My sermon series on Revelation is started up again - I'm getting ready to preach my fourth sermon in the second part of the series. The first three-part series dealt with general themes of how to read and understand Revelation. The second seven-part series was going to be a week by week look at the seven churches to whom Revelation is addressed.
I've had fun doing the series, and I know at least a few people are learning something each Sunday, as well committing to live out the Way of Jesus because of what is being heard. So that's good.
But it is frustrating in that I don't have enough time in the week to learn all I want to learn about the letter. There is way too much content out there to cover, and even if I spent forty hours a week just on my sermon, there'd still not be enough time. So alot of my struggle in sermon prep is sorting out the information that I find fascinating but that is kind of not relevant to the preaching point. Each week there is so much I want to say, and there is so much insight, so many layers to the message in the Scripture text, that it is hard to know what not to say. So, this series has been fun, but also frustrating.
I'm also working to figure out how to make a separation between what I need to hear from the text for me, what I need to hear from the text for the congregation, and then get a sense of what are the many things the text is/could be saying. How one chooses to interpret the text greatly impacts what you will hear it say. But what if the text is designed to say more than one thing? How dogmatic can one be on what the text is saying? One can only be really sure of what the text is saying to me. But that can be dangerous - the text does have an implicit meaning(s), it's not meant to mean anything I want it to mean.
I'm sure by this point you're ready to quit reading this post. Boring.
Welcome to my world. This is stuff that I find fascinating.
I'm sure there are things in your life that you find fascinating that I would find boring. Like who wants to be an accountant? Or who would want to be a doctor? Or who would want to work as a manager in a restaurant. Yet there are those of you who find that kind of accounting/doctoring/managing work to be quite fascinating. Ugh.
With the text for Sunday - Revelation 2v18-28 "To the church in Thyatira"
- an interesting piece of text.
Here we have a Jesus that has eyes of fire, will cast an unrepentant woman on a bed of suffering, as well as inflict all who follow her teachings with great affliction. And he promises to kill the children of this woman.
What a nice Jesus.
Also, he describes his requirements for his disciples as a "burden", and he threatens to repay them for their deeds.
If they pass the test, he will give them authority to rule over the nations with a rod of iron by which we can dash people to pieces. And he'll give us a star for a gift.
What a nice Jesus...NOT.
A straight-reading of this text will definitely leave someone a bit baffled as to what to do with what they are reading. What happened to the Jesus of the Gospels? Even the Jesus of Paul and Peter for that matter. What kind of Jesus are we dealing with here in this text to Thyatira?
Either the congregation has to wade through a bunch of disclaimers as I explain away all the obvious meanings for the underlying text, OR they have to trust me when I give them what I think the "real" explanation, but then if they read the text for themself they may not be able to make the connection between what I explained and what they read.
Even explaining the meaning of the title of the book "revelation = apocalypse = unveiling" can leave people confused.
What was I thinking picking this series? However, people have been asking me for years to preach a series on Revelation. And I was reluctant for the longest time. Until this summer when I was energized to dive in. Now I'm reluctant again.
The message to Thyatira: consider how your use of food and sex brings upon your own suffering; when you consider food and sex a gift from God to be used as a way to bless the world, you will find yourself following the Way of Jesus.
Food and sex are the basic stuff of life - it's how we stay alive and how we keep life going. Food and sex are central to life, which is why Jesus has such strong instruction on how to consider them rightly.
Consider where your food comes from, under what circumstances it was produced, how it was transported, and how much of it you consume?
Consider your desires for sex, what is your motivation for sex, who do you want to have sex with, what are your desires for sex doing to you and others?
If Christians could hearken to this message of food and sex directed to the disciples of Thyatira, our God would grant us more authority to show the world how to carve out a life that sustains a truly good life. We would be like the morningstar - a sign of hope, a light that pierces the darkest of night, a harbringer of the coming dawn.
Bet that wasn't the most obvious message to be gleaned from the Thyatira text. Still not sure how to deliver it as a sermon on Sunday.