By Kendall Smith
Lectionary reading for 3/18/2022: Psalm 63:1-8; Daniel 12:1-4; Revelation 3:1-6
Selected passage for reflection: Revelation 3:1-6
Revelation 3:1-6 (MSG)
Write this to Sardis, to the Angel of the church. The One holding the Seven Spirits of God in one hand, a firm grip on the Seven Stars with the other, speaks:
“I see right through your work. You have a reputation for vigor and zest, but you’re dead, stone-dead. Up on your feet! Take a deep breath! Maybe there’s life in you yet. But I wouldn’t know it by looking at your busywork; nothing of God’s work has been completed. Your condition is desperate. Think of the gift you once had in your hands, the Message you heard with your ears–grasp it again and turn back to God. If you pull the covers back over your head and sleep on, oblivious to God, I’ll return when you least expect it, break into your life like a thief in the night. You still have a few followers of Jesus in Sardis who haven’t ruined themselves wallowing in the muck of the world’s ways. They’ll walk with me on parade! They’ve proved their worth! Conquerors will march in the victory parade, their names indelible in the Book of Life. I’ll lead them up and present them by name to my Father and his Angels. Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.”
Eugene Peterson, in his paraphrase of the Bible called The Message, translates the final words of each letter to the seven churches in Revelation (chapters 2-3), “Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.” As I reflect on this text, I’m struck by the beautiful invitation in those words. In fact, I imagine that this is the primary call to the 1st-century church in Sardis. They, like we so often do, had burned out. Their reputation was one of energetic work, but inside, they were dead. Although they were working busily for God, the rebuke was that nothing of God’s work had been completed. They were not being asked to do more, but rather, to wake up, to take a deep breath, to invite God’s life and breath back.
So often, we try to show our love for God by doing. But the antidote to burnout and exhaustion is not adding more to our schedules, but taking away. Built into this season of Lent is the practice of waiting, listening, and repenting. We intentionally place ourselves in humility before God and ask, “What should we give up for these forty days?” Ideally, we give up those things that dull our appetite for the Divine so that we can purposefully pay attention to the work of God around and within us. We turn off auto-pilot long enough to recognize where we have fallen asleep to the Spirit’s work. Like the church in Sardis, each year we are given the opportunity to reflect on the state of our own soul in the Presence of the same God. Isn’t it good to know that God isn’t looking at our exterior condition–church busyness and productivity–as signs of His Presence? Like the first-century hearers, we are being called to wake up to God’s already-at-work Breath–and to respond! God knows our heart and longs for us to be alive–truly alive–and awake to the “Message we [first] heard with our ears”.
As you journey through this Lenten season, pay attention to your body and soul. Take time to sit in reflection–in quiet, in prayer, on a slow, attentive walk outside. Listen to the Spirit’s breath. Do you feel alive inside? Are your acts of service flowing from a heart that is deeply connected to the Source of Life? Or are you experiencing a slow and gradual burn-out? (Be honest in the Presence of God. This healing doesn’t require work on your part, only the willingness to open yourself up to God’s healing.)
Good and Loving God;
We long to be found awake and alive to your Spirit,
But we confess that often, we are more like the church at Sardis–
Doing good works, but on the edge of burning out.
Show us, this season, where we have fallen asleep to your Goodness!
Help us make room to experience your Healing Presence,
Root us in your grace, your truth, your Love.
Wake us up to hear the Wind Words as your Spirit moves in and around us.
About the Author
Kendall Smith is an elementary science teacher who loves reading, writing, thunderstorms, and long slow walks outside. She and her brother write a blog called Not All Who Wonder are Lost (www.invitationtowonder.com/wonderings,) where they write about science, faith, doubt, and the goodness of God.