Exminster Methodist Church, Main Road, Exminster EX6 8BT
Email firstname.lastname@example.org, Minister: Rev Ben Haslam, Telephone (01392) 256716
Revelation 2. 8-11 “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
Christ begins His address to each of these churches with two words – ‘I know’. Each of these churches is known, deeply and intimately by Jesus and nothing of their life together, or their life as individuals can escape His searching gaze. This could be unnerving – but it is also liberating. Imagine being known so deeply, so fully, so comprehensively, that you never have to pretend, that you never have to uphold an image or play to any gallery. Such is the case in our relationship with Jesus, because with him, we are beheld in a gaze that only ever desires our good, though one that is relentless in urging us on to new heights –‘being transformed from one degree of glory to another’ as Paul puts it.
The church in Smyrna (now called Izmir in modern day Turkey) needed that security, that reassurance, as they were a threatened church, and things were about to get worse. Amid all these hardships however, they are noticed, and commended, and reassured by none other than Jesus Himself. What was asked of them was great. The divine love that answered their courage was even greater.
There was a particular reason why so many of the Christians in Smyrna were poor. Many of that city’s citizen’s had refused to trade or do business with them. Smyrna had acquired a reputation for loyalty to the Roman Empire and as a result of this a temple, dedicated to the Emperor Tiberius, had appeared in the city. Fire burned continually before a bust of the Emperor and you were expected to sprinkle incense on this fire as your act of homage to the divine Caesar. Those who refused to do so were outlawed. Smyrna’s Christians were chief among those who refused to partake in this emperor-worship and they suffered for it. In spite of this, they are rich, spiritually, because they refuse to compromise their faith. Given the choice between popularity (or ‘fitting in’, ‘relevance’, esteem, whatever you want to call it), and their integrity and devotion to their Lord, there is no question of not choosing the latter. The victor’s crown is too great a prize to lose and they clearly had no intention of doing so.
God bless, Ben