Sermons

House of Danger

“Okay, you can do it… jump, jump in… I promise… I’ll catch you. Trust me.”

We’ve all either said those words or heard them said with a little kid at the edge of the pool as they’re being taught how to swim. But all around them, there’s the splashing, there’s the terror, and there are the screams of other children, and they have the nagging sensation in the back of their heads that this might be just like when you taught them to ride a bike and said that you wouldn’t let go but did.

How can he trust? How can she trust? How can she trust that you won’t let go? How can he trust that you wouldn’t let him sink to the bottom where he knows he will be drowned forever? What about the situation lets these kids know that everything will be okay? That feeling is at the core of being a human being. We seem to ask ourselves: how can we trust when we have been hurt over and over again? How can we trust when we have been through what we’ve been through? “But you don’t know what I’ve seen; you don’t know what I have been through. How can I ever trust again?”

A small example of this inability to trust that I have seen was my friend… his grandparents. He was a little older than me, so his grandparents were in their late teens in 1929 when the stock market crashed and so many people lost their jobs. Their most formative adult years were during a time in American life that no one was safe financially. And, yet, everything had worked out great for them by the time my friend was, himself, a teenager in the 1980s.

He was staying at their house for a little while and they had a large house. There was a bedroom that no one used and he wondered what in the world was in there. So he snooped. And what he found both horrified and saddened him. He walked into the room and saw cases upon cases of toilet paper, shelves stacked to breaking with canned chili, and, perhaps the worst of it all, at least for him, loads of potted meat.

It had been fifty years, but they were still acting like it had happened yesterday. My friend asked his grandparents, “What’s this about? Do you really think you need all of this?” And they, more or less, said, “You weren’t there. You don’t know what could happen.”

It’s the man Jesus calls out in one of his parables. We often call him the rich fool. He was already well off, but had a harvest beyond his imagination. He doesn’t know what to do with his abundance. But he has an idea. He will tear down his woefully inadequate barns and build new ones where the old ones used to be. God comes to him in the night and says his life is over and he has done nothing of value with his life and the gifts that he had been given (Lk. 12). I have a feeling that we hear him defend himself, saying, “You weren’t there. You don’t know what could happen.”

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt. 6:19-21, NIV).

To the Church in Laodicea, John says that God will spit them out of his mouth because they are lukewarm – they are neither hot nor cold in their faith. You’re going to hear that these Laodiceans say that they are rich and don’t need a thing, but John sees them as, “But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17).

They do not know what they do. And John believes that God says, “The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best” (Rev. 3:19).

So as you hear the scripture read, listen for the ways that God is calling you to leave a life half-committed. Listed for the ways that God is asking to you to give your all to your faith in Christ. May you never argue, “You weren’t there. You don’t know what could happen.” May we always choose the way of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hear now the word of God.

Revelation 1:1-4; 3:1-22
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near.
John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne….

“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 of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. Remember 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. Yet you have still a few persons in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. If 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. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
“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:

“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. I 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. Because 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. I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. If 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. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

“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.”

The Church in Laodicea had a crisis similar to ours in the American church. They had an absolute unwillingness to make changes in themselves or their congregation. They are a group that 100% believed that good enough is good enough. Like there is an arbitrary checklist that says, “I accepted Jesus; check. I go to church; check. I ate the bread and I drank the juice; check. I must be good to go!”

See the problem is, and this is John’s criticism of them: They accepted Christ, but never let Christ change them in any conceivable way. It’s like the only things that were missing from their lives before they accepted Christ were having said that prayer, having being touch by the water of baptism, and maybe gathering together in the ritual of his name that we call church.

They had never even begun to leave the life they had behind. John says it, more or less, this way: “Christ should change everything about your life. And if your life is truly changed, you should be all in for Christ. None of this lukewarm business.” But it is so hard to leave behind the only life that you know. It is so hard.

Byron Katie is an international bestselling author of a book called, The Work. She’s kind of a self-help guru that never really got any education in that direction but has still helped thousands and thousands of people to leave harmful aspects of their life behind.

She tells the story the epiphany that began the work for her. She was in psychiatric care, at a home for women in Los Angeles, and found herself lonely and depressed and utterly incapable of hearing the help from the staff or her doctors. She had gone to bed and was lying on the floor because she thought that she didn’t deserve a bed. That’s far she had gone. So she was very asleep on the floor when a cockroach walked across her foot and she awakened with a start. And even in her sleep-induced fog, she realized that all of this suffering that she putting herself through was just that… she was taking the suffering that others had given to her and keeping it as a  souvenir. She was making the choice daily to stay miserable. The life that she had was her choice. And that began a new kind of life, but she admits that it is a hard choice to make to leave behind everything you think you know.

So John of Patmos says to the Church of Laodicea, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” It’s like Byron Katie on the floor of her mental-health rehab. She thought that was the way it had to be. And something as simple as bug helped free her from her misconceptions. That bug for the Laodiceans is the word of Christ that comes through John of Patmos.

That word is simple: Things are not okay and you have a lot of work to do. It’s like the famous preacher, Charles Spurgeon, said, “Every Christian here is either a missionary or an impostor….  It cannot be that there is a high appreciation of Jesus, and a totally silent tongue about him.” We have to share the gospel. Some of us aren’t preachers, but we can still share the gospel. The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians, said, “The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12, NRSV).

But in that knowledge, there is no version where lukewarm is okay. You can absolutely share faith by what you say, of course, but also by what you do, what you share, how you help, the friendship that you make, and the courage that you show. Some are apostles and some are helpers but all are meant for the work of ministry that shares the gospel of Jesus Christ with a world who needs him.

We have work to do. We look up and we find Christ saying to us, “You are lukewarm and I will spit you out of my mouth.” There’s a lot of work to do, but there is also hope to be found in his grace. John says of Jesus that he is desperate to connect to the Laodiceans. He says, “Listen! I am standing at the door knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door…” ‘I will come in and eat with you.’ Jesus wants to give us grace. Jesus wants to share at the table with us, but we have to open the door and let him in all the way.

Another way of saying it is: We’re at the edge of the pool and Jesus is saying, “Okay, you can do it… jump, jump in… I promise… I’ll catch you. Trust me.” In this adventure, let our choice be to jump and be caught by the savior that will never let us be lukewarm. Let us pray…