Preach // TRINITY 930 22 April 2o18
Rev 3: 14-22 Laodecia
The Church at Laodecia – A bit luke warm. “lukewarm vomit”
Sermon sponsored by Ian Paul today…!
Intro to Rev series again… 7th of the 7 letters
John’s vision from Jesus..
And today we are looking at the letter to the church at Laodecia.
It is as with the others another quite damming accusation of this church isn’t it?! In fact this is the only church where there is nothing to praise before the onslaught…!
So, what do we know about Laodecia? Was this a fair assessment of their culture, their behaviour?
Laodicea, was a city which is thought to have been built by the Selucids in the 3rd century (261-253 BC )and named by Attalus ii who was a Greek king, in in honour of his wife Laodica.
Laodecia had a bit of a chequered history, with various kings ruling, but ended up under Roman rule.
Situated in the area of Phrygia, which was in the west of what we now know as Turkey.
It was on the major east west route than ended in Ephesus at the coast, and was also on the main interior route through Anatolia, so it was essentially at the crossroads of 2 major routes, for trade and communication.
and so understandably it prospered, becoming a very wealthy city and had many wealthy benefactors.
It was particularly a centre for banking and a regional centre for collection of the Jewish temple tax.
But also, to the other end of the extreme, part of its wealth came from farming the nearby valley, in particular black sheep that had a rather luxurious wool which was then woven into cloth and traded widely.
We know there was a Christian community here from around 50 – 60 AD and Paul mentions it in Col 2:1:
I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally
In fact it was about 10 miles West of Colossae
The implication being he has not met them or been there, but scholars suggest this church was planted by one if his proteges, Epaphras
So that’s a bit of background, so, why was this church being singled out with the other 6 as part of this apocalyptic book? What had they done that was so wrong?
Probably the crux of this comes with vs 15-16:
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
In fact the word ‘spit’ actually is from the greek emeo (emetic) which literally means to vomit.
So I have to be honest I nearly entitled this sermon ‘Lukewarm vomit’ from the verse 16 line!!
I decided that was too gross a title but…
The message from Jesus to the church at Laoedica is literally:
you are so lukewarm it makes me want to barf/ to be sick
Which is a pretty harsh criticism, especially when you think it is coming from the son of God.
But, as always with things that are a bit strange in the bible, they generally make more sense than we think when we delve a bit deeper.
Actually it is a really interesting analogy because what he is doing is using things culturally relevant things to speak to them as he has done in the letters to other churches,
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!
Let’s look at that…
Laodecia despite being near a river – it dried up regularly and so it did not have its own regular water source. There were cold springs at Colossae, 10 miles away and hot springs across the valley. So water was piped in via aqueducts to Laodecia from these places.
But the water from the hot springs (which still runs today, and you can visit!) had to travel through 4-5 miles of aqueducts and cooled all the way, meaning that by the time it arrived in the city it was you guessed it: lukewarm.
And not only that, you can see in this picture the whiteness of the rock around the water? It is because, like many underground springs the water was full of minerals, most notably here calcium carbonate, leaving a white residue wherever it went, which also meant the water was not suitable for drinking, and would make you be sick.
Then in the other direction you have aqueducts coming from Colosse bringing in the cold water. Colossae had an abundant supply of water coming from the mountains nearby, snow capped mountains meaning fast flowing and very cold water. But, it took so long to get to Laodecia that in the sunshine, it warmed up on the way and by the time it arrived it was, yes: luke warm.
So it’s starting to make a bit more sense right?
Here we have Jesus saying criticising their faith saying because you are so lukewarm I am going to vomit but in a metaphor that would not have been lost on them, a bit like If I use bonfire as a metaphor for the faith of people here in Lewes. Everyone would know exactly what I meant and why.
Wright, Tom. Revelation for Everyone (New Testament for Everyone) (Kindle Locations 697-702). SPCK. Kindle Edition.
So the water was not just lukewarm and full of minerals, but being so made it almost useless. So Jesus uses this metaphor as an accusation to the Laodecian church – he is talking about the fact that faith should be useful for something, it should be apparent or evident – not lukewarm so that it produces no fruit, has no purpose – there is more to faith than just having it. If you make a commitment to Jesus but nothing about you changes, nothing in your life changes, what is the point of it?
There is more to water than just having it – if you can’t drink it for example what is the point of having it?
We might liken it to when Jesus says as we read in Matt 7:21:
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven
It is not enough to say that we know the Lord, it should be apparent! As James says: 2:
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
Now a little caveat – we are not talking about salvation by works, no, it is by grace alone that we are saved and get to know Jesus, but the point is if we have met the risen Lord our lives should be changing and transforming – constantly… anf ongoing…
Jesus goes on here in v17:
You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Again he’s using another reference to the culture – a city that is wealthy, famous for its fabric – used for clothing, and what’s more the area was also known for its medical school which specialised in treating eyes and Laodicea was a good place to get hold of a particularly eye treatment
Wright, Tom. Revelation for Everyone (New Testament for Everyone) (Kindle Locations 686-687). SPCK. Kindle Edition.
So Jesus is referencing the wealth of the town, the clothing, and the eyes… you think you have all you need – but your money, your fabric and your potions are nothing, they give you nothing, and you can’t even see that!
The laodecians are swayed by materialism & the prevailing culture. Simple as that. Sound familiar? It could have been written today for us in our affluent town.
Now I don’t know if you have noticed, but all of these 7 letters include the same exhortation:
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
So not just those to whom he is speaking/writing – all who have ears, all who hear this – so just as much us – we’re hearing them too.
So as we continue to think about this accusation, we might ask:
What is the spirit saying to us and to our church?
What is God saying to you today?
Are you lukewarm in your faith?
Is your faith informing your daily life and actions?
You know I heard of a friend this week who was moving house to be near her grand children and you know what, she found a church before she found the place to live – that is how committed she is to who Jesus is in her life.
Last weekend I went to my old church as I was off, and the preacher there reminded us that we should be not just seeking God in the every day but retelling who he is on our lives in the every day –
So – what has Jesus done in your life this week? I love how here we have sharing encouragements at the 930. Because it is so good to hear how God is at work in each others lives.
Laodecia was a city full of financiers, physicians and clothing manufacturers but Jesus says they are poor, blind and naked. What might he say about us? That’s a challenge for you to think about this week. If he was writing to you or to us as a church, what might be say? Answers on an email please… ( or not…!!)
And there is always a but with Jesus…
None of these letters are just a rebuke, or a judgement, no, they offer the fullness of Christ to those who hear them. So here he goes on:
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire,so you can become rich; and white clothesto wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
The echo opposite to what he accuses them of…
And there is more than that.
In fact something really stands out to me about these 7 letters. Every one includes the line:
21 To the one who is victorious, I will….
And is followed by an amazing prize so here for Laodecia it is:
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne
And these images, these future promises paint out an amazing glorious picture especially when we put them together…
Ephesus: To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
Smyrna: The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
Pergamum: To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
Thyatira: To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’ just as I have received authority from my Father.28 I will also give that one the morning star..
Sardis: The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.
Philiadeplida: The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.
Laodecia: 21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne,just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Doesn’t that together paint a glorious picture?
And when we read
11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches
in each of these letters, we realise he says churches plural, we could say, this is not just a series of letters to diff churches, it is a collective letter. Hear what the spirit says to all the churches. And as a complete picture these sections alone are revealing the future kingdom.
This whole book, this vision is one big prophecy, a vision of the future we read that right at the start.
A vision of heaven, of eternal life
The final judgemnent
And all of these promises actually feature in the Rev 21/22 when we can read about
The description of a new Jerusalem of Eden restored
In fact Rev 21:7 says:
Those who are victorious (same line again) will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children
Who are the victorious? The one who is victorious is the one who turns to Jesus, who follows him, who knows him, who serves him who brings glory to him…
Jesus offers us this amazing promises of a future in his glorious heavenly kingdom
Rest of revelation – full of precious jewels and gems – city made of gold and jasper
Most astounding vision
Too much to comprehend but even if you take it as a metaphor for what he offers us – just think of the value of a place like that, the beauty, desire to be in a place like that…
And he offers it to us for free!
more even than that, he is with us NOW, right now, here on this earth with us in all we do. It’s not just something to look forward to, it is now!
And yet, sometimes we too are a bit like the people in the church at Laodecia – a bit lukewarm aren’t we. If we are honest. I sometimes ask myself how this happens because if we know the amazing truth of who Jesus is, and who he is for every one of us – how can we ever be lukewarm again?
But Jesus even says ‘you do not realise the state of your ,lives – vs 17:
17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked
Do you realise? Do you know where your faith is at right now? What temperature it is? Sometimes we need a wake up call don’t we? Eph 5 says this:
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
I love that – Wake up – are we really truly awake to Jesus?
Staff. Bible study and teaching together
Teaching – Bill Hybels – are you at boiling point in your faith?
I thought that is a real challenge isn’t it?
No it would be difficult to be at boiling point all the time, but as a regular reminder of where you are at in your faith, it’s a good challenge to us
As usual I want to leave you with some questions or challenges to take away and think about this week:
- What temperature is your faith at and how is that playing out in your life? Does your faith impact your actions?
- Are you swayed by materialism & the prevailing culture? And if so what are the things distracting you from Jesus?
- Are you one of the victorious
- Go and read Rev 21-22 we’ll get there eventually in our preaching! And see if you can get a grasp….