'In a Given Moment
By His Wisdom'
I was invited to speak at a Pentecostal meeting one night, and I had nothing. I sat on the platform in what should have been a hospitable environment for a spirit-filled man. But, I’ll tell you that it was more painful to sit there than it had been in a Baptist church earlier that morning where I laid out a succession of biblical verses that included the words ‘to fill’ or ‘to be filled.’ It was a line-by-line exposition with no fanfare. At the end of it, people were strewn on the floor in deep repentance. But that night with Pentecostals, as I listened to what was purported to be praise and worship, I closed my eyes and would have thought I was in some kind of barnyard where animals were penned up and making noises. My spirit winced within me, only to hear next the young whiz-kid of a pastor come up to the microphone and say: ‘Isn’t it wonderful to worship God in the Spirit?’ I said, ‘Lord, either there is something so devastatingly wrong with me, and I am the most ungainliest of freaks, or this is an utterly deceived people who are so removed from the purity of your spirit and are so soulish and carnal that they construe that to be praise unto God. Lord, I have not a word for such a people. Open the floor and swallow me.’ But he did not. There was no exit to which I could run. I was stuck.
I reviewed the times at Harvard University and other places where God had bailed me out gloriously – and riveted those glib and cynical characters in their seats, stunned. Students who came for radical confrontation, agitated, who were ready to shake their fists at God, ended up giving God praise with their hands lifted.
But, now in Germany with all the chaos around me, I said, ‘Lord, however faithful you’ve been, I don’t know what you can do now.’ And, finally, my name was called. It was the moment of utter foreboding. I came and leaned against the podium, and I opened my mouth and I heard myself saying: ‘As I listened to your worship tonight, I would have thought it was the noise of animals.’ And, the word went POW! And there came a silence over that people. And I continued, and I became more absurd, more foolish, more extreme. But at the end, people were laid out on their faces before God in such deep convulsive breakings and gasps and sobs, as I cannot describe. And, the pastor himself was stretched out like a dead man on the platform.
God is going to bring us to confrontations in which our techniques shall not avail, our well-meaning methodologies, and all other kinds of things which we in our dear desire to do good have seized. Only one thing shall have sufficed then and ever. And, that is what emanates from the life of God in a given moment by his wisdom.
- Kansas City, 1977