Scripture: Revelation 3:1-6
Key verse: (1) “I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead.”
Reflection: When I consider passages like today’s reading from Revelation I understand why Martin Luther didn’t want it to be included in the Canon of the New Testament. It’s hard to find any grace in Revelation in general, or in the letter to the church of Sardis in particular. This is one of seven letters the Glorified Christ dictates to John of Patmos to send to the seven churches of Asia. Some of these churches get more encouragement than rebuke, but Sardis is pretty heavy on rebuke. Granted, there are some in Sardis “who have not soiled their clothes,” but it sounds like the vast majority have really wallowed in the mud. As a consequence, their names “will be blotted out from the book of life.” Ouch. Where’s the grace?
There is grace in the fact that this is a warning. If they straighten out their act, then they still have a chance to be “clothed in white robes.” It’s not a done deal, and there is a grace in that. Sometimes we face consequences for mistakes when no one pointed out the error of our ways. Judgment can come without any warning. So there is grace in a warning. But this certainly does not support our doctrine of justification by grace through faith. Romans has much more of that than Revelation.
Yet, I believe there is grace even in the letter to the church in Sardis. “I know your works,” the letter begins. “I know all about you,” says the Risen Christ to the church of Sardis. There is a grace is being known, fully known by God. The church in Sardis had a good reputation, but Christ knows their true being. Christ knows there is work to do. It is impossible to fake out God. God knows — fully, completely. There is grace in being fully known. It takes a lot of energy to keep up a reputation, especially one that is not born of true identity. The church in Sardis can let go of all that faking it. There is grace in that.
I wonder how they responded to the letter? Did they hire a PR firm to try to spin the story about the letter they received? Perhaps they sent out those few persons who were walking the talk and had them represent the church? “See, we’re actually pretty awesome!” Or did they face the truth about themselves? Did they take a look at themselves and really assess where there was life in their ministry, and what was dead? Imagine them coming together to mourn over what was dead. Imagine them confessing that death and facing that reality. Imagine them embracing those places in their church that were truly alive. Imagine that energy resurrecting the whole. I wonder how they responded.
How might we? Are we alive in faith? God knows us fully. Do we know ourselves? What would it mean to invest more in what Christ thinks about us than in what the world thinks about us? Can we find a grace in that?
Prayer: You know me, O God. You know me better than I know myself. Open my ears to hear what you have to tell me. Give me the courage to hear it and give me the faith to respond, that my life might truly reflect my love for You. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].