Two More Churches & Two More Messages
Today's reflection has been written by Daniel D. Maurer.
Continuing right along from yesterday's Narrative Lectionary Daily Reading, John now gives two more messages to two different faith communities. Again, I'll pick out a phrase and comment on it from the reading.
PERGAMUM: "To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it . . ."
What in the world is John talking about? Hidden manna? White stone? Pergamum apparently was located in a place where nasty things happen, and the community there had to work really hard to stand over-against the prevailing culture. If they conquered, John said that they would be given hidden manna, which if you'll recall was holy food for the Israelites when they journeyed through the wilderness. Scholars have speculated several ideas, but the best (in my opinion) is that it is simply a symbol saying that God would provide for them when they needed it most. The white stone actually has some basis in history: the Romans used white stones to gain entry into certain events. Also, a white stone was given to an accused person after he or she was found innocent. (Source)
THYTIRA: "I know that your last works are greater than the first. . . "
Don't get me started about the reference to "Jezebel" in this passage, because, quite frankly, I have no idea who they are referring to, and neither do any of the thousands of other interpreters of this passage. Evidently, sexual sins were a tough thing for the Thytirinians. Them, too, eh? Lots of folks throughout history have struggled, as well!
As far as my chosen passage from this scripture, I want to emphasize that people can change and begin to follow the true path God has laid out for them. This might seem fairly obvious to you, but in practice, I think lots of people struggle with folks who "once did something." How often do we so easily cast judgment over those, who in all honesty, have changed their lives? Take me, for example: I was once a raging alcoholic who struggled with depression. And I was most active in that life while I was still an ordained, ELCA pastor! My life has since changed, and now I'm a freelance writer working for the coolest company in the world, but hey! It's important to realize that people. can. change!
Narrative Lectionary Text
The Message to Pergamum
‘And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword:
‘I know where you are living, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you are holding fast to my name, and you did not deny your faith in me even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan lives. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling-block before the people of Israel, so that they would eat food sacrificed to idols and practise fornication. So you also have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent then. If not, I will come to you soon and make war against them with the sword of my mouth. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.
The Message to Thyatira
‘And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze:
‘I know your works—your love, faith, service, and patient endurance. I know that your last works are greater than the first. But I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practise fornication and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her fornication. Beware, I am throwing her on a bed, and those who commit adultery with her I am throwing into great distress, unless they repent of her doings; and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call “the deep things of Satan”, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden; only hold fast to what you have until I come. To everyone who conquers and continues to do my works to the end,
I will give authority over the nations;
to rule them with an iron rod,
as when clay pots are shattered—
even as I also received authority from my Father. To the one who conquers I will also give the morning star. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.