Today’s reading is the last of the seven letters to seven different churches from Jesus. They are all memorable, but the Laodicean church has a firm grip on the psyche of the American church. There are probably a lot of reasons for this.
14. To the angel of the church in Laodicea write these things: The amen, the witness, the faithful, the truth, the source of God’s creation says,
15. ‘I know your works. You are neither cold nor boiling hot. If only you were either cold or hot.
16. Because you are tepid, neither boiling hot nor cold, I am about to vomit you out of my mouth.
17. You say, ‘I am rich. I have always been rich. I need nothing.’ You are unaware that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.
18. I advise you to buy from me gold purified by fire, so that you might actually be rich; buy clean white clothes so that you may be dressed and not exposed in your naked shame; buy eye ointment to apply on your eyes so that you might see.
19. I reprove and discipline those whom I love. You must be eager, then, to repent.
20. Behold, I stand at upon the doorway and I knock. If anyone should hear my voice and perhaps open the door, then I will come in to him. He will eat supper with me and I with him.
21. I will give those who conquer to sit with me in my throne, just as when I conquered I sat with my father in his throne.
22. Those who have ears should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.
The Laodicean church thinks it is rich, but that is a lie. They are impoverished in the areas that matter — spirituality, faith, love, devotion. Jesus calls them out on this, and indicates that their faith is a disgusting faith. It makes him sick to his stomach.
A note or two on the hot and cold water. I have heard this text ravaged of its meaning many times. People tend to say that hot is good, and cold is bad, and Jesus would rather you pick a side than straddle the fence. FALSE!
That is not what Jesus is saying. Hot water is good for many things, cleansing and therapy come to mind. It is healing. Cold water likewise is good as a refreshment, also for healing, and for temperature control. Lukewarm water, in this context, is useless because it neither cleanses or refreshes. It neither heals nor helps.
The Laodiceans practiced a useless faith. There is something in here about relevancy, about the poor, about the widow, about the orphan, about the social justice issues of climate, life of the unborn, immigrants rights, the needs of families, comfort of the grieving, and protecting children from abusers. But useless faith turns a blind eye and says, ‘let’s get back to Bible study.’
The image in verse twenty of Jesus standing at the door is very popular. There are paintings of it. This passage is a common evangelism text in which the idea of Jesus standing at the door of our heart and hoping we will invite him in. I think that is true in the sense of salvation, but that is not what this text is teaching. This text is about the church gathering inside the house, and Jesus, ironically, is left outside. He is knocking to be let back inside the church where the communion meal may again be shared between Christ and people.
Imagine a church without Jesus in it. It shouldn’t be hard, because they re all around.