“These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold not hot. I wish you were either one or the other!” Revelation 3:14b-15, Dear Church#8; October 27, 2019
Picture yourself sitting before a wonderful feast…, perhaps something like an extravagant plate of steak and lobster. It is being served fresh off the grill. It is piping hot and the sumptuous aroma fills the air. The thoughts of a fresh hot meal like this brings excitement to your mind. Then a prayer is said, the food is served, and the first taste that you have is an unpleasant shock. It’s not hot and spectacular like you expected it would be. In fact, it’s lukewarm and even cold and the taste is just kind of blah. Imagine your disdain over what you thought it could have been like and what it should have been like.
Or maybe steak and lobster is not your thing. Maybe you just prefer something else like, let’s say –oatmeal. You like to mix a lot of things into the bowl with it like brown sugar, or honey, raisins, cranberries, pecans and the like. You like it when it’s nice and hot, so you can mix all of those things in and then pour on a just a little milk. But then that first spoonful comes, and it’s not hot at all. It’s not even warm—it’s just awful. And then that cup of coffee that you had just poured into your cup, you have great expectations to taste that hot first sip, but instead tastes like lukewarm sludge that’s been setting in the pot for the past twelve hours. Blech!
God has great expectations for our faith too! He desires for us to take our calling from Him, our relationship with Him, our Christian faith seriously. He wants our faith, our following of Him to be our first priority in our life, not second, third, or ninety-ninth on our list. He wants us to have a passion for His kingdom, not a ho-hum relationship, but a deep desire, because there’s nothing else in this world that is more important than a life connected to Him.
This is one of the clear teachings that we have found in this sermon series that we have called, “Dear Church!” God loves us! We are His dear church, dear people. He treasures us and He wants us to cherish and treasure our relationship with Him. He desires for each of us to have a loving, trusting relationship with Him, that directs our whole life, in the way that we go to school, or work, or live in relationship to others in our community and world.
Today marks the last of the seven letters to the Churches of Revelation. In previous weeks we have mentioned that this book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John while he was in exile on the island of Patmos. There, while he was worshiping the Lord, on the Lord’s day (Sunday), Jesus Himself appeared to him. And Jesus told him to write down all that He said, and all he would see, and send it first to the seven churches of Asia. We also mentioned that this book was written during a time of severe persecution of Christianity. The Roman emperor in about 95 AD, Domitian, had called on all people to bow down and worship him. But, the Christians, by and large, had refused to do so. So, some lost jobs, others lost their property, and still others lost their lives. So, this book, including the seven letters were written to call the churches to repentance, encourage them onward that God has provided an open door for them, and to remind them of the final victory they had in Jesus Christ.
This last letter, to the Church of Laodicaea, is really the harshest of all of the letters. The city of Laodicaea had so much going for it. It was one of the wealthiest cities of the whole area. It was known for a few things in particular. First, it was known for the special fine black wool, because the flocks of sheep from the area were beautiful black sheep. In addition, Laodicaea had a medical school, which specialized in the treatment of eyes and ears. Along with this wealth accumulated from wool and medicine, Laodicaea was considered the center for worship of false gods, and emperor worship for the area.
In the midst of all this wealth and the pressures of the culture of worshiping false gods including the emperor, the Christian Church at Laodicaea was just sitting back on their hands and letting their faith in God simply dwindle, rather than doing God’s will. Jesus says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.!” They had been given so much by God—His love, His mercy, His presence in their lives. But, they obviously didn’t care. But Jesus says, “I’m about to spit you out!”
Satan and the world had numbed their faith to the point that they felt their faith was just fine the way that they were. Jesus says, “You say, I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” Wow! The church had taken their faith for granted. They just didn’t care anymore. They were filled with apathy. It was time for them to wake up! And truly time for all of us to wake up too.
Sometimes we also act as if we don’t care. We get busy with other things in life. We take care of ourselves and our own bottom line, but do we really care about the most important things of spreading the message of Jesus and living our lives for Him? Sometimes we even just go through the motions in worship. We come to worship like we’re punching in on a time clock, instead of rejoicing that we are here in the presence of God. At times it seems that people are paying more attention to other things or to their phones than to God’s Word being read and preached from. Like the Laodicaeans, left on our own, we are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. We need Jesus help desperately! We need the precious forgiveness that Jesus Christ has won for us, when He gave His pure, and precious blood for us on the cross. (He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities…he gave His life for us!) We need the victory He won for us in His glorious resurrection, and we need the righteousness He has given to us in Holy Baptism, a righteousness that clothes us, and we need the Holy Spirit to reform us with His fire, like precious gold. Come, Holy Spirit Come!
On this day where we also celebrate the Reformation, we remember faithful pastors like Martin Luther, who took a stand for the pure truth of God’s Word. It was of first importance in his life. While others in his day were teaching that a person could buy their way to salvation by purchasing indulgences through the Catholic church, Luther took the stand saying that we are saved by the Grace of God alone, through faith in Jesus alone, as is found in the Scriptures alone. And when later He was called to recant or take back what he said and wrote about, He said: “My conscience is captive to the Word of God…I cannot and will not recant…Here I stand…May God help me. Amen!”
Dear Church, dear brother and sister in Christ, today, God also seeks to reform His church today, our church and each of us with the fire of His Word. Although He speaks harshly to the Church of Laodicaea and us as well, He speaks out of true love for us. He says, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” Our Savior Jesus knows us, and loves each of us. He wants us to take our faith in Him to heart, and He desires to always be first in our lives, not second, third, or an afterthought. If He didn’t love us, He wouldn’t care. He desires that we grow in the study of His Word, in our prayer life, in the way we serve others, and in the way we share the message of hope and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. And He desires that we would be on fire, captive to the Word of God.
The times during the writing of the book of Revelation were very hard. There was the real threat of hard persecution going on. And the times today are very hard today as well. We may not have physical persecution in our part of the world, but Satan and the culture of our world have tried to lead us to false teaching and despair.
But, take heart dear friend, have great courage! Our Savior Jesus is mightily with us! And He promises victory for us through faith in Him. He says, “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne…He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
God grant it…