Some faked it, some did not make it – Tuesday, 33rd Week in ordinary time – Revelation 3:1-6, 14-22

The Roman style architecture, gymnasium, and ruins at the ancient and Biblical city of Sardis in Turkey.  

Some faked it, some did not make it – Tuesday, 33rd Week in ordinary time – Revelation 3:1-6, 14-22

The author of the Book or Revelation, attributed as John the apostle, is writing his revelation of what he saw and what he heard (1:10) in his penal Roman colony on the island of Patmos, off the coast of modern-day Turkey. He is writing this revelation at the command of the ‘Son of Man’ (1:12) who is the alpha and omega (1:8); the first and the last (1:17) who was holding in his right hand the seven stars (1:16) which were the seven angels (1:20) of the seven churches (1:20) in Ephesus.

John now addresses the seven Churches mentioned in Rev1:11, one by one. This he does in chapters 2 and 3. Yesterday we studied the introduction to the book and the message to the first and most important of the seven Churches; Ephesus.

Our lectionary text will skip the messages to the Church in Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira (mentioned in chapter two) and also Philadelphia (in chapter 3). However, in today’s text we will look at the Church of Sardis and Laodicea. It is important to say that when you study the text and message to all seven Churches, no two Churches faced the same situation either in their persecution or their response to the persecution. This is a great approach to dealing with an Archdiocese, parish or community. We need to stop painting everyone with the same brush. Every Church or community is unique, its challenges and situations are unique just as the same can be said for every human being.

However, there are commonalities in the way the Churches are addressed. Each Church is addressed by God through the author. This address reveals a very intimate knowledge that God shares about them. God expresses his first-hand knowledge with the words “I know,” mentioned seven times, once to each Church ( (2:2, 2:9, 2:13, 2:19, 3;1, 3:8, 3:15). It is this intimate knowledge of every Church of his, that permits him to lay out their issues, console them, take them to task, warn them of suffering, assure them of his promises. (Recommend you read chapters 2 and 3 to read this for yourself.)

While we see an intimate knowledge of God of his Churches, we also see and read of a plea from God to heed his message. Seven times in chapters 2 and 3 you will read the words, “let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches. (2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:29, 3:6, 2:13 and 2:22). There is a point for reflection here. It is not that we don’t have ears, we do; it’s just that we don’t want to listen. The SPIRIT IS speaking clearly to his Church(es), this is not some past tense mention for a bygone era; it is a ‘present TENSE’ (pun intended) application to the Church today.

While each Church is addressed separately and each church is understood or judged or warned accordingly, each church is also offered a promise. Seven individual promises are made to the seven Churches. In 2:7, the tree of life in paradise is promised to the Ephesians. In 2:10,Smyrna is promised the crown of life is they are faithful until death. In 2:7, Pergamum is promised a white stone with a new name if they conquer their sins. In 2:26 and 27, Thyatira is promised authority over the nations to rule with an iron rod if they too conquer their sin. To Sardis is given the promise of being clothed in white robes and a further promise of not being blotted out of the book of life and another promise of being testified before the father and before the angels (3:5). To Philadelphia is given the promise of being made into a permanent pillar in the temple of God with a promise to branded with God’s name. Finally, to Laodicea is given the promise to be seated with God on his throne, just as Jesus himself conquered and sat down with his father on his throne.

Our text of today focuses on the cities of Sardis and Laodicea. Sardis was situated 30 miles South East of Thyatira. Sardis was the former capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia and reached the peak of its prosperity during the reign of the fabulous Croesus (ca. 560 B.C.).
Under Persian rule it fell into decline, but recovered some of its earlier importance under the Romans. Devastated by an earthquake in A.D. 17 and rebuilt through the generosity of Tiberius, it competed for the honour of erecting a temple to the emperor, but lost out to Smyrna. Early Greek historians accused the citizens of Sardis of luxury and immorality.

Sardis was perceived by other cites as being a city full of life but ‘The Lamb of God’ declares it to be dead in reality. What they had was but a good show for others (the same can be said for many of our activity filled Churches). God asks the Church in Sardis to revive its dying spiritual life before it is too late. This they are to do by recalling what was taught to them and not what they had come to believe. If they fail to clutch on to this last lease of life they will be overcome by the sudden arrival of Jesus, like a thief in the night. But while Sardis as a city had drifted, a few person were not influenced (3:4) and they were worthy of God’s promises.

If Sardis had faked it, Laodicea did not make it; they were lukewarm. They stand accused for not taking a stand and judgment was about to be passed on them. God would rather have them cold if not hot in their faith; this way he would know where they stood rather than the lukewarm people they had become. This lukewarm faith was the result of the wealth their city had come to acquire. Situated along the Lycus river, this was an important commercial, banking and medical centre. The city had achieved much wealth due to its manufacture of woolen goods and for a popular eye medicine known as the ‘Phrygian powder’ that was used in the Laodicean school of medicine. This community had been founded as early as Paul’s day.

In this wealth the Laodiceans had found ‘security’ and felt that they needed nothing (3:17), God included! Yet to these and all wealthy people who become delusional with their false security of wealth, God has not one but several words; “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. (3:17) If there are to store for themselves anything worthwhile it should have been the gold that meets God’s standards of refining.

While chapters 2 and 3 end with an evaluation of the seven Churches it ends with one final appeal recalling the words of Christ in Mark 13:29m Luke 12:36 Though directed specifically to the Church in Laodicea it is applicable to all of us today. “Behold, I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” (Revelations 3:20)

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