Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Revelation 3:18-22 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
18 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. 19 I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. 20 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. 21 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. 22 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Today’s passage from the book of Revelation is the last of seven letters to the seven churches of the Roman province of Asia Minor: Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. In the first of the letters, John writes, “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 2:7) Each letter is addressed to the “angel” of the church. The word “angel”, angelos in the Greek, means, literally, “messenger,” so some scholars believe that the “angel” of a church was a leader or official in the church. After all, the word is used sometimes to refer to a human messenger. But, the tradition out of which John wrote—the apocalyptic tradition—understood that every nation and group had a heavenly being as a counterpart that captured the essence of who they really were. Therefore, the angel of the church could refer to the prevailing spirit in the church. So, it could be that it is to the particular prevailing spirit in each church that John writes the message from the Spirit.
Every church has a prevailing spirit. Every group of people has a personality all its own, almost as though the whole group were a person. Every church–like every person–needs to hear a message that speaks to its situation. When we are lethargic or apathetic, we need to be challenged to action. When we are prideful, we need to be reminded of our dependence upon God. When we are divided, we need to be reminded that Jesus himself prayed that we might have unity, that we might all be ONE. When we are self-righteous, we need to be reminded of our own sinfulness. And, at the same time, when we are celebrating, we need to be reminded of the goodness and the graciousness of God.
But, there are some things that all churches need to hear. So, in this section of John’s Revelation, these letters to seven churches in the Roman province of Asia do contain one basic message. The basic message to each church is perseverance: hang in there; hold on to the faith. No matter what happens, be faithful. John was writing to Christians during a time of scattered persecutions by the Roman Empire. The message of Christ to all of the churches was to hold fast to their faith and trust God. The basic message of revelation—in spite of the ways the book has been twisted and sensationalized for years—is a message of hope. The message is “Hang in there! God has not forsaken you and in the end evil, injustice and hate will lose and God, justice and love will be victorious.
Beyond that basic message that every church shares, though, is a particular message for each of the churches. Our reading for today is the letter to the church of Laodicea.
The risen Christ says to them: “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.” A better translation of the text would be “if you recognize my voice and open the door….” In those days and in that culture, one would not open the door unless he or she recognized the voice. Voice recognition, in fact, was a kind of security. When you knocked on the door of a home, the question inside was, “Who is it? The answer was never, “It’s Tim,” or whatever the name of the one knocking was. The proper answer was, “It is I.” Then, if the person in the house recognized the voice, the caller was admitted.
The image of entry into the lives and the hearts of the people of Laodicea was the image of the door. The words are Christ’s speaking through John to that church. He was calling them to listen, so that they could hear the knock at the door and recognize the voice of Christ saying, “It is I.”
I can close my eyes today and picture my third-grade Sunday School room at Rehobeth Methodist Church in Carthage, Texas. I can smell what it smelled like. I can picture how that small room was arranged and some of the materials around the room. Over next to the window hanging on the wall above some books on a little table was a picture of Jesus knocking at a door. A vine twined around the door and it was night. Jesus held a lamp in his left hand and was knocking on the door with the other. I know now that it was a print of Holman Hunt’s painting “The Light of the World.” I remember Aunt Nellie, my Sunday School teacher, pointing out that there was no handle on the outside of the door. Jesus couldn’t open the door–it had to be opened from the inside. He patiently waits and knocks and calls out for us to open the door and invite him in. It isn’t easy sometimes to recognize his voice above all of the confusion, but he calls to us and knocks, waiting to be allowed into our lives.
Today I invite you to pause and ask yourself some questions. What is it that stands in the way of your recognizing Jesus’ voice and really opening up your life to him? Are there rooms there in the interior of your soul that are closed to Jesus?
Jesus makes a great promise, even as he knocks on the door: “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.” Do you hear his promise? When we open the door, we enjoy fellowship with Jesus.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster