Sunday, May 17, 2020

Commitment to the Lukewarm

Sermon for the fifth Sunday after Easter

We have travelled with St John to five of the seven churches. Now it's time to visit the last two. Or do we have to? Can we just say that we've visited them and leave it there?

Obviously we can't stop! We've started so we must finish.

And that's the point.


The churches of Philadelphia and Laodicea have very different attitudes to commitment.

Philadelphia has seen a lot of persecution by the Jewish authorities of that area and is under constant threat of being wiped out by people who hate the Christian Faith. Jesus says that these particular Jews who hate so much are in a synagogue with Satan himself. And yet, the Philadelphians are holding on to the good that they know. And Jesus says that their patience is His patience. Just as they share His suffering, He shares their suffering. Commitment goes both ways. And by patiently enduring persecution, they will share in Our Lord's victory.

The Philadelphians have started, and they will finish. They are committed.

Not so the Laodiceans.


The Laodiceans, by contrast, are entitled. They have a thriving economy, excellent medical facilities and hot running water - all the mod cons. They have become comfortable and their love for Our Lord has cooled: it has become lukewarm. How will they act if they suffer the same persecution as the Philadelphians?

You might struggle in thinking that they are committed Christians.


Some people have a very peculiar idea of commitment. These are Today's Laodiceans. They will join the church enthusiastically, go to all the festivals, put on all the vestments, and meet all the dignitaries. They will take up positions in the church that look good and hold honour. They might even swear canonical oaths in order to make their position look more serious and responsible. 

However, then the bishop asks Today's Laodiceans to do something that they don't want to do. Or the bishop might ask Today's Laodiceans to stop doing something. The result is the same in either case. The moment that the bishop exercises his rightful authority, they take umbrage and leave. They will not endure. Their commitment is worth nothing.

And Jesus says, "No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”


The problem is that Today's Laodicean always has an eye to the exit, just in case. They will not set sail because they always have one foot on dry land. They will only burn a bridge as long as they have built another to run back. They will marry but only with a prenuptial agreement. 

At no point are they prepared to take the chance and suffer for their faith. At no point are they prepared to submit fully to authorities over them under God to shape them into more spiritually adept Christians willing to serve the Church and Her Bridegroom.


Most of us are somewhere on the path between Philadelphia and Laodicea. We need to make sure that we are walking to Philadelphia from Laodicea by committing ourselves to becoming more committed to Christ. Ours isn't an overnight transformation, but a hard process that will involve hardship, pain and suffering as well as fellowship, feasts and joy. It requires active obedience, laying aside our own desires, and embracing the humiliation of the Cross.

In order to commit fully, we have to burn our bridges, close our escape routes and tear up any thought of a prenuptial agreement. We have to trust in God wholly and completely, or at least work to be able to do that. This involves courage but not risk, for God is worthy of our trust, even when we can't see through the darkness. We have to burn for Christ which we can't do if we've left the door of the oven open to escape if it gets too hot! 

That's what we sign up for as Christians. Shall we endure to the end? 

No comments: