To the Church at Laodicea

14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write:‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

15 “‘I know your works:you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:14–22 ESV)

And so we come to the last letter. To a church that is neither hot nor cold, to a church that is so uncommitted Jesus is threatening to have no part of it.

But more than that, this a self-satisfied church, a convinced of its own wealth, its own position, its own works. A church that says it needs nothing because it has provided for itself. It is in this very self-satisfaction and self-reliance that Christ says this church is most destitute, most “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”

And so Christ, being every bit the salesman Bruce Barton said he was here, tells his followers at Leodicia to buy gold, clothes, and ointment for their eyes from him. I’m reminded, as I would be, of the frequent command by God in the Qur’an to

Who is he that will lend to God a goodly loan so that He may multiply it to him many times? And it is God that decreases or increases, and unto Him you shall return. (2:245)

Jesus isn’t just the capstone of best multi-level marketing network in creation, he wants the Laodiceans to really be rich, to cover their shame and nakedness, and to see — really see. So, he asks them to “buy” from him, to actually do something with their wealth, to sacrifice what they have earned themselves to have real the real riches Christ provides.

To lend it to God, as the Qur’an says, knowing they will “get it all back.”

Because right now, as wealthy and as comfortable as this church is, they have nothing of value. Give it to Christ, for real wealth, real clothes, and real sight.

Then comes a hard line — “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” — happily used by abusers throughout time. But as with all of threatened consequences here, Jesus is saying he does this. Not his representatives. Not someone in a hierarchy or in authority claiming the merits of suffering while inflicting that suffering.

And never have suffered themselves.

It is we who suffer, who are being removed and disciplined, who must understand this and confess it ourselves. And not those who claim to act on God’s behalf. This is also a suffering, a disciplining, that leads to the riches Christ promises this church — promises us all.

At the end, he gives us a hint of what this means when he delivers his concluding promise to the church — “to the one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on the throne” (I once knew a good Lutheran who did not want to sing a hymn that involved ruling and wearing a crown with Jesus because she was not sure how truly biblical it was) by telling us “I also conquered and sat down with my father on his throne.”

We are rich, we who have been called to follow Jesus, but we are called to actually follow, to invite Jesus in as the unwanted stranger and guest who would eat with us, to spend of our wealth in the way of Christ (there’s an Arabic phrase on the edge of my tongue here), and to accept that what the world tells us is wealth and comfort is nothing of the sort.

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