‘And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of the holy one, the true one,
who has the key of David,
who opens and no one will shut,
who shuts and no one opens:
‘I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
I’ve never experienced an earthquake, and I’m quite happy to keep it that way! In AD17, a massive earthquake struck Philadelphia in central Turkey, and the city was destroyed overnight. The Emperor Tiberius rebuilt the city and restored its beauty, but massive aftershocks continued to hit the city for decades. The result was that most of its people lived in the surrounding countryside. Few were brave enough to live in the shaky city.
The church in Philadelphia church had experienced shaking also. They had lived through lean times, and be persecuted, and were feeling weak; and the author writes more positively to them than any other of the seven churches. Although they have suffered for their faith, they persevered, which was important to God, and because they remained steadfast, God will build them up once more.
Few of our churches are vulnerable to earthquakes or persecution, but are vulnerable to maintaining buildings, some rather unwieldy and expensive. We are vulnerable to a climate of, at best, apathy from many around the church. It can be very easy to think so much rests upon us to build God’s kingdom, to keep God’s church going in our patch, but it doesn’t rest upon us. It is God at work, through us, and all God asks of us to be faithful. All God asks of us is to be faithful.
help me to be faithful to you now,
rather than waiting until tomorrow
when I’ve completed all the jobs
and ticked everything off the list.
The Rev’d Michael Hopkins is the Minister of Farnham and Elstead URCs.