The reading for today takes us from the end of John’s introduction to Jesus in Revelation into the first of the seven letters.
17. When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man. He put his right hand on me and said, “Do not fear. I myself am the first and the last,
18. the living one. I was dead, but behold I am living forever and ever. I have the keys to death and hades.
19. You must write, therefore, what you saw, are seeing, and what is about to come about after these things.
20. The secret of the seven stars you saw in my right hand and the seven golden lampstands is that the seven stars are the angels of the churches. The seven lampstands are the seven churches.
2:1. To the angel of the church in Ephesus write these things: The one holding the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands says,
2. ‘I know your labor, patience, and that you do not tolerate evil. You tested the people calling themselves apostles and discerned they were liars.
3. You have patience; you endure through my name; you have not become weary.
4. But I have it against you that you left your first love.
5. Therefore, you must remember how far you have fallen. Repent and do the works you did at the first. If you do not, I will come to you and will remove your lampstand from its place, should you not repent.
6. But you do have this, you hate the works of the Nicolaitans just as much as I hate them.
7. Those who have ears should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches: those who conquer will be allowed to eat from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God.’
Jesus says you should listen to what the Spirit says.
Do you notice that these are the words of Jesus, and he is speaking, yet he tells us it is what the Spirit says. Nestled within these letters is a great mystery of the Trinity: The son is speaking for the Spirit, when usually it is the other way around. Fascinating.
But back up to the idea of leaving your first love. That is the fault of the Ephesian church. It feels to me like something you might say to a middle aged person who has lost their passion. It could be a passion for a wife, a career, or a hobby. Comfort and ease have replaced hard work and desire. Churches can fall into the same pattern. The solution is to go back and do what you used to.
If you feel far from God, further than you used to be, and you want to fix it, go back to what you used to do. My suspicion there was a time when you you studied the Bible more, prayed more, worshipped more, and perhaps attended more Bible studies, served more, and got involved more. The busy things of life crept in, and with age and time, we compromise.
The result is our old lover is jilted, waiting over a cold communion meal for us to show up to show up for supper, but we never do because of . . . well, you name it.
A translation note here, which I am not doing very much of on these rendering ,but the formula I use for each of these letters is a little different than most English translations. Compare:
To the angle of the church in Ephesus write: The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.Revelation 2:1 ESV
There is nothing wrong with the standard rendering, but I have one thing against it. The Greek text uses the verbal form, ‘he says’ which is swallowed in most English versions and turned into the noun ‘words.’ But the text it is a verb, so I move the verb to the end of the description because I think that is where it belongs. It makes more sense to me. I follow this pattern for all seven churches because the opening is the same — ‘write these things to _______’ and then there is a description of Jesus that is relevant to the church, and then ‘says’ — because the one saying is the one being described.