Tonight we are studying Revelation 3 and will look back over all seven of the oracle letters to the named churches in western Asia Minor.
The Church in Myrtle Beach:
The challenge in reading these letters is to see ourselves as the recipient. In five of the letters, there is a word of condemnation and reproach to the respective church. Ephesus has lost its first love on the altar of religious orthodoxy, Pergamum and Thyatira have fully accommodated themselves to the worship of the emperor and the guild-gods. Sardis is spiritually dead and apathetic. Laodicea has substituted material wealth for life in the Spirit. Certainly, none of these congregations saw themselves as failing and being subject to rebuke, if they had, then presumably they would have changed.
When we read these letters, where do we see ourselves and our congregations? Have we lost love in order to preserve perceived orthodoxy? Have we in the church accommodated ourselves to the cult of nationalism or religious pluralism? Are we too spiritually dead and spiritually apathetic and just go through the motions on Sunday morning? Most importantly, have we in the most prosperous country in world history allowed our belief in self-sufficiency and material wealth to wall us off from truly following Jesus?
Spend some time today in introspection and ask yourself what is the condemnation in the letter to the Church in Myrtle Beach (or Messiah or Trinity)? This is an “I” project, not a “them” project. Jesus tells us that we are not to judge others and we must attend to the log in our own eye not the splinter in our neighbors. Matt. 7:1-5. In the words of St. Nikolaj Velimirovic (1881-1956): “Patients in the hospital are concerned with their own condition and have neither the time nor the inclination to check up on others or to mock their afflictions.”
This oracle of seven letters lays the groundwork for the remainder of Revelation. Revelation is the vision of the struggle between the reign of God and the Lamb versus the reign of Empire and the political, economic, and social forces that draw us away from God. The book is about temptation and resistance centered around appropriate worship – do we worship the State and the Economy or do we worship God and the Lamb. But in this battle, God and the Lamb are armed only with the witness/martyrdom of the Lamb and his followers. These seven letters are a call to the church to prepare for this struggle.
As we look back on these seven letters this evening, see John as a commander reviewing his troops or a coach reviewing his team. He is preparing his people for battle. He is commending their strengths and correcting their weaknesses so that they can prevail in what is to come. This is our reflection as well.
Dinner is at 6:30. The menu is Memorial Day pork picnic. Discussion about 7:15. Hope to you here!
In your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.1 Peter 3:15-16