Tent meetings or tent revivals bring forth all kinds of images. One of my favorite is of the old outdoor preacher who was hooping and hollering out one of his fiery sermons. At one point, he took in a particularly big gulp of air and, along with it, some kind of flying insect. He proceeded to choke and cough and hack. The site was so comical that the congregation couldn’t suppress the urge to laugh. When the preacher finally caught his breath and his composure, he declared: “At least I was biblical. I saw a stranger and I took him in.”
While tent revivals are no longer commonplace, they have certain advantages. First and foremost, they occur on neutral ground. They are neutral, not only in the sense that the services are not held in one particular church building, but they neutral in the sense that they are not held in a church building at all. Tents are open spaces. They are easy to get into and easy to get out of. No one feels like they are making a commitment to stay when they enter them. It is neutral ground between the church and the world. All are welcome. All are free to come and go as they wish.
By definition, tents are temporary structures. They aren’t tied to any one place. They move about. Thus they are fitting to our lives, which are also temporary and fluid.
When the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness, on their way from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land, God instructed them to build a tabernacle, a tent. It would be a place of worship. It would be a sign of God’s presence, a sign that He would be with them wherever they journeyed.
John begins his gospel by saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” John ultimately reached the climax: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Scholars point out that the word “dwelt” indicates a temporary dwelling---like the Tabernacle of Israel’s wilderness wanderings. It might best be translated “And the Word pitched a tent among us.” So he has.
I hope to see you and your friends in the tent.
©2010 C. David Hess