Seven: The Letters of Revelation
Three years ago, I preached through the Book of Revelation. Well…almost. As some may recall, I didn’t preach through chapters 2 and 3, a section of Revelation that contains messages from Christ to seven churches in Asia Minor. At that time, I promised that I would come back and preach through this section of Revelation at some point in the future, and I’m sure you’ve been desperately waiting for me to follow through on that promise. Well, you’re in luck: starting on January 7th, I’m going to make good on that commitment. But why now? Why is this the time to return to Revelation?
As you probably know, 2018 marks the 125th Anniversary of Central. This milestone gives us a great opportunity to reflect on our calling as a church. Over the past 125 years, Central has been a witness to God’s grace to the world as a faithful presence in the Midway. Through all these years, the light of Christ has shone through our Church to the world around us. Now, as we come to this significant milestone in our life as a church, it is important for us to pause and reflect: Will our light continue to shine? Will our fire continue to radiate Christ’s glory to the world around us? Will we continue to be a faithful witness in the Midway and beyond? I believe that the year in which we mark 125 years is the perfect time for us to reflect on whether our lampstand will continue to give the life-giving light of Christ to the world around us, and I believe the messages of Revelation can serve as a guide for our communal commitment to continuing our mission into the future.
In Revelation 1, John, a pastor in Asia Minor who has been exiled by the Roman authorities for his witness to Christ, is given a vision of the resurrected Jesus. In this vision, John sees Jesus radiating the glory of God, with His face shining like the sun, a sword coming out of His mouth, wearing a golden sash around his waist and robes of luminous white. This description declares Christ’s position as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In this vision, as John sees Jesus in His resurrection glory, it is important to note that he sees him not in heaven, but on earth, standing among seven golden lampstands. What is the meaning of the lampstands? Lampstands were the ancient way of lighting a house or building, the means by which dark places are given light, by which the gloom of the night and terror of the shadows is lifted. As John sees Jesus walking among the lampstands, he is told that the seven lampstands symbolize the seven churches of Asia Minor to whom the Revelation is given.
The messages that Jesus gives to the churches call them to be lampstands that shine with an ever-brightening blaze of God’s grace. For some of the seven churches, this means a message of challenge: there are things in the life of the church that are darkening their light, lessening their ability to witness to Christ’s love. For others, this means a message of encouragement to persevere in difficult circumstances and endure persecution and suffering for Jesus’s sake. For still others, this means a call to repent and return to Christ that they might be healed and have their radiance restored. But all the messages have the same goal: to call the churches of Asia Minor to be lampstands that are fully ablaze with God’s glory and so shine the light of Christ in the darkness around them.
As we enter this anniversary year, it is important for us to hear the Word of Christ to these seven churches as a message, not just to those churches, but to our church. What challenges do we need to hear from Christ? What is threatening our ability to radiate God’s glory? What do need to repent of so that we might be healed? What things might we be called to endure with patience as we witness to Christ? How can we grow in our ability, by God’s grace, to be a faithful presence in the Midway, a local church body through whom the light of the Gospel shines?
I am excited about what God is going to do through this sermon series, and pray that God would use it powerfully in the life of our church. I want to invite you to gather together with the Body of Christ at Central each Sunday as we listen to the messages of Revelation 2 and 3, and to come, as Christ says in these messages, to “hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” May the Spirit guide us and renew us as we reflect on God’s Word together this winter.