It’s very tempting to write today about the Laodicean church. I think there’s a common perception that today’s church is the church in Laodicea and is a lukewarm church. In truth, parts of the church have always been like this.
But I am persuaded of better things for us, and so today I want to learn more about the incredible blessings Jesus Christ offers us today. Today He tells us that if we overcome the difficulties and obstacles and temptations in our lives that He will make us pillars in His Temple and will come in to us and dine with us. These are 2 beautiful pictures of the blessings God has in store for those who obey Him to the end.
It’s striking to me that when Jesus speaks to each of the churches He closes by promising blessings to the one who overcomes. His assumption, and it’s obviously correct, is that life is a struggle or battle. There is an enemy, and there is the possibility of being overcome and facing some rather unpleasant consequences.
Our enemies, we know, are the world, the flesh, and the devil, for they are an unholy trinity that seeks to overcome us. Often, they seem to be getting the better of us. We can try to fight against them, but often it seems of no use: until we remember that we can’t overcome our enemies by ourselves and that only God can do that for us. This is precisely the way we overcome: by coming to God and relying on His strength. This is the chief lesson of the Christian life: to remember each day and each moment to turn to Christ to deliver us from our enemies and to grant us the other blessings that come from being with Him.
In fact, from God’s perspective, the goal of the trials and temptations you have in your life is to drive you back into His arms. It’s not just that we should flee to Him to protect us from our enemies: we also seek the positive blessing, or bliss, that comes from being in His presence. So today we have 2 pictures of that ultimate blessing that God promises to those who overcome, that is, those who remember to come to God to have Him overcome for them.
First, if you overcome in your life, Jesus Christ will make you a pillar in the temple of God. All your life you’ve heard about those who are deemed the pillars of the church: here’s your chance to be one! I think, however, that Jesus is saying something much more profound and much more eternal than that we’ll be given a prominent place in our local church. I think what He’s after is communion or union with us.
Jesus Himself is the true Temple, made without hands, and it’s with good reason that the Church is also called the Temple of God or the Temple of the Holy Spirit. God became man that man might live with God and partake of Him in a deep and satisfying way. The Eastern churches call this theosis, although in the West we’re sometimes uncomfortable with this language. But I think our mistake is in underestimating how deep the union between God and man can be, now that God and human nature are wed forever in the person of Jesus Christ.
This isn’t just a nice picture that Jesus is painting: we are to be a part of Him who is the Temple of God, and He is to be in us. This is the language that we Anglicans use in the Holy Communion service: “that He may dwell in us, and we in Him.” That’s the ultimate goal of humanity, the zenith of our every hope and desire, and Jesus offers it to us here.
He promises to give us His name, which means we are partakers of Him and participate in His kingdom, His glory, and His power.
If this is where our ultimate blessing in heaven rests, in the presence of God and in deep union with Him, then isn’t that what we should seek in this life as well? God is not only our security force but is our very life. One of the best ways to seek this deeper union that saints throughout the ages have found is the very thing you and I are doing together this morning: meditating on the Word of God and allowing it to feed our souls and unite us to our Lord.
The second image that Jesus uses for this deep union with us that He seeks and we should seek is that of dining with us. Jesus seeks to share the fellowship of a meal with us, to eat and talk and live with us. This is a standing offer He has made to each of us, but how infrequently we take Him up on it! It’s interesting to watch kids at school decide with whom they will eat lunch. It takes a while to sort out who will sit where, but after a while they fall into predictable patterns from which they only occasionally stray. How many times has each one of them walked past someone at another table who would have made the most delightful lunch companion? And that’s what we do with Jesus. We stick to our friends, those comfortable habits that seem to provide safety and security, and we walk right past Jesus.
In truth, what happens is that we invite Jesus into His own house, our souls and bodies and His Church, and then He proceeds to do what He does best: serve. When we invite Him in, He sets His table and puts on it the most delicious and nourishing food known to man: Himself! This deep interaction and fellowship with God that Jesus offers us is pictured most dramatically and powerfully in the Holy Communion. This is not an ordinary meal, and no ordinary food is served. What Jesus offers us is to eat from the Tree of Life, Himself. What He offers is His Body and Blood, true food and true drink.
“This is My Body, and this is My Blood,” He says to us, and “If you will eat and drink Me you shall never die.” When Alice in Wonderland drank from the little bottle labeled “DRINK ME,” she shrunk to the size of 10 inches tall. But when we eat and drink Jesus, who stands saying to us, “Eat Me; Drink Me,” something even more amazing happens: Jesus comes to us and dines with us, and we with Him. He comes bearing grace and mercy and offers us life and life more abundantly.
For this reason, the Church has, from the beginning, held the Holy Communion or Eucharist in the highest regard. How often Jesus offers Himself to us, and we walk right on by!
But Jesus offers Himself to you again this very day. Jesus, through the Word of God, also says to you, “Eat Me,” for He is found in the Holy Scriptures. He comes as well to the hungry and thirsty soul who comes with an attitude of humble prayer.
The means by which we are given eternal life is available to us right now and every day. In your tribulations and in your peace, in poverty and in plenty, seek Jesus where He may be found today. He is both the means to your deliverance from all spiritual evil and your reward for having turned to Him.
Taste and see that He is good!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, come to me and dine with me today that I, the hungry one, may be filled with good things. Nourish and strengthen me; protect me from evil and the Evil One; and give me a greater hunger for You. May I today taste and see that You are good and may I evermore live in You and You in me. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
- What are the various means available to seek greater union with God? Which of these may God be calling you to? It may be that you have tried something in the past that didn’t seem to work: try something else, or try a different way.
- Enjoy God’s company today in one way.
Resolution: I resolve to find one way to seek union with Jesus Christ today and to feed on Him in my soul through this means.
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson