Revelation 3:14-22 – Rt Rev'd George Cassidy

§ Take
– the top tailors from Saville Row
– best consultants from Moorfield’s Eye Hospital
– add the Governors of the Bank of England
– and group them round the Water Springs at Bath Spa
– and you have a picture of Laodicea
– a famous financial centre renowned for its wool and clothing
– its medical school with a specialism in eye salve
– drawn from the tepid lime laden sickly waters

NB: the colony the 7000 Jewish males who had managed to keep their culture
– so rich that after an earthquake in AD60 rebuilt their city and economy without a Roman subsidy or loan
– resilient, self reliant, autonomous, sustainable
– and what does Jesus say to the church in this place
– how does he react?
– What is his criticism / assessment?

1. We see Christ sickened by their self opinionated manner

– “I know your works; you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were either hot or cold. Because you are luke warm and neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, I need nothing. You do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

– They were smug, complacent and Jesus seems sickened by this
– nominal religion “in extremis”
– it is so nauseating to Jesus Christ that he even preferred cold to tepid
– these Christians in Laodicea lacked whole heartedness
– rather reminiscent of much Christianity today
– respectable nominal, rather sentimental, skin deep religion, a Christianity which is flabby and anaemic

§ Christ makes the case he wants us to be either hot or cold
– the idea of being on fire for Christ will undoubtedly strike some as dangerous emotionalism
– surely we are not meant to become hot-gospel fanatics
§ If by fanaticism you really mean whole heartedness, then Christianity is a fanatical religion and every Christian should be a fanatic
– whole heartedness is not the same as fanaticism
– fanaticism is an unreasoning and unintelligent whole heartedness
– it is the running away of the heart from the head

QUOTE Conference on Science Philosophy and Religion, Princetown University, 1940, USA
“Commitment without reflection is fanaticism in action but reflection without commitment is the paralysis of all action”

– surely what Jesus Christ desires and deserves is the reflection which leads to commitment and a commitment which is borne of reflection
– this is the meaning of wholeheartedness

QUOTE Lord Melbourne 19th Century Prime Minister once said:
“Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade the sphere of private life”

e.g. South aisle of St Paul’s Cathedral
large monument to Thomas Middleton Fanshaw first Protestant Bishop in India; who when consecrated and sent was commissioned to “Preach the Gospel and put down enthusiasm”

– The truth is unless the Christian, and indeed the Christian church, is on fire for Christ we stand rebuked by him

2. Jesus Christ strives to save them from themselves v18/19

“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.”

– Because Christ loves us he rebukes us and disciplines us
– Christ is striving to save us and so he has to be blunt
– “I counsel you”. This is the Lord God, the creator of the universe, stars, heavens
– he could order, demand obedience, command us… but what does he do?
– “I counsel you”
– they say I am rich, I prospered, I need nothing
– Christ says, “I counsel you.. take a look at yourself, wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, naked”
– He respects the freedom which he has given us
– Christ by his spirit confronts and counsels

– Christ is sickened by the self opinion
– Christ strives to save them

– Christ strikes at their conscience

v20: “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.”

§ “Be earnest and repent”
– Christ the Holy Spirit says to each and everyone of us “be serious, reflect, face up to reality”
– To repent is to turn with resolution from all that is known to be contrary to God’s will
– Like the Laodiceans, we have to renounce the whole life of easy going complacency
– Smug self satisfaction is not appropriate in those who would bear the name of Christ
– Shallow piety never saved anyone
– We have to break with these things

§ If the first need is repentance, the second is faith
– This is what Christ describes
– “here I am standing at the door of your heart and life knocking”
– this is very much a personal appeal although the words are addressed to the church
– they apply obviously to individual members of the church

§ This is a visit from the Lover of our Soul
– The love scene in the Song of Songs echos:
– “listen my lover’s knocking… open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my flawless one… my lover thrust his hand through the latch opening; my heart began to pound for him. I arose to open for my lover”.
[Song of Songs 52-5]
– this, of course, is the iconography of Holman Hunt’s famous painting – the original in Keble College – a famous copy in St Paul’s Cathedral, London

e.g. Mrs Corbachova / Dean Eric Evans

1. Jesus sickened by self opinion
2. Jesus strives to save them
3. Jesus touches their conscience

4. Jesus Christ Shares with us
“If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.”

§ Eating, as the Greek word shows here, is not breakfast nor lunch but supper
– the main meal of the day
– the notion is of dining
– long relaxed in the intimacy of friendship
– the sharing is not just in the present of such friendship but also the future
– “I will give a place with me on my throne”

§ Here are great alternatives facing every thoughtful person
– to be half hearted, complacent, intermittently or casually interested in things of God is to prove ourselves not indeed a Christian at all and to be so distasteful to Christ as to be in danger of vehement rejection
– But to be wholehearted in devotion to Christ having opened the door and submitted to Christ is given the privilege both of supping with him on earth and of reigning with him in heaven
– Here is the choice – surely no choice at all

Rt. Rev’d George Cassidy, Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham
21st May 2006

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