Sardis is city number five in this little sermon series of mine - and a fascinating city it is. According to my sources, the city was perched up on top of a 1500 foot plateau, accessible by only a single winding road. The wealthy capital city of the ancient Lydian empire found it's downfall in their King Croesus: he vainly went to war against the king of Persia and was beat back into retreat to his fortress citadel. In his vanity, he chose not to post guards on the walls - they chose to go to sleep instead. In the meantime Cyrus figured out how his select soldiers could scale the cliff walls - and what do you know but they ambushed the snoozing sentinels. So goes Sardis. Funny thing is, the story played out similarly about two-hundred years later when two Greek generals were fighting each other. The one general hides up in the Sardis citadel, and chooses to let everyone catch a few winks instead of standing guard. The rival Greek sends up his soldiers via the sheer rocky crags: down falls Sardis again.
The Christians of Sardis have been watchful, they've been generous to the poor, they've sought to undo oppression and care for the suffering. That's what they used to do; now they're living off the glory of the past. Their falling asleep to the cries of current crisis, they've become soft and indulgent. No wonder Christ calls out to them: WAKE UP!
Christians are forgiven of their sins, and then they are given instruction on their new way to live under the rule of our Father. But when we forget about the freedom that comes from forgiveness and take it for granted, and when we take the instructions lightly instead of as a roadmap to great joy, well it's easy to fall into the same sins again and again...it's easy to fall asleep to the needs of the suffering and impoverished.
Christ promises to come to Sardis - but because they're snoozing, he's coming will be like a thief, a disturber of their slumber; Christ would rather come as a rewarder, with great welcome and joy. But when he does come - often as a stranger whom we don't recognize, he wants to come and walk amongst us - as one who needs compassion, attention, presence, direction.
Are you falling asleep to the suffering around you? Do you only have attention to give to your own problems? Maybe you've become like Sardis in a way? Your repeating the same mistakes, hoping for different results. When Christ calls for repentance, it's mostly an invitation to freedom, to a new way of living that brings joy and renewal; repent is a word of judgment, but then Christ must often offend us before he can deliver us.
Don't be a Sardis - don't be dying while you're still drawing a breath.
Wake Up! Repent! Live! Walk the Way of Jesus! Give yourself away!
Do the Good Works God Made You to Do!