If you have ears, then listen...
If you have ears, then listen...
Revelation 3 1-22
Last week we started this series on Revelation.
I am sure that the expectation of a series of sermons on Revelation just got you excited.(That’s sarcasm)
Last week I was in Clackmannan preaching on the same topic as Anne was here, and at the end of the readings the reader said, ’Thank you for not falling asleep.’
And there is that temptation with Revelation.
It’s hard, it’s difficult, and it is easy to just switch off.
And that’s a pity because it is a fascinating book.
It was written at a time of great uncertainty.
It was written when the churches were struggling.
It was written when the churches didn’t even know whether they could survive, or how the message that the churches had had any relevance for the society that they lived in.
Is it just me or does that sound a bit like today?
So I wondered if maybe the message that John was giving the churches then could help us now.
But this is what I didn’t want us to do.
I didn't want us to compare ourselves with the churches then.
Here’s the reason why...
It would be tempting to say to ourselves, ‘Ok which church are we like? Because if we can work out which church we are like, then we can follow the same solution they did.’
Here’s why I didn't want to do that.
Reason 1...Maybe the solution they found 2000 years ago wouldn't work now.
Reason 2...What is worse, there is a temptation to compare our worse with other people’s best.
I’ll give you an example.
Years ago there was a Sunday Service once a month on a Sunday night in Glasgow called Faith in the City. It was all singing, all dancing. And people would come back to me and say, ‘That service was brilliant, best service I have ever been to. Why can’t we be like that?’
And I would say, ‘Well they have a team of seven worship leaders that spend a whole month preparing one service, while I have to prepare a service every week and do lots of other things as well like visit hospitals and schools and the housebound and take funerals and Session and Board meetings.’
And although I was happy with the answer, I still would feel a bit jealous.
It would be great to have services like that.
As it turns out I know the minister that was there at that time and they didn’t rejoice in the wonder of their services.
Because while I was comparing my worst with their best, they were doing he same thing.
The normal members would complain that they had all these people for the special monthly services, but where were those people when they needed them on a Sunday morning; when they needed volunteers for youth groups and looking for committee members for the Guild.
We compare their best with our worst, and we never stand a chance in that comparison.
What is worse, because we probably don’t have a positive view of ourselves, we might think that we don't have one bad trait from one of the churches in Revelation, we might think we have the bad traits from four or five of the churches and really get down.
So I don’t want us to compare ourselves with those churches. But I still think that there is a message we can learn from these passages.
Ironically it is because the church is always changing, society is always changing, that I think we can learn from these passages, because although all that change is taking place, the one thing that doesn’t change is God.
So what can we learn in this passage about God that can help us?
It is a simple phrase...
For every church that phrase comes out;
I know what you have done
I know your troubles.
I know where you live.
I know what you do.
I know you have a reputation.
I know that you have little power.
I know that you are neither hot nor cold.
I find that comforting.
God knows us.
And I mean completely knows us.
Knows us, not the way we think we are.
He knows us as we truly are.
One of the biggest problems we every have is that we lie.
And the one that we lie most to is ourselves.
Jesus put it so well when he said, ‘Why do you try to take the speck out of someone else's eye, when you have a log in your own eye.’
It is so easy to see the flaws in someone else, but our own flaws are so hard to see, because they are so close to us.
If you were to ask me what type of sportsman I am I would be very clear what the answer was...’I am fair.’
My family would laugh in my face if I said that.
‘Dad, you are the most competitive person we have ever known.’
They would argue that I never ever let them win any game when they were young.
I would argue that they were never good enough to win a game when they were young.
That just makes me fair. It is fair that the better person wins.
They would say that isn’t fair, that is competitive.
I would compromise and say that I am fairly competitive.
Here’s the thing.
I know deep down I am competitive.
I have a squash club that I have just joined.
I shook a hand with someone I was playing in the league for the first time and she said, ‘So you’re that Jim.’
I would love to think that meant that rumours were being spread round about the new minister who has joined the club who is a fount of all wisdom and solace and compassion. ‘Oh you’re that Jim.’
Like a spiritual councillor and mentor for the squash club.
But somehow I don’t get the feeling that is what they meant.
I know that I am competitive, but somehow I don't believe I am that competitive.
And if I can delude myself on that, what else can I delude myself on.
Am I as generous as I think I am?
Am I as compassionate as I think I am?
Am I as forgiving as I think I am?
Am I as loving as I think I am?
Am I as tolerant as I think I am?
And if an individual can get that kind of stuff wrong, how much more can a church get it wrong?
How many times have you heard of a church talk about itself and they say, ‘We are a really friendly church.’
And then you talk to people who don’t go to that church and they say, ’That church is just full of cliques.’
Someone is deluding themselves.
I bet every church in that list from Revelation went through the same two emotions as they were reading this passage.
The first emotion was when they were reading the passages about the other churches and they would say, ‘Wow John got it spot on there. He really knows the people that come from that church. That will sort them out.’
The second emotion was when they read the bit about their own church when they said, ‘Who does John think he is? We aren’t like that.’
Here is the hope.
God knows us.
God knows us as we really are.
And knowing us as we really are, He cares.
This wee church in Alva; He knows us.
He knows those bits that are slowly dying and we are doing nothing about it.
He knows those times when we are dull and unwelcoming
and those times we are living in the shadows, hiding from what we should be doing.
He knows those times we are lazy and sleeping when others need us to be awake and helping.
He knows those bits of our character that are really ugly, those bits we pretend don't exist because we don’t even want to look at those bits of ourselves.
He knows our fears and our guilt and our shame and our hurts.
He knows all of those things, just like he knew those bits of all those churches in Asia 2000 years ago.
And his response is...I know, and I love.
He doesn’t walk away, he doesn’t abandon us, he doesn’t even condemn us.
Instead he says,
‘I know what you are like.
And I will show you what you are like, so that you can start the journey to being what you can be.’
We may at times be dull and unwelcoming, but we can grow to be alive and well.
We may at times live in the shadows, but we can grow to becoming the light of life.
We may at times be asleep to what is going on, but we can grow to become alert and responsive to the needs of others.
Parts of us may even be dead, but that shouldn’t be a problem to the God of resurrection.
The hope of those churches in the past is the same hope we have.
God knows us, and God, knowing exactly how we are, loves us.
And he loves us enough to show us how we really are, so we can grow into what we could become in love.