To The Churches
Taking today's lessons into account, when it comes to how God sees and perceives us we should be nervous. "I know your works" is something few of us would desire to hear from the visionaries, and yet if we are going to be healthy people who constitute healthy churches those are the words we need to hear. Each of the churches in the Revelation to John are being named and anointed. Yet, with that anointing of the Spirit comes illumination with the hard, albeit loving, light of God's love poured out.
Having served a number of congregations in my days as a priest, I can offer testimony that when a Church decides to listen with integrity to what the Spirit is saying to it, life and ministry become clearer. Life doesn't necessarily get any easier, but the work at hand and the vision that will carry us all forward clarify and by God's grace we find the tools and strength we need to make that vision a reality.
I have also seen what happens when we step away from that engaged and active discernment, when human beings presume that their vision, independently conceived apart from the Spirit's presence in our lives, is the one that takes precedence. That trip-up can come from any quarter. It can come from our desire for the "good old days," and the assurance of getting back to a time we assume was more exceptional than the present moment we are given. It can come from our fear of change, of transformation, occluding our courage to persevere in the face of challenge. It can come from our willing adherence to anger and contempt when God is calling us to forgiveness and reconciliation. It can come from a dogged adherence to learned patterns and habits when they continue to fail to produce a desired outcome.
It comes when we choose to take out eyes from God, when we stop listening for, and to the Spirit. It comes when we exchange hope for certainty, zealotry for moderation, prejudice for tolerance. Those are the choices and habits that render us neither hot, nor cold...but marinating in that lukewarm spiritual and ethical estate we are warned to avoid.
When we hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches, then our hearts are softened to the needs of the world around us, our eyes are opened to the opportunities we are given to serve those in need and our hands are quickened to do the work we are being called to take on, right here and right now.
I pray that when we hear that voice say, "I know your works," that we will be ready to receive the words that follow knowing we acted as faithfully as we could in the opportunities of moments given to us. May God not find us lukewarm in that moment!