Sunday 17th May 2020
Welcome – Rev Barbara Suchanek, Interim Moderator
Reading Revelation 3:1-6
Talk 2 (Morag)
This week the more I hear and see folks new normal, the more it gives me time to think through where we have come from and where will we go from here. I’ve heard folks coming to Church in their pj and drinking coffee. Who would have thought in February that they would have been doing this? I see folks in conference calls that are smart on the bits we can see and have their joggers or shorts on underneath. I even hear that folks have day pj’s and night pj’s. Things creep up on us in times like this and although these are not dangerous things and some are funny, we can sleepwalk into things without even thinking of where they will lead.
Today we visit the Church in Sardis, a Church that we are told has to wake up.
Sardis: This city was also a city well known for its softness and luxury. It had a well-deserved reputation for apathy and immorality. In Sardis there was a large, stately temple to the mother goddess, Cybele. From the ruins of that temple we can see that its main columns were 60 feet (20 meters) high and more than 6 feet (2 meters) in diameter. This mother goddess was honoured and worshipped with all kinds of sexual immorality and impurity.
c. Sardis: The combination of easy money and a loose moral environment made the people of Sardis notoriously soft and pleasure loving. “The great characteristic of Sardis was that, even on pagan lips, Sardis was a name of contempt. Its people were notoriously loose-living, notoriously pleasure-and luxury loving. Sardis was a city of the decadence.” (Barclay)
Sardis as a city had a habit of just going along with the latest fad. Easily adapting to new things and just going along with them. They just went with the flow.
There had been no need for persecution, and they had been allowed to worship in peace. Unlike their neighbouring Churches who had to work hard and had overcome many things to worship. Sardis had not experienced any of these obstacles to their faith.
They had freedom to worship, a wealthy city and all seemed well.
We hear “These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of God.”
It seems that Jesus was saying to the Church in Sardis, it’s looks good on the outside, you look as if you are doing what you should do and to folks who look on it looks good. But Jesus sees though the packaging on the outside and sees in to the heart of the Church in Sardis and warns them to wake up before it’s too late. To come back to God. There is only so long you can trade on your outer reputation and then it will all go; the Church is told to strengthen what remains.
John MacArthur tells this awesome story: There once was an old church in England. A sign on the front of the building read, ''We preach Christ crucified.'' After a time, ivy grew up and obscured the last word and it read, 'We preach Christ.''
The ivy grew some more, and the motto read, "We preach.'' Finally, ivy covered the entire sign, and the church died.
Such is the fate of any church that fails to carry out its mission in the world.
Jesus is saying to the Church, not just in Sardis that we have to wake up to the Gospel, to our mission in the world. There is no use trading on our past, if we forget what the purpose and mission of the Church is. We don’t preach ourselves or the fame of the a past but we preach Christ and by the experience of Christ in our lives we go with him and be the people of God in the communities that Christ has placed us.
The Church in Sardis had fallen asleep, it was content to go through the motions, it’s teaching, it’s people made no difference in the community around them and they became not effective in their mission to the world. It’s the danger when the Church becomes a place where the wants and needs of it’s member are more important than the mission to the community around it.
Nazi Germany the state Church had been slow to react to Hitler and his regim. They sleep walked into thinking that all was well and stopped paying attention to their mission to the world around them. 7,000 of the 18,000 pastors left the Church and formed the confessing Church and Detrich Bonhoeffer became an increasingly isolated voice, as Hitler wooed the new Church and they were taken in by his promises.
Bonhoeffer says “ that the failure of the German Christians to resist Nazi rise in power stemmed from their lack of moral clarity.”
What do we stand for as the people of God and who do we follow and who is it we belong to?
When things seem to be going well it’s easy not to reflect and take stock of where we are going but when life it starts to get more problem we take stock. We are asked to wake up and strengthen what remains.
The Church in Sardis thought all in the garden was rosy but it took someone from inside to point out that maybe it was not as great as they thought.
It’s easy to just go through the motions but this time in our history, what is it that God is saying to us?
For some of us this time of Covid-19 is the most challenging time to our faith. There has never been a time when we can’t go and worship with our fellow Christians. Yes, we’re meeting online today but there is something in the physical meeting.
But maybe we took for granted the fact that each Sunday we could come together, we got used to that being the way of things over the years.
Maybe we were sleeping to the fact that it was easy to get into a faith that was safe and not challenged.
We look around the world to the folks who can’t meet and risk their lives to do so, and yet the underground Churches in China are growing in a huge way. I think of my friends in Romania and the persecution during the communist era, the Church today grows and the number of Churches being built speaks to that.
When we have to wake up as Jesus says and take stock of our Churches and what that mission means.
When we have to look at our faith and see what that means to our lives and the strength and comfort we receive especially in this time, it makes us question why would we keep that to ourselves and just go through the motions.
Our mission is to go to all around us and to live the gospel in their midst especially at this time.
There has been a lot of talk for a long time of a Church without walls. This is the time for that.
I hear stories all the time of communities helping others, living the mission of God in this time. They have woken up to the needs of those around them and when this is all over the communities of faith will have been at the front of all this community effort.
Will the communities around us come back to God?
One thing for sure is that it will not be through us but through Christ who works through us.
We hear “ Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 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.”
The Church in Sardis had a remnant of people who had been faithful, they had not turned away from God and they had kept to their faith. They would walk with Christ and be with him. They had kept alert and lived their faith.
Today are we a Church that walks with Christ? Are we a remnant of people faithful and ready to do Christ’s mission in the world, ready and waiting to carry on.
To God the Father
God the Son
God the Holy Spirit
Before We go today I want to draw your attention to Thy Kingdom come website. I have signed up as a Church to pray from Assension 21st May to Pentecost 31st May. Where we will pray that more people in our communities and our world will know the love and peace of Jesus Christ. I have put details on Facebook but if you need more information get in touch and we can give you details. I hope that you find peace and strength as we go into another week
Now the blessing
The peace of God with is beyond all understanding
Guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus
And the Blessing of God Almighty
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Be with you and all those you love
Now and forever more