Exminster Methodist Church, Main Road, Exminster EX6 8BT
Email email@example.com, Minister: Rev Ben Haslam, Telephone (01392) 256716
Revelation 3. 14-22
some people just make you sick?! Well, we talk like that sometimes. It’s still a shock though, to read of Jesus, who incarnates our God of love, to say, of the Christians of Laodicea, that they make Him want to vomit! We’re not used to thinking about Jesus like that, to say the least. Yet, in Revelation 3. 16, He says quite clearly that their lukewarm attitude makes Him want to ‘spew them out of his mouth’. Charming! We’ve noted before that Jesus addresses these churches in phrases and imagery which reflected their local situation, and this is no exception. Laodicea was a prosperous place. Local farmers specialised in a breed of black sheep which produced very fine wool and this had helped to bring wealth to the town. It was also a banking centre, and noted for its medical school. Well might the Laodiceans be a little smug. They were lacking in one respect however: they did not have a good supply of clean water. The main water supply, the river Lycus was not strong at the point at which it passed Laodicea and sometimes, in summer, dried up completely. There was an alternative source of water in the nearby city of Hierapolis, where you could find (indeed, they are still there) hot springs, gurgling out of the ground and eventually tumbling over a cliff opposite Laodicea. By that time, the water was lukewarm and no longer drinkable. In fact, it would taste foul and probably make you vomit. You would spew it out of your mouth, as Jesus feels like doing to the Laodicean Christians. A shocking and unpleasant image, you’ll agree, but one prompted by love, not contempt.
The love Jesus has for the Laodiceans, and for all His people, ourselves included is such that He will never cease to desire, passionately and urgently, our flourishing and our growth into Christ-likeness. That’s more important than anything. For the same reason, He will set His face like flint against anything which holds us back and prevents us becoming all that we are capable of becoming. In the Laodicean Church, such an obstacle to spiritual growth is the poison of complacency, engendered by prosperity.
Complacency is a dangerous state to fall into, as it stems from a sense of self-sufficiency. A Christian is not self-sufficient, as they rely for their salvation, for their new life, and for their growth in joy and holiness on Christ and what He has done for us. In Laodicea, fatally, the smug and self-satisfied atmosphere of the town had seeped into the church too. It can be all to easy to assume that material comfort are the result of divine blessing and conversely, if life gets bumpy, God is somehow cross with us. Both are simplistic assumptions. A quiet, peaceable and comfortable life may be a good thing, but it in no way makes those who enjoy such a life ‘better’ than those who have had a more challenging time of it. In fact, those whose way has not been smooth often realise their need of grace far better than others – witness much of Jesus’ teaching. However, neither hardship nor prosperity in themselves tell us anything about God’s love for us. In spite of the strong rebuke delivered to them, there is hope for the Laodiceans. They are not told to move to another town, renounce their possessions, or adopt an attitude of false humility. They are told to fully open themselves to Christ (I stand at the door and knock..), abandon their self-centredness and self-sufficiency and look towards their only solid and lasting hope: that those who conquer will one day sit beside Christ as He is enthroned in glory. Let He who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
God bless, Ben