‘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. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.’
Ah, Laodicea! So wealthy it didn’t need emergency funds from the Imperial budget after a great earthquake in 60 CE. Yet, so lacking in natural resources that it had to get its water through a stone piping system from a reservoir six miles away.
So, John’s “hot nor cold” proclamation holds double meaning: it refers to the city’s water system as well as the lukewarm spiritual condition of the Christians living there. Self-reliant, confident, prosperous, but completely unsatisfying for Jesus’ tastes.
Laodecia’s fault is that the things they hold sacred are out of sync with what Jesus holds sacred. What the people are happy to serve their friends, Jesus would spew out. The objects of the church’s consumption are refused by Jesus as transformation.
Our plans turn to folly when we consider our own attainments, possessions and plans to be sufficient! Jesus (through the vision of John) says, you need more than what you have: You need a new currency, a new wardrobe, and a new medical plan.
And the catch of it all seems to be in the language of repentance. You can purchase gold refined from fire…but you must first come closer to Jesus. There is redemption from “cancel culture”, but you must first accept the new clothes bought by Jesus. You can experience healing and affirmation…but you must let Jesus’ suffering and victory anoint you. A place in God’s Kin-dom is assured, but it requires opening the door and listening to Christ’s voice.
A changed world is possible, but we must move our feet and let the epitome of Love and Sacrifice, join us in our suffering and serving. John’s measure of a church seems to be based not on the number of ‘happy customers’, but level of impact when we are serving.
We confess we don’t listen to You as we should. Mountains get in our way. But tune our ears and defrost our hearts so we can be moved, and, so moved, serve You in the world. Amen.
The Rev’d William Young, Pastor, Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, Washington DC.