On the front of the massive unfinished stage sat a tall, thin black man on the edge of his stool, hands busily working to replace a broken guitar string. “A hundred million songs gonna be sung tonight. All of them are gonna to be singing about the same thing, which I hope everybody who came, came to hear. It's about you and me and those who haven't gotten here yet. And everybody is going to read about you tomorrow, and how really groovy you were, all around the world, if you can dig where that's at.” His orange robe soaked with sweat on that hot August afternoon, Richie Havens closed his eyes and began to strum his guitar, and with all of his might.
The 1969 Woodstock Aquarian Exposition had just begun. It was the climax of the turbulent 1960s. Everyone could feel the vibe of something very special coming together on that little farm in upstate New York. Those of us who had been able to forge our way through the snarled traffic, stood in awe at the sea of young people coming together in the name of peace and love.
Something was definitely building onstage. It seemed as if Richie was being carried by the winds of change that were powering up this awesome happening.
Richie's strumming hand and sandaled feet were a blur, as he worked this driving, hypnotic rhythm, bobbing his head in time, great drops of sweat raining down on the plywood stage. It felt as if a volcano was about to erupt. He would say later that even he didn't know what he was going to sing.
“FREEDOM!” — the cry broke forth from somewhere deep in the singer's gut. “Freedom… freedom… freedom… freedom…” Like a sleeping giant roused from his repose, the crowd was noticeably stirred. “Freedom… freedom…” he continued to chant passionately. Isn't that what we were all longing for? It was the cry of a generation, of a nation, of the whole human race — “Freedom!”
“Sometimes… I feel… like a motherless child… sometimes… I feel… like I'm almost gone… far away from my home,” confessed the singer.
We were a generation so far from home, and like a motherless child, had forsaken everything foundational in our lives. We had been through so many trials looking for that new home, a new foundation, a new society — the dawning of a new age. Would this gathering be the critical mass that would explode into a Woodstock Nation?
I remember the day that it came on the air,
I saw oceans of people with flowers in their hair
Singin' and chanting and swaying to and fro'
The children of the 60s' at Woodstock don't you know.
So I loaded up my backpack with everything I owned,
Grabbed my guitar and I left my daddy's home.
I hitched a ride with some guys in a van,
told them I was headed down to Yasgur's farm.
We were the Woodstock generation and we had a vision. So we left home in a mass exodus to find a new home, a new life, a new reality. Like our trip to Woodstock, we went down many roads searching for our people, our home — a place to belong.
Once we arrived we were told it was a “free concert,” where everyone was invited and included. “Just let your soul be set free, don't worry about the consequences.”
We learned that guilt, and responsibility, and accountability, were just the oppressive residue of a culture gone bad. And we were leaving that behind. So we caught the vibe, let the winds of change fill our sails, and waited expectantly to reach our prophetic destination.
But like the last few days of the festival, the last forty years of our lives have been very tumultuous, with many casualties and disappointments along the way. Most of us, after all, have ended up not much different from our parents. We discovered that those roots we used to despise, are what we've come back to. We didn't really have the power to break loose from our old fatherhood, to truly experience freedom from self-life.
The power to love, to live for others, is the same power that can break the deep roots of our self-life — the inherited tendencies passed on to us from our parents. That power lies in the blood of Yahshua,1 which is able to cover the guilt of our iniquities. Being forgiven is the only thing that can set us free to love. Forgiveness is like a load taken off, a sentence fallen through, a stain washed away, another chance to live, a fresh new start, a new beginning — a new breath of life with the power to forgive others. That's what was missing in our Woodstock generation. It has been missing on the earth for 1900 years. And that same love and forgiveness is what is being restored. It is with those who share everything they have to bring about justice on the earth.
We are finding great hope and encouragement in seeing more deeply the roots of self-life in us, confessing these things, and finding forgiveness. We have a living hope that these roots will be completely uprooted because of the power of forgiveness. This process that we call salvation is setting the love of God, that is in our hearts, free to be expressed more powerfully in our midst and demonstrated to the world as the light and witness of the life of the new age to come.
What we're talking about is the real revolution, the only movement that can effectively bring the hope of love ruling the world. The memory of Woodstock is fading after 40 years, but this life of love we speak of is dawning. Our hope is that cynicism and hopelessness, and conformity to the status quo will not trap those with a true longing for a life of love still flickering in their heart. We don't want that heart of the 60s to die in the bramble bushes of the world, because we will all be judged by what we actually did in this life and the motive behind it.
Ultimately our lives, like the festival, will come to an end. Will we still be around for the 50th anniversary of Woodstock in 2019? If not, where will we be?
The concert was over about a thousand years too soon
I volunteered to stay behind and help the clean-up crew.
Back to the Garden? We destroyed the Promised Land.
I stood there in my brother's trash, a lonely empty man.
When the festival of our life is over, where will we go? Looking back at our lifetime — the things we said and did, the choices we made, the lives we affected — what will be seen? By our children? By our Creator? How will we be remembered? How will we be judged? Who will deal with our trash? Can our land ever be restored and healed and made sustainable?
It is appointed by our Creator for all men to die, and then face the consequences of the life we lived — the good, and the bad. We will all give an account to our Maker for our deeds and the motives behind them, especially for how we treated other human beings. We will all reap in eternity according to how we have sown in our lifetime.
In the final judgment, those who are worthy will be resurrected to a life that will never end, in a society that is far beyond the imagination of those who long for justice and righteousness. And those who lived their lives selfishly and recklessly, ruining the lives of others by their own corruption, will be resurrected to a second eternal death in the Sea of Fire.
But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)
The ancient proverb says, “God has set eternity in the heart of every man.” This dream of a kingdom of love and justice is in our hearts because it is in the heart of our Creator. His good pleasure is to give us the reality of that kingdom in this lifetime.
Jesus was a real man who came as a seed of a whole new race of men and women who would be the first fruits of that eternal kingdom. His name was actually Yahshua, which means “God is powerful to save.” His life so characterized the vision the children of the 60s had of love and justice, that some even call Him “the original hippie.”
But Yahshua was not a hippie, and he certainly was not a Christian. One thing that both Christians and hippies have done, which Yahshua did not do, is that they have forsaken their foundation. Both are failed movements whose followers are assimilated into the mainstream once again. Like Yahshua's parable of the wise and the foolish, both groups of people are trying to build an enduring house on sand. This house built on the sand is the society we live in today. It is full of corruption and is about ready to crumble.
But for those who haven't totally abandoned the hope we once shared, whether hippies or Christians or anyone else, there is a way to follow Yahshua out of the madness and futility of this dying world. Richie Havens got us high for a moment, but couldn't carry us to our desired destination. But Yahshua is the way, the truth and the life. And those who believe in Him and put all of their trust in Him, will never taste death.
Out of the dust and ashes of 1960's America, God began to raise up a foretaste of that Kingdom of Love that was our elusive dream. In 1971, the preserved seed of God's love began to be planted and cultivated on the earth again, in a few hearts that were willing to exchange their short-sighted dreams for His eternal dream of love and justice filling the universe. Since then that little garden has spread to other countries around the earth.
We are young, and we are small, but through many tribulations God's purpose is advancing and can be seen and experienced in twelve geographic areas on the earth. We are the Communities of the Twelve Tribes. We have much more to share with you, not just philosophy, or bursts of visionary rhetoric, but a real life together where we are accepted and loved for who we really are.
Now's the time, there's something going on,
People being gathered, a nation has been born.
Now's the time, we need to come to peace,
And learn to live together, in perfect harmony.