Scripture: Revelation 3:1-6
“To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, find but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, malady for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, stuff therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. Those who are victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out their names from the book of life, but will acknowledge their names before my Father and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Thought for the Day: The Book of Revelation is unusual for the apocalyptic genre, in that it contains letters to seven specific churches the author believed had conformed too much to the prevailing Roman culture. Contrary to popular belief, the text is in no way a prophecy about the end of the world, but is rather, a scathing indictment about losing one’s faith when the fight against oppression becomes so difficult that one faces prison or death.
Yesterday we toured the magnificent and extensive ruins of Sardis (as well as the much less impressive Philadelphia and Thyatira). Sardis was huge, a crossroads of trade on the Silk Road. Remains of Roman roads, as wide as any we use today, immediately conveyed the reach and influence of the Empire. The gymnasium (school) and Synagogue complex is in incredible shape, although much of that is because archaeologists restored it to its former splendor.
Much of The New Testament is an argument against Roman society, and when you’re standing under a Roman column that’s solid stone, seven feet in diameter and 40 feet high, you begin to understand how early followers of Jesus’ way of peaceful non-compliance could lose hope. Yet, like all once-great civilizations, the Roman Empire too crumbled under its own weight, and Jesus’ message of God’s universal love for all humans continues to spread to the ends of the earth.
It takes a lot of effort to be a counter-cultural voice. It takes courage, but more than any human attribute, it takes faith that God is working, in God’s own slow, calculated way, to make things better for everyone. God is the great equalizer who, through every one of us, works to topple the columns that support any empire of hate, war, greed, violence and oppression. You’ll never convince me this message isn’t just as important today as it was in Sardis and Philadelphia.
Prayer: Every day You amaze me with your patience and vision, God most holy. Inspire me to connect with You in ever deeper and more meaningful ways, so that I too might be the voice of freedom real faith makes impossible to stifle. Amen.
More photos and comments about the first day at our trip blog: http://lextheo.blogspot.com/2014/01/thyatira-philadephia-sardis.html