The Rt Rev’d Chris McLeod – Dean
Text: Revelation 3: 14 – 22
The Message to Laodicea and to us
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin[a] of God’s creation:
15 “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. 16 So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 Therefore I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich, and white robes to clothe yourself and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19 I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. 20 Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with you, and you with me. 21 To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”
Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with you, and you with me (Revelation 3: 20).
Being lukewarm in our faith can befall us all. It is difficult being a Christian and being constantly enthusiastic about our faith, especially if we have been a Christian for many years. Many aspects of our lives can suck any enthusiasm out of us: health problems, financial challenges, squabbles and arguments, broken relationships, tensions within Church communities … the list could go on.
The church of Laodicea had lost its enthusiasm and was stuck in the rut of being ‘neither hot nor cold’. It seems that God was not particularly happy about it! (v: 16). God wants to ‘literally’ to vomit them out of his mouth. What do we know about the church in Laodicea? They were prosperous and had settled too far into their own comfort, it would seem. Laodicea was a rich city and proud of its prosperity. It is now in modern Turkey; 45 miles from Philadelphia and 100 miles from Ephesus. It had a for the time a famous school of medicine. It was famous for producing a bluish-black wool and a medicinal eye ointment. The church reflected the city that it was in, and John the Divine has a few harsh things to say to them. But all was not hopeless!
- Firstly, the reading from Revelation reminds the Laodicean church that Jesus still loves them (v: 19). Even though they make God feel sick, God still loves them. I wonder how many times I have made God feel sick. Lack of enthusiasm is not just the problem of the Laodiceans, it can inflict us to. The monastics called this ‘accidie’. A feeling of spiritual lethargy. This can be brought on by a number so reasons. Some of which I have mentioned already. It can also be brought on by the very same problems that beset the Laodicean church – too much comfort. Perhaps, this is the challenge to the western church. We have fallen into too much comfort and, just maybe, we need a big push to get us moving. Is that time now? I suspect it is. I don’t think the answer though is to get all hyperactive about our faith, which can be very short term, but to turn again to the one who is the reason why we call ourselves Christians – Christ himself. We need to fan into flame the long burning power of the Gospel.
- We have already been reminded that Jesus still loves the Laodiceans, and us. Now Jesus stands outside the door of our lives waiting to come in and make his presence with us. Jesus does not abandon us. We have the power to always open the door and let him in. As we journey through life, we find that we need to open that door many times. When we do, our faith is revitalized, and often when we need it the most.
Susan and I were with our family were visiting London and we went, as you do, to St Paul’s Cathedral London. We were a bit late and so we only had a short amount of time. I wanted to see Holman Hunt’s famous pre-Raphaelite painting ‘the Light of the World’. I had seen it before, many years ago, but I wanted to spend some time before it. I must admit that I am deeply attracted to it. There is something so invitational about it. The original is in Keble College, Oxford. Towards the end of his life, Holman Hunt was persuaded to paint another larger version, which is the one in St Paul’s. According to Hunt: “I painted the picture with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be divine command, and not simply a good subject. The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside, representing “the obstinately shut mind”.
Hunt was able to capture the Jesus who, despite the fact we so often in stumble in our Christian journey, doesn’t abandon us, nor does he force his way in. He stands at the door and knocks; waiting for us to let him in.