Incomplete: More Than Meh

October 28, 2018 Pastor: Series: Incomplete

Topic: Christ Seeks Us Scripture: Revelation 3:14–3:22

We all know that disappointment is a part of life. And we know that it comes in many different forms. Sometimes that disappointment is significant and heavy. And sometimes that disappointment comes from something as relatively trivial as watching one of our favorite teams lose or having a movie you were excited to see - turn out to be a letdown. And I think there’s a certain disappointment that is common to, I’m guessing, all of us in this room. What I’m talking about is the disappointing experience of having someone tell you about a restaurant that they absolutely love, they go on and on about how great the food was, or the atmosphere, or any other number of things, and then you go to that restaurant, and you walk away thinking…meh. It was ok. It was alright. Nothing special. And this has happened to me a couple of times since we moved here a few years ago. 

In fact, I won’t say it by name, but one of the first restaurants we went to, here in Blo-No, was hyped up to us by some friendly folks - and we left that place disappointed. I’m guessing we all have gone through some version of that experience. And it’s disappointing, because of all the buildup, right? You go in expecting something fantastic but it turns out not to be. You were anticipating it to be More Than Meh.

This morning we are finishing up our Incomplete sermon series. We’ve spent the last several weeks exploring the churches found in the second and third chapters of Revelation. We’ve heard accounts of good churches and not so good churches; churches that were in trouble, and churches that were thriving. All of the churches have something in common: Jesus addressed each of them with an expectation of who and what those churches should be. Some were living up to that and some were not, but, with every church, Jesus came with an image of what those churches should be, what the Church as a whole should be. The church we’ll be looking at this morning, the last church addressed in Revelation, is no different, and unfortunately, they don’t seem to be living up to the desire and expectation of their Savior. We’re in Revelation 3:14-22.

Out of all of the churches we’ve looked at in this series, this is probably the one people are most familiar with and it’s because of one word: lukewarm. Folks who have been around church for a good portion of their life have probably heard someone say the word “lukewarm” at some point and it’s never used in a good way. And that makes sense, right? There aren’t many things in life we like lukewarm. No one wakes up in the morning and thinks, “I can’t wait for that first cup of lukewarm coffee.” Microwaves don’t have a “lukewarm” button so we can get our food right to that perfect middle ground between barely edible and completely unappetizing. And it’s not just with things we eat or drink. Relationships. When we hear love described in poetry, we hear adjectives like fiery or burning. No one wants to get a Valentine’s Day card that says, “My love for you is lukewarm.” And it’s because we know what lukewarm indicates. Lukewarm means that something isn’t what it could be, not as strong as it could be, that it’s not what we desire that something to be. Lukewarm just leaves us disappointed. And that’s not what we want. We want More Than Meh. And so does Jesus.

The church in Laodicea is another example of a church with significant struggles. So significant, in fact, that Jesus doesn’t have a positive word or encouragement to offer to this group of Christians. He calls them lukewarm, that they are neither hot nor cold, and he says that he is about to spit them out of his mouth. Some folks have interpreted these words of Christ to mean that Jesus either wants us for him or against him, none of this sitting on the fence business. There’s a problem with that kind of translation though: when have we ever known Jesus to say to any person, “I’d rather you just get away from me and have nothing to do with me?” The answer is never. Jesus has never - nor does he ever desire for us to be far from him. So that means there is a better way to understand what Jesus is saying to this "meh" church. And our best clue for figuring that out is the geography surrounding Laodicea.

Nearby, the region of Hierapolis was known for its hot springs. This hot water was not only useful for typical needs like bathing, but the mineral-rich, hot water also had a medicinal value. Also nearby, but still at some distance, were the pure and cold waters from the area around Colossae. Smack dab between these two, was Laodicea. And getting water from either source required having it brought to Laodicea. This left the city with lukewarm, tepid water that wasn’t really good for anything, and often times was disgusting to use in virtually any capacity. It was so gross, in fact, that it was common for folks to spit it out after drinking it. The Christians in Laodicea didn’t need to be told why lukewarm water was a bad thing. They experienced it every day.

So you can imagine the shock it must have been when that’s exactly what Jesus calls them. This group of Christ followers wasn’t doing anything they were called to do. The water from the hot springs could heal and restore people who were aching or sick. The Laodicean church wasn’t doing that. The cold waters from Colossae could refresh and energize those thirsty or worn down. This church wasn’t doing that. They were resting in this complacent middle ground, where they weren’t actively doing anything evil or wrong, but, they were also not doing any good for the sake of the Gospel. They were just…meh. And Jesus wants More Than Meh.

And he wants more from each of us. It’s a hard word to hear from Jesus when he tells us that we’re not living the call He has given. It can be jarring. It can sound offensive. Typically, we throw up our defenses and put forward excuse after excuse. Like the account of the rich young man in the book of Matthew that we heard earlier. He comes up to Jesus and he says what we would assume are all the right things. He recognizes Jesus’ authority and calls Jesus “teacher.” He says he’s followed all the commandments. This young man has avoided doing any sort of heinous thing. He gets that Jesus is important. And that’s all good. Don’t misunderstand me here. This man is not a villain. But we learn quickly that Jesus expects more.

Jesus tells this man: sell your possessions and give to the poor and then come with me and follow me. And those words are all it takes for this good person to walk away sad. We learn that Jesus isn’t interested in whether or not you are wealthy. We learn that simply using Jesus’ name in good ways isn’t enough. We learn that it’s not even enough for us to simply not commit wrong or evil. No, Jesus calls us to be something and to do something. The Laodicean church wasn’t being that or doing that. They were the church in name but not in heart.

It’s not about us just being ok, decent, average. It’s about being More Than Meh. And our identity as the followers of Christ is not defined by how good we look on the outside or what appearances we offer to the world. One commentary says "The aim of Christianity is not so much to change conditions as it is to change people, for if people are changed, the conditions will inevitably be changed.” The Laodicean Christians had all the appearances. They were wealthy beyond many in the area. They had a booming textile industry. They had a lofty and respected reputation. They were the leading game in modern medicine at the time. And they had a church filled with people. But that isn’t what Jesus was interested in, then or now.

We can learn an important truth from the church in Laodicea. It is not enough for us to simply be in a church. My benediction at the end of worship has been the same as long as I’ve been here. Remember that you are not leaving the church, but that you are the church being called out into the world. The world isn’t changed by all of us sitting here for one hour a week. It is changed by the people we become as we practice the truths we find in Scripture, and strive to be more like Jesus. The world is made more beautiful not merely by the inspiring music we hear in this place. It is changed when we embody that inspiring beauty and share it outside these walls. 2000 East College Avenue Normal, IL 61761 can’t change the world. But we can. To do that - we have to recognize the difference between being in a church and being THE church.

And that difference matters to Christ. So much so - that he calls out the church. In verse 19 we hear Jesus say, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.” As we wrap up this Incomplete message series, we can’t forget that Jesus doesn’t criticize these ancient churches, or us as His followers, out of spite or cynicism. Christ calls us out because He loves us and because He knows what we are capable of, that we can be so much More Than Meh. And, friends, it’s worth it.

We’re told at the end of Revelation three - what we gain by not being lukewarm, average, ok-but-not-great-or-not-awful. Jesus says that he is standing at the door of our hearts and knocking. And he says that if we open that door, if we truly and wholly open our lives to Christ, that he will come and be with us. We will have the presence of our Savior in our life. Jesus goes on and says that those who open their lives to Him will sit with Him on His throne. We’re talking about eternity here. The promise is made by Christ Himself, that if we open our lives up entirely to Jesus, we will be by His side for the rest of time.

It’s not enough for us to just open up a block of time on Sunday mornings. It’s not enough for us to simply not be bad people. And as we learn from the young man in our Gospel reading, it’s not enough to just follow some rules. All of those things by themselves only leave us lukewarm. We’re not hot. Not hot enough to offer any kind of healing or warmth like the hot springs north of Laodicea. We’re not cold enough to offer refreshment or revival like the brisk mountain waters to the south of Laodicea. We end up just being kind of…meh. And if it’s one thing we’ve learned from Christ’s words to this ancient church, and to all of the churches in the second and third chapters of Revelation, it’s that Jesus believes we are made and called for so much more than that. As followers of Christ, we’re capable of being the change this world needs and the embodiment of the hope found only in Jesus. In short, we’re made to be More Than Meh.

More in Incomplete

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Incomplete: Philly Phaithful

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Incomplete: Wake Up!

October 7, 2018

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