May 1, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING:
“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”(Revelation 4.1)
TODAY’S REFLECTION ON GOD’S WORD:
I suggested last week that we be reminded of the perspective of that which had preceded the word of Jesus to John that said “what must take place after this.” In that reflection, I called to mind a cyclical thought pattern by which we would see the word to Ephesus as the beginning point and the word to Laodicea as the finishing point bringing us full circle to the first word now influenced by the seventh word. We might liken it to a 4x400m relay. In that relay, each member of the team runs one lap around the track and hands off to the next. They do this three times to get the baton to the anchor runner to finish the race. In our consideration of the Revelation, this will happen seven times with the seventh handoff not being given to the seventh runner (the seventh community of faith) but to Christ Himself. Yet, for our purpose of absorbing “what must come next,” I want to offer how the last “church” word influences and is influenced by the other “church words as does the first word influence the other six words.
What was the first word? If you will remember, it was “you have forsaken, or given up, your first love.” As the “words” progress through each community of faith, we are thus given insight to how each had “forsaken, or given up,” their first love. Consequently, the last word which was given to Laodicea expressed “be hot or cold but never lukewarm” in your faith and faithfulness lest I spew you from my mouth. We are not talking about a Goldilocks tale here where “just right” is that middle ground between too big or too small, too hot or too cold and too hard or too soft. In the Jesus tale, we are defined by the extremes where a middle ground is eschewed. Thus, in reflection on the words to the seven churches we are presented with the diametrically opposed, polar opposite, descriptors of what should be “of the Kingdom” and “not of the Kingdom.” In God’s view there should only be the two visions. The blurry one in the middle is actually seen as worse than cold and never good enough for hot. What would that diverse presentation be which speaks to the entire “body of the Church” in Asia Minor? Would it be instructional to the “Church” of today as well as to our “best culture and climate” presentation of who we are as a people of God?
What is “cold” or unacceptable in each community:
Ephesus: As we have already said: “You have forsaken your first love.” Jesus is calling them to remember the vitality of the desire to be saved by grace alone.
Sardis: “You have forgotten how rich you are and fear the suffering which has come and will come because of your faith in Jesus as the Christ.” Jesus is calling them to remember life is determined not by things of this world but of the Kingdom of God. “Fear not,” Jesus had already said through John, “for I have overcome the world.”
Pergamum: “You tolerate the teaching of Balaam in the midst of you to the point of being inclusive of idolatry and immorality considering the proposal of the Nicolatians who say such things are a means to an end for “salvation.” Jesus reminds them of the word already given which says such things are harmful, deceptive and destructive for everyone.
Thyatira: “You follow the teachings of Jezebel who promotes sexual promiscuity as if it were food for the soul like that which is offered to idols. You are blinded to the truth.” Jesus warns them that He sees everything and accepts nothing but the truth from those who truly seek His vision for their lives.
Sardis: “You have fallen asleep believing you have done all that is needed to be done as those who have been saved. The work is not yet complete in you nor through you.” Jesus reminds them of their mission, the co-mission of making disciples of all nations. Their work is not about “being saved themselves” but of taking the message of salvation to all the nations.
Philadelphia: I suppose we should all be like the church in this city. The only true negative, or cold, attribute in them is that they have grown weary. Yet, in their weariness, they have not succumbed to laying the work aside or fall asleep “at the wheel.” Jesus encourages us in our times of weakness to hold on.
Laodicea: “You are lukewarm. Your faith is tepid being neither fired up hot for the sake of the gospel of truth nor cold against the truth of the world. Equally, you could be cold against the truth of the Kingdom and thus make it clear to all how you truly feel. Instead, you are as nothing and useless.” Jesus could add His teaching about “salt and light” at this point but what would be the purpose since they apparently didn’t pay attention to the teaching of the apostles who represented the Word of Christ which was given to them to give to others.
Mighty ones of God, do we find these “cold” and “negative” attributes among us? Has our penchant for forsaking our first love and greatest desire caused us to become milque toast and tepid water in the mouth of Christ and in the mind of the world? Is standing on middle ground or sitting on the fence post our true calling card to be acceptable in the world as preferential to being acceptable in the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven? Until we confess these ills in us we cannot proceed with confidence with “what comes next.” But, what we must affirm is that Jesus has done His job giving out warning of how judgment will be meted out. It is up to us to choose how we will live. If not cold and forsaking, then it must be hot and unaltered. That is tomorrow’s reflection.
A PRAYER FOR TODAY:
You are our God and we shall be Your people in spirit and in truth. Continue to dwell among us and clothe us with what is fitting and good that Your will be done and our will be Your will done on earth as it is in Heaven. In Jesus’ name we live, serve and pray. AMEN.