was not there. Jesus was there. And Jesus knew all about this woman. He knew she had been married five times and was living with someone not her husband. Now, John’s Gospel does not tell us anything about those marriages. We don’t know the circumstances. But we do know the woman had chosen to come to the well alone at a time when she thought no one else would be there. You see, she felt shame and anxiety about her life. And she didn’t want to make the trip to the well with the other women of the town. She did not want to overhear gossip about herself. She did not want to hear their judgment.
[Read the Rev. Vicki Ix's reflection on the first fruits of revival in Western Massachusetts.]
She goes alone in the hot noonday sun to be alone. But Jesus is there. And knowing all about her, Jesus treats her with dignity and respect and kindness. He talks to her for a long time about the life-giving, liberating love of God and how that love is freely given to her, so she might have Living Water. And she gets it. Deep in her soul, she gets it.
She leaves her jar at the well and hurries into the village where she tells everyone about Jesus and how he has changed her life.
Talk about Revival! This woman has gone from shame to acceptance. From isolation to community. From silence to proclamation.
She is a New Creation. But we Episcopalians still call her “The Woman at the Well.” She is not at the well anymore! She has left her jar there – with her anxiety, her shame, her isolation, and her silence.
Our Greek Orthodox brothers and sisters understand. Since the Bible does not give her a name, they do. They call her Photini – which means “the enlightened one.” That’s Revival.
[Watch the sermon on our Livestream channel.]
Now let’s go to St. Paul. You know most preachers have a “go-to” line—something they say in almost every sermon. Mine is, “We follow Jesus in his Mission of Mercy, Compassion, and Hope.” See, I got it into this one. Now, Michael has a few of them. I bet—yes, the anti-casino bishop is placing a bet—that tonight Michael will say, “If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.” And, “We are the Jesus Movement that is out to change the world from the nightmare it is for so many into the dream God has for it.”
Do you know what St. Paul’s “go-to” line is? “But now…” Yes, “But now…” He writes it 27 times in his letters. As in, “Once you walked in darkness, but now you are light.” Notice he doesn’t say, “You walk in light.” You are light!
“Once you were far from God, but now you have drawn near in Christ.”
There are 25 more of those statements. St. Paul’s “go-to” line. I think it is a Revival line.
In your life right now, what would your “But now” statement look like? Before I met Christ in faith, my life was…fill in the blank. But now…what?
While you think about that, I will offer you some “But now” statements I have heard through the years.
“I was anxiety-ridden, but now I have heard Jesus’ go-to line – be not afraid. I am with you all days.”
“I was addicted to…fill in the blank, but now I have been set free.”
“I used to be cynical, but now I live in hope.”
“I used to complain a lot, but now I am grateful.”
“I used to think of people in stereotypes, but now I respect the dignity of every human being.”
“I used to live however I wanted to, but now I understand the fragility of the earth.”
What is your “But now” statement? I wonder how the Spirit will be at work in us on this night of Revival and in the days and weeks and months of the continuing Revival, shaping a new “But now” statement in our souls. How will Revival make us a New Creation in this adventure we call life?
May the transforming power of Revival be among us, making all of us and our communities a New Creation in Christ.