I received a call from a local reporter wanting to interview me concerning being present at the March on Washington. He asked first if I heard President Obama’s speech. When I replied to him that I was at ‘The Saturday March On Washington’ not ‘The Wednesday March On Washington’ he expressed confusion and apologized for not knowing that there was a ‘Saturday March On Washington’. He was no longer interested in the interview. What he cannot see is the fact that my life has changed, an experience of ‘conversion’ if you would, having found myself on ‘the very FIRST ROW of the ‘Saturday March On Washington’ walking next to Dr. Joseph Lowery in his wheel chair!
Revisiting the ‘Experience’ component of theology, I turn to the ‘Conversion Experience’, so very personal in nature that the old spiritual says it best— “You don’t know what the Lord told me… You don’t know, you wasn’t there. You can’t say when and you can’t say where…”
Notable for word study is the concept ‘strepho’ which in scripture has the meaning ‘to turn’; ‘to twist’; ‘to bend’; ‘to change’. It is used in the Old Testament to refer to inner conversion through suffering or fear. After anointing Saul for the Kingship, he is told by Samuel that the Spirit of the Lord would grip him and he would be changed into another man.
Several forms of ‘strepho’ are used in scripture, here most notably two: ‘apostrepho’ (apostacy)— ‘to turn away from; ‘to turn aside’; ‘to turn back’; ‘to reject’, and ‘epistrepho’— ‘to turn one’s attention to’; ‘to pay regard to’; ‘to be intentive’; ‘to turn one’s heart to’; ‘to take up a matter’. Key to the root and most all forms of this word is conscious action. It places this experience time and time again in the very heart of faith as the action relates directly to God. Turning away or turning towards God establishes a relationship that effects how the individual will subsequently experience life and the world in which he lives.
Most recalled in preaching are the conversion experiences of Isaiah and Paul. this single experience of a person’s life is spoken of by the worlds greatest theologians as one that so alters, so turns, so twists, so changes the individual’s life that ‘they will never be the same again!’ The ‘knowledge/revelation’ gained by this experience dictates all future actions on the part of the ‘changed man’. The world view of the individual is turned towards truth— in seeking, in living and in propagation.
My birth Church used to sing a song that had an amazing level of participation. They sang— “Oh, oh, oh, oh somebody touched me! (3 times) And it must have been the hand of The Lord.” Then they sang a verse for each day of the week— “it was on a Monday when somebody touched me! (3 times) And it must have been the hand of The Lord.” Individuals would stand up for the Monday chorus and others would join those standing as each day was called. I remembering wondering if and when I was supposed to stand. I knew that whatever they were singing about was so important, so special that each person remembered the very day that it happened to them.
Experiencing God in such a way that your life is ‘born again!” New Life! NEW BIRTHDAY! Jesus says that every person MUST have one!
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