Thursday, April 02, 2009
Sermon - Revelation 3:7-13 - Midweek Lent 6
“Jesus' Letter to Philadelphia”
“I have set before you an open door.” Jesus says to the Christians of Philadelphia. He who hold the keys to lock and unlock the very gates of heaven, he sets a door before the church. It is an opportunity- to serve, to witness, to proclaim his word.
He doesn't really call out this church for any glaring sin. They have remained faithful; they have endured. But maybe they weren't making the most of their opportunities. They weren't going through the door he was opening.
They were weak. They had “little power”. Weak in numbers? Weak in resources? In influence or community standing? Or maybe all of the above?We don't know how they were weak, but they were. And we can relate to that. How many of us are rich and famous? How many of us are influential? No, most of us struggle to make it day to day – muddling through somehow. Doing what we need to, and what we can, but no more. We are weak. We have little power.
We have little power, especially when it comes to our own sin. How many times have we struggled with sin and failed? How often have we tried, planned, hoped to do better – and find ourselves falling down over and over again. Our weakness is profound. We aren't strong enough to keep from sinning. We aren't even strong enough to believe in Jesus on our own. We confess it this way in our catechism: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength.... believe in my Lord Jesus Christ or come to him”
But the Philadelphian Christians knew the One who has the power. And we know him too. In fact he has all power and authority, all glory and majesty. He rules the heavens and the earth from his throne at his Father's right hand. God has placed everything under his feet. Our God is an awesome God.
But his power is made perfect in weakness. It is by humility and lowliness and service that Jesus accomplishes the greatest things. And in the darkest depths of the darkest day – when he was at his most weakened and helpless and lowest point – hanging, suffering, dying – a public spectacle of shame and grief. Even his own Father had forsaken him. And there, in that weakness, his power and glory are seen most perfectly. And there, in the cross, is our power too.
By his death he destroyed death, and by his resurrection he brought the victory over death and the grave to all his people. He is Jesus Christ, the Lord. The one sure strength and power.
Only in Jesus can we face the enemies, and conquer. The synagogue of Satan – enemies of the faith in those days – even they would be made to bow down. Either as they were converted into faithful believers themselves, or on the day of judgment when “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ as Lord”. Jesus assures the church that the victory is always his – sooner, or later. He reminds them that he is coming, and coming soon. And though the “hour of trial” is coming – and comes for us all – Jesus carries the day. And he carries us. And he gives us the crown of victory.
He promises us a new name – a new identity, if you will – that we are identified with God himself, and with God's church (his Jerusalem), and with Jesus Christ our Lord.
Jesus also promises that the one who endures to the end will be made a “pillar in the temple of my God”. A picture of the permanent dwelling we will have in God's eternal presence. Like a pillar of the temple – strong and magnificent, but not in ourselves. Only strong in him, but always strong in him.
And that same power of God for salvation – the Gospel – that same power that has saved us, is really the only power we have to make the most of the open doors before us. God's word is the only real tool in our box. We are weak. But God's word is strong.
It accomplishes the purpose for which he sends it. It never returns to him void. It is a sharp two-edged sword. It has the power to cut and kill – as his law condemns sin, and probes the heart and mind, showing us where we have gone wrong, and calling us to repent. But his word of Gospel also has the power to heal and build and even bring life from the dead. It has the power to forgive sins, awaken faith, and sanctify us in its truth. The Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ is our only real power, but what a power it is! A weapon of mass destruction for sin and death and the devil and his minions. The very power of God himself.
As our Lenten Wednesdays end, and we stand at the cusp of Holy Week, we become more acutely aware of our own weakness. But in the weakness of Christ and his Cross, we see true power – the power of the Gospel. The power to save us, and the power we are given – as doors are placed before us. As a congregation, and as individuals, may we always enter those doors with faith, relying only on Christ and always on Christ alone – who has opened his heaven to us.