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Revelation 3:1-13, Message to Sardis, Philadelphia

St. John of Patmos

St. John of Patmos

And Then We Got Sardis & Philly

Today's reflection has been written by Daniel D. Maurer.

The apocalyptic (revealing) writer John continues here his narrative to yet more cities. This time it's Sardis and Philadelphia (no, not the one in Pennsylvania!)

SARDIS: "You have a name for being alive, but you are dead . . . " 

How many times do we, when we are reviewing our days when we are lying in bed, say to ourselves: "You know . . . I didn't act like a person who is really alive today"? I know that many days, I fail. It's easy to be impatient when we're standing in line at Wal-Mart or have to meet all our appointments right on time. Thing is, our God is a God of second chances. So was the God of the people of Sardis. Hence, John gives them time to shape up!

PHILADELPHIA: "And yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name . . . "

I feel as if we need a little history lesson to fully understand what was going on here. In the Roman Empire, many religions were tolerated. In fact, that is how the Romans were so effective at governing the people they had conquered: they allowed them to keep their language, their religion, their homes, their government. All the conquered nation had to acknowledge was that Rome was supreme and that the Roman Emperor was an embodiment of a god. For Christians, that was a problem. (It was for Jews, too, but they had a special exemption from this requirement.) Since Christians were a "new" cult, and not very well liked, they either had to deny their faith and claim Rome's supremacy, or they had to face the penalty, which in most cases was a nasty, hefty tax, but by the time Revelation was written, it also could have been death.

So . . . whew. That's what was going on back then. Now? The only thing I have to add is one question: WHAT OR WHO REIGNS SUPREME IN YOUR LIFE?


Narrative Lectionary Text

Revelation 3:1-13

The Message to Sardis

‘And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars:

‘I know your works; you have a name for being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is at the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. Yet you have still a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life; I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. 

The Message to Philadelphia

 ‘And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of the holy one, the true one,
   who has the key of David,
   who opens and no one will shut,
     who shuts and no one opens:

‘I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. 

Earlier Event: August 18
Acts 9:1-19, The Conversion of Saul