Two Churches – Two Messages
Today's reflection has been written by Daniel D. Maurer.
John now begins to relay particular messages, first to the Church in Ephesus, then to the Church in Smyrna. For this daily devotion, I'll be cherry picking a phrase from the reading and sharing my thoughts with you about it.
EPHESUS: "But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first..."
I've never belonged to a mission church. But if I did, I can imagine that the planters of said church probably have tight, intimate interpersonal relationships with the other members of that church. It stands to reason: new groups have lots of gusto. Eventually, however, they begin to gather new people and grow. It's all good and well, at first. But as the years go by, the intensity with which they initially gave their all to the community begins to wane. Perhaps this is what happened at Ephesus. John encouraged them to once again find the passion behind the ministry they undertook.
SMYRNA: "Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death..."
Recall my statement from the previous Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotion: numbers always mean something. The "second death" to which John refers means "eternal damnation" and "eternal death." The first? Can you guess what it meant? Well . . . it's just the "real" death that all mortals will experience. The "second death" (that is, damnation) the believers should not fear, because they will not experience it.
Narrative Lectionary Text
The Message to Ephesus
‘To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands:
‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this is to your credit: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.
The Message to Smyrna
‘And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life:
‘I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death.