Peeling the Onion: Revelation 3: 1-13

OK – I’ll get back into the rhythm of 500 words a day – Glad to see the CD’s picked up from church, And the traffic on the blog site despite the slow start! Imagine the church in Sardis: With a reputation for being ‘alive’ – But in John’s opinion, Dangerously complacent – Ever known a part of the movement, With a reputation for being ‘alive’? How about our own boom days? How long can you ride on reputation? When you visit a new congregation, What are the signs of it being ‘alive’? Generally, we like ‘busyness’ – I miss the old charismatic wing, that prayed more – I still like music, and service – Most of all, I like to see lay ministry… Not everybody, mind you, But too many can start ‘coasting – The reference to ‘wake up’ fits… One of my lullabies for grandchildren: I know a man, rich as can be, Still he won’t give his poor neighbour a thing, His day will come, this you can bet, He’ll get to heaven and here’s what he’ll get: ‘Rusty old halo, skinny white cloud, second hand wings full of patches… What if you could visit Sardis – And get a preview of who’s got a ‘white robe’ waiting – And who has not been doing the work? Imagine the church in Philadelphia: Somebody is claiming to have ‘the keys to the kingdom..’ ‘You can’t say you can’t play’ that’s a schoolyard slogan – to resist bullying I wish we have more of that in church – Too many people act like gatekeepers When it’s not their door to guard John says Jesus has the keys – Not that ‘synagogue of Satan’ Who say they are Jews, but aren’t I often repeat the theory of exclusion: Some synagogues in late 1st and early 2nd C CE enjoyed privilege – Exemption from the ban on non-Roman religion. They wanted to keep their secure sanctuary If necessary, by kicking out ‘Jesus people’ Who indulged in ‘Jesus is Lord, not Caesar’ stuff Johannine texts (gospel, epistles, revelation) reflect that Sadly, the vitriol aimed at excluders has cursed all Jews for 200 years We need to redefine the proper noun ‘Jew’ Who did the original text mean Who do we mean? I’d prefer to stick to ‘gatekeeping’ as the sin Nobody can close the door Jesus opens Hang tough when others exclude you! Today’s text is where we get the phrase: ‘Pillar of the church’ – beats ‘fly on the wall’ again the words encourage the ‘outsiders’ but use with care, if you are already an ‘insider’ lest you lose the deferred gratification promised… ‘Philadelphia’ was never a perfect ‘city of brotherly love’ nor has church degenerated from original unanimity!

NJB

Chapter 3:1-6 – Message to 5th of 7 Churches

1 'Write to the angel of the church in Sardis and say, "Here is the message of the one who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: I know about your behaviour: how you are reputed to be alive and yet are dead.

2 Wake up; put some resolve into what little vigour you have left: it is dying fast. So far I have failed to notice anything in your behaviour that my God could possibly call perfect;

3 remember how you first heard the message. Hold on to that. Repent! If you do not wake up, I shall come to you like a thief, and you will have no idea at what hour I shall come upon you.

4 There are a few in Sardis, it is true, who have kept their robes unstained, and they are fit to come with me, dressed in white.

5 Anyone who proves victorious will be dressed, like these, in white robes; I shall not blot that name out of the book of life, but acknowledge it in the presence of my Father and his angels.

6 Let anyone who can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches."

7 'Write to the angel of the church in Philadelphia and say, "Here is the message of the holy and true one who has the key of David, so that when he opens, no one will close, and when he closes, no one will open:

8 I know about your activities. Look, I have opened in front of you a door that no one will be able to close – and I know that though you are not very strong, you have kept my commandments and not disowned my name.

9 Look, I am going to make the synagogue of Satan those who falsely claim to be Jews, but are liars, because they are no such thing – I will make them come and fall at your feet and recognize that I have loved you.

10 Because you have kept my commandment to persevere, I will keep you safe in the time of trial which is coming for the whole world, to put the people of the world to the test.

11 I am coming soon: hold firmly to what you already have, and let no one take your victor's crown away from you.

12 Anyone who proves victorious I will make into a pillar in the sanctuary of my God, and it will stay there for ever; I will inscribe on it the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which is coming down from my God in heaven, and my own new name as well.

13 Let anyone who can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches."

NRSV

‘And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: ‘I know your works; you have a name for being alive, but you are dead.

2Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is at the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God.

3Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.

4Yet you have still a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.

5If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life; I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels.

6Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

7 ‘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:

8 ‘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.

9I 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.

10Because 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.

11I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.

12If 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.

13Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches