St Stephen, Lewisham
Maundy Thursday 2005
‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock’
IN the very last book of the Bible, called Revelation, Saint John includes two chapters of messages to be written and sent from his exile island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, to the Seven Churches of Asia. But the letters do not come from St John himself – they are direct communications from our Lord Jesus Christ, and sound like nothing so much as those end-of-term School Reports from our Good Master – which, of course, is exactly what our Lord is.
Two of the churches Philadelphia and Smyrna, receive praise; others are praised, but come in for a good deal of criticism as well; however the last of the Seven, the Church of Laodicea, really gets it in the neck!
The churchgoers of Laodicea, Jesus tells them, are complacent, self-satisfied, wealthy, and, worst of all, blind to their own shortcomings. They’ve adopted the ‘values’ of the world around them and as a result are spiritually all but bankrupt! "I warn you", says Jesus through St John’s letter, "I am the one who reproves and disciplines all those he loves: so repent in real earnest!"
Yet even to the lazy Laodiceans Jesus ends up with a note of hope. "Look", he says "I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share his meal, side by side with him. Those who prove victorious I will allow to share my throne".
As Jesus sat with his apostles at the Last Supper, which we remember tonight, thoughts such as these must have been going through his mind. One of his friends, Judas, he knew, was about to betray him and had been systematically stealing the collection money; Peter was about to disown all knowledge of him; he predicted, correctly, that the others were about to run away from him when trouble came. Only perhaps St John, his particular friend (perhaps the author of Revelation) might, just might, remain faithful.
Yes, those twelve apostles were not much better than those Laodiceans fifty years later; yet he chose them, with all their shortcomings, to become the future foundation-stones of his Church on earth. So what made the difference?
Well, experience suggests that alongside all the things which Christians are taught to do – repenting, believing, listening, serving one another, witnessing and living righteous lives – there is one duty which, so to speak, binds them all together – the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, the Mass, the Liturgy, call it what you will. Hearing him calling, opening the door, and sitting down side by side with him, the four things which he told the Laodiceans to do, are vital element in confirming our relationship with him.
Tonight, like the Apostles in the Upper Room, we stand beneath the shadow of all our shortcomings and failures. Like them, and like the Church of the Laodiceans, our end-of-term report is not a good one. But, like them, if today we would only listen to his voice and not harden our hearts, he will transform us into the Living Stones of which his Kingdom is made.
But be aware of this. The door-handle of our lives is on the inside, and the only person who can let him in by turning it, is ourselves!
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