“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘I know your works; you have the name of being alive, and you are dead. Awake and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death…’” Revelation 3:1-6
If you didn’t get enough “Revelation” yesterday, we have that as our reading again today. The letters to the seven churches continue with one of the great themes of Advent, found repeatedly in hymn and chant and sacred music, “Awake, Awake!” As with the church in Sardis, the church in every age is tempted to fall asleep—the Lord even calls them “dead.” They have the name of being alive, “but you are dead,” says the Son of God. They are the “walking dead” in a very real sense!
Lutheran churches have for too long been satisfied with being “zombie churches,” if you will allow me an analogy from contemporary culture. We go through the motions, but are we truly alive in our faith? Are we followers of Jesus, or merely fans? Are we church members, or disciples? This is the great challenge to Lutheranism today, as it has been at different times throughout history. Will we close our eyes and pray that the current troubles and false teaching melt away? Will we be Lutherans who accept immorality and look the other way? Will we bury our heads in the sand and refuse to see what is happening in Lutheranism today and the surrounding culture? Our Lord will not have any of that!
Jesus says, “Awake, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death…you still have a few people who have not soiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy. He who conquers shall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life.” Part of the problem for us Lutherans is that we grab onto the Gospel and God’s grace and mercy, and mistakenly assume that means God cares not how we live our lives, now that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The opposite is actually true. It is because we are saved by grace through faith that we want to wake up and live fully for Him!
Lord Jesus, cause me to be alert and awake—that I may walk with you in a white robe, cleansed by your blood and righteousness. Amen.
Prepared by David Wendel, North American Lutheran Church