“Jesus' Letter to Laodicea”
“You are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. You're so lukewarm, I am going to spew you out of my mouth!” Some of the harshest words to all of the seven churches are spoken to the pastor and people at Laodicea.
We've been meditating on those seven letters in this Lenten season, and applying Jesus' words to the seven churches of Revelation – applying them to ourselves. After all, Jesus himself concludes each letter, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”. These are open letters, meant for us all.
And Jesus' call to repentance throughout has been clear as well. His condemnation of sin and spiritual weakness, his exhortations and admonitions about false doctrine and toleration of sin, lack of love and fear of persecution. All these are warnings we do well to take seriously.
But what a picture of disgust, the idea that we are so wretched and distasteful to him in our sin, that he would spit us, spew us out of his mouth.... if we don't repent. Repentances has been the major theme here, hasn't it. A turning away from our sins, and a turning to God in faith. The call to repentance is related to how we are disciplined as his church, as his people.
It would be a mistake for us to say we were “just fine”. It would be wrong of us to say like the church of Laodicea did, that we are “rich, prosperous and need nothing”. In fact, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.
But we “say we have no sin” all the time, don't we? Is sin an operative concept for us in daily life outside of church? We live most of our lives, it seems without much thought about what we SHOULD do, and much more thought about what we WANT to do. What feels good, what makes us happy. What makes practical sense at the time. Or maybe we even act without much thought. But we certainly don't often think of our actions as sins, or sinful. Until once in a while, maybe once a week or two, when we come to church and, “oh yeah – I guess I am a sinner after all”.
Lent is all about repentance. The Christian faith is all about repentance. Jesus Christ himself is all about it – as he calls us to a life of on-going repentance.
The danger, it seems, is apathy. That we would grow so comfortable that we don't care anymore about our sin – don't even see it. We go through life on auto-pilot, never considering fully the true measure of our sinfulness. We take only a shallow glance at the word, rather than a hard look in the mirror of God's law – an examination of ourselves which would show all the warts and imperfections. It's not comfortable to look there. To see ourselves in all our sinful wretchedness. But we must look there first, and look well. Before we can truly see our savior.
We are sometimes neither hot nor cold. If we were, we might be uncomfortable enough to feel the need for our savior. The heat of God's wrath burning down our necks might make us long for the soul-quenching Gospel. The coldness of our hearts might make us yearn for the warmth of his love in Christ. But lukewarm – room temperature? No need, no bother. No thought or care. Just numbness, deadness, apathy.
Repent, Jesus says. Be zealous and repent! Know the depth of your sin, so you may know the joy of your salvation!
As always, Jesus then makes promises to conclude his letter. He says he's knocking, and if anyone opens the door, he will eat with him. In other words, he's calling for repentance, and if we do, he will surely forgive. And it's interesting that he expresses that forgiveness as “eating with us”. For one of the most powerful ways he expresses his forgiveness to us is in a meal.
This day, Maundy Thursday, we especially consider the meal that Christ has given us. A Holy Supper – unlike any other meal. The food is heavenly – his own body and blood. And its effect is divine – forgiveness, life and salvation. He who would spew unrepentant sinners from his mouth, takes those who repent and feeds us with his own flesh and blood. There is no more intimate fellowship than this. There is no way to be closer to Jesus, than here at his supper – where he touches our lips – where he is present for us, given to us.
Are we apathetic about the sacrament? Are we neither hot nor cold? When Christ our Lord enthrones himself in bread and wine, and invites us to the feast – is it “just another day”? When God himself comes to you, feeds you, forgives you... is it ever NOT a big deal? We repent of our careless and thoughtless reception of your gifts, O Lord. And we than you that through such gifts, you even forgive such carelessness and thoughtlessness.
And finally in this letter to Laodicea, the promise of a throne. Yes, we know Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father. We know he reigns and rules over all. But to the one who conquers – there is a promise. To the one who believes, the one who is saved, the one who repents and is forgiven - “I will grant him to sit with me on my throne”. We will share in his reign forever. What a promise. What a blessing. There and then we will truly be rich, and prosper, and need nothing.
But until then – the life of faith continues. A life of repentance, in which he continually knocks, continually feeds us. Be zealous in your repentance, and even more zealous in your faith! For his promises are great, and they are for you. Given and shed for you... for the forgiveness of your sins. For you... unto life everlasting, Amen.