‘And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation:
‘I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.” You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
Laodicea, the seventh city included in this circular letter sent to the angels of the churches of Asia Minor by John of Patmos.
The church is dealt roughly by the letter, all the other churches have something positive written about them but not the church in Laodicea. Drawing from an image related to the state of the city’s water supply which was delivered in pipes, lukewarm and nauseous. The church should be spewed out like many would spit out its water for its indifference.
Laodicea was rich city, a banking centre with a developed textile industry. The church in the city had high opinion of itself. It thinks of itself as being rich and prosperous, in fact it was spiritually poor. It was wretched and pitiable. They could well use the eye salve produced in the city in order to see the reality of things.
Christ is left outside the community knocking and calling to them. It was this scene that inspired Holman Hunt’s picture of ‘the Light of the World’.
Christ has been excluded by the church that thinks it has control over him and it does not hear the invitation to share supper with him. The point is that a church may think highly of itself, but Christ is not to be found with those who feel certain and confident in their faith. He is not tied down by our own preconceptions. It is the one who conquers, who follows the example of Christ the Conqueror enduring troubles and suffering who will have a place with Christ on his throne.
you come to us in Jesus,
and he calls to us to open our lives and our minds to you.
Curb our pride,
our running after status and after things that will not satisfy.
May we turn to you,
and away from the idols that entrap us.
In Christ’s name.
The Rev’d Dr David Whiting is the minister of the Sunderland and Boldon Partnership of URCs.