This ser­mon by Peter Mohr is based on Reve­la­ti­on 2, the let­ter to Ephe­sus.

Ser­mon on Reve­la­ti­on 2, 1–7 (for So., 10.05.20 as video stream for the church­es

Topic: Bur­ning for Jesus Hano­ver-Joh­nes­kir­che and Wunstorf Gemein­de Mit­ten­drin

Text:

(1) To the angel of the church in Ephe­sus wri­te: The­se things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven gol­den cand­lesticks: (2) I know your works and your toil and your pati­ence, and that you can­not bear evil; and you have tes­ted tho­se who call them­sel­ves apost­les and are not, and have found them to be liars; (3) and you have pati­ence and have bor­ne (many things) for my name’s sake and have not grown wea­ry. (4) But I have against thee that thou hast left thy first love. (5) Remem­ber now from what you have fal­len away, and repent and do the first works. But if not, I will come to you and push your lamp­stand away from its place unless you repent. (6) But this you have for yourself, that you hate the works of the Nico­la­i­tans, whom I also hate. (7) He who has ears, let him hear what the Spi­rit says to the church­es! To him who over­co­mes, I will give food from the tree of life, which is in God’s para­di­se.

Intro­duc­tion: The church in Ephe­sus bet­ween 60 and 95 A.D.

Last year, during a seri­es of Bible stu­dies in our church, when Reve­la­ti­on was being worked on in the midd­le of a Bible stu­dy seri­es, it struck me that the first church men­tio­ned the­re by Jesus or John in Reve­la­ti­on 2:1–7 was the same church to which Paul had writ­ten his let­ter about 30–35 years ear­lier. Sin­ce church­es – just like peop­le – »age«, I find it inte­res­ting to see how a church is jud­ged by Jesus after about 30–35 years. For us – as a church d [sen­tence incom­ple­te]

Main part: Ephe­si­ans 95 and us

  1. Ephe­si­ans circ 95 A.D.: A gre­at church?

First of all, I would like to brief­ly dis­cuss the indi­vi­du­al cha­rac­te­ris­tics that Jesus noted for the church in Ephe­sus around the year 95.

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1.1 Jesus knows the works Right here at the begin­ning we rea­li­ze that we have to take the works of the church in Ephe­sus …of cour­se. But we can think of our »works«, for examp­le our church ser­vices. Every Sunday so many of us are invol­ved in them that one can alrea­dy call them a »work« of our respec­ti­ve church. I am sure that Jesus knows and sees the­se »works«! Bet­ween Sundays, the con­gre­ga­ti­on in the Johan­nes­kir­che orga­ni­zes a huge pro­gram, while the offe­rings in the Wunstorf church are much simp­ler. Jesus has seen the works of the church in Ephe­sus, and he also sees the­se works we do and ever­ything else we do as church­es.

1.2 Jesus knows the trou­bles of the church in Ephe­sus 95:

As in Ephe­sus, not ever­ything we do is always easy and smooth. So we can be sure that Jesus also knows the trou­bles we expe­ri­ence when we crea­te such church pro­grams. We invest a lot of time, a lot of thoughts and ner­ves, a lot of work and also a lot of money in our church­es, and, in my opi­ni­on, the fruit we recei­ve from all this toil is only a »modest echo«.

1.3 Jesus knows about the pati­ence the­re. (men­tio­ned in v. 2 and v. 3)

Jesus men­ti­ons pati­ence twice for Ephe­sus, so it must be an out­stan­ding cha­rac­te­ris­tic of the church the­re. – What about us? Could Jesus also descri­be us in a spe­cial way as a pati­ent church? Pati­ent when we wel­co­me someo­ne very warm­ly and he or she once more stays away? Pati­ent when we invest a lot of time in con­ver­sa­ti­ons and per­so­nal sup­port and he or she goes his or her own way? Pati­ence, when we are loo­king for employees and in the end don’t find them? —- Is pati­ence a spe­cial cha­rac­te­ris­tic of our com­mu­ni­ty?

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1.4 Evil was not tole­ra­ted. 1.5 Fal­se apost­les were expo­sed as liars. 1.6 The church hated the works of the Nico­la­i­tans. (v.6.)

Let me brief­ly sum­ma­ri­ze the idea that the church in Ephe­sus around the year 95 AD did not tole­ra­te »evil men« and »fal­se apost­les« and the »Nico­la­i­tans« (pro­bab­ly peop­le who com­bi­ned faith in Jesus Christ with ido­la­try and immo­ra­li­ty): the text men­ti­ons they unmas­ked or even hated them. – I can­not at all ima­gi­ne what tur­bu­lence, what pas­to­ral con­ver­sa­ti­ons, what hea­ted deba­tes in church mee­tings, what evi­dence was necessa­ry to exclu­de such peop­le in »clean« pro­cee­dings. But it was part of Ephe­sus 95 that the church suc­cee­ded in this at that time and is posi­tively empha­si­zed by Jesus.

1.7 For Christ’s sake, the church has bor­ne bur­dens. 1.8 The church did not beco­me wea­ry.

Two other cha­rac­te­ris­tics are men­tio­ned in Ephe­sus 95: The church For Christ’s sake”, had »bore bur­dens«, and had not »grown wea­ry« with all its efforts. – If we now want to sum­ma­ri­ze and look at the over­all sta­te of the church in Ephe­sus around the year 95, we would pro­bab­ly say: »That was a gre­at church!”

But Jesus sees it dif­fer­ent­ly. He sta­tes:

(( The cri­ti­cism of Jesus )): Ephe­si­ans 95 has left their first love. Des­pi­te our posi­ti­ve impres­si­on of the church in Ephe­sus, Jesus had some­thing very important to lea­ve out the­re: He mis­sed the first love. It had been lost over the years.

Now we are incre­a­singly tur­ning our atten­ti­on to our own church­es: What is our situa­ti­on with »first love«? First we ask: How can first love be lost?

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  1. 2.1 How can first love be lost?

How can it hap­pen that first love is lost? In any case, this is not a sud­den event in our faith, but pro­bab­ly a cree­ping pro­cess. It is about rou­ti­ne, to which our con­ta­ct to Jesus can free­ze: For examp­le get­ting up at 6am, rea­ding the Bible and pray­ing at 6.15am, 6.30am bre­ak­fast, get­ting rea­dy to lea­ve at 6.45am. Every day, year after year… the faith can beco­me fro­zen in rou­ti­ne. – It is about for­get­ful­ness or sim­ply taking for gran­ted all the good things we have expe­ri­en­ced and done in disci­ple­ship, without thin­king about the one from whom we have »all good gifts«. – The­re can also be some­thing new and inte­res­ting com­ing into our lives, e.g. a per­son or a group of peop­le or an ideo­lo­gy, wher­eby faith is rekind­led. etc. etc.

2.2 I have reco­gni­zed my lov­el­ess­ness. A few days ago I expe­ri­en­ced with mys­elf that I had no real love in me. I recei­ved a mes­sa­ge from the con­gre­ga­ti­on, took note of it and then went on with my work. The next day a per­son from our com­mu­ni­ty asked how we could do some­thing good for the peop­le affec­ted. In doing so, I rea­li­zed that I was not invol­ved and had not thought at all. Then I chan­ged that. But the expe­ri­ence show­ed me that the loss of first love starts with mys­elf.

Now of cour­se the ques­ti­on ari­ses: Can some­thing be done? And if so, what can you do?

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  1. How can the first love be rene­wed?

After Jesus‹ call in ver­se 5, the­re is inde­ed some­thing that can be done to stop or even rever­se this pro­cess.

3.1 Jesus asked the church to remem­ber. (»Remem­ber what you have fal­len away from.«). About 70 years ago (1952) the buil­ding of the Johan­nes­kir­che was built in Han­no­ver. Sin­ce the­re were hard­ly any cars in the con­gre­ga­ti­on, the women trans­por­ted lunch in lar­ge buckets and pots for the vol­un­te­ers by tram. Can we ima­gi­ne the love that went into such an ope­ra­ti­on? Let us remem­ber…! For our church I also remem­ber the many evan­ge­listic cam­pai­gns, in the church, as a tent mis­si­on on the Kla­ges­markt, at Stein­tor with the EmK mobile…And this work was not in vain. – For the Wunstorf con­gre­ga­ti­on, I think of all the good God has done for us from Küs­ters Hof from 2005 on, through the church shop from 2010 on, to the pavi­li­on in Wil­helm-Busch-Stra­ße from 2015 on! In 2014/15, for examp­le, we were faced with the situa­ti­on of how we could find more space for our­sel­ves for less rent. Then we dis­co­ve­r­ed – as a divi­ne gift – the pavi­li­on! – Let us remem­ber what we expe­ri­en­ced with God and his help!!

3.2 Fur­ther Jesus asks us to repent!

From my own church tea­ching I remem­ber that repen­tance is the God-wrought chan­ge of heart, in which we reco­gni­ze and con­fess our sins and repent hear­ti­ly, hate them and let them go, make amends for the wrong we have done as far as pos­si­ble and turn to God in faith. We must the­re­fo­re want to »repent« our­sel­ves, but it is also a chan­ge that is brought about in us by God and His Spi­rit. Then the first love also incre­a­ses in us again.

3.3. Jesus wants us to do the first works again.

Jesus exp­lains in his escha­to­lo­gi­cal speech in Mat­thew 25:34 ff what is important to him. The­se are, so to speak, the foun­da­ti­ons for a life in first love (= Aga­pe): fee­ding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, taking in stran­gers, dres­sing the naked, visi­t­ing the sick and pri­so­ners. Here I ask mys­elf and our­sel­ves: Are we on the right path with the­se basics of first love? Are hungry, thirsty, stran­gers, naked, sick and pri­so­ners our busi­ness? Do we think about how we can help them?

Sum­ma­ry: If we prac­ti­ce »first love« in the­se dif­fe­rent are­as, we will always seek and find ways to reach out to unbe­lie­vers, to go after despe­ra­te peop­le, to make peop­le hap­py for the sake of Jesus and to invi­te them to a life with Jesus. — An old pas­tor once put it this way: Jesus should be of unri­val­led impor­t­ance to us. In other words: The church should (again) »burn for Jesus« in its thoughts, words and deeds! Or even more dra­ma­ti­cal­ly: It is about a bur­ning white-hot church! For us this could mean: Do we want to be (again) white-hot, bur­ning church­es for Jesus?

[Translator’s Note: John Wes­ley was once asked why so many peop­le came to watch him speak when he minis­te­red to the poor. He was repor­ted as say­ing, The Lord hath set me alight, and they have come to watch me burn.”]

  1. Con­clu­si­on: The future of a church

In his let­ter to the church in Ephe­sus Jesus does not lea­ve it at an ack­now­led­ge­ment of the works and a necessa­ry cri­ti­cism. He sees one step ahead and also informs them about what the future will look like.

For the future of the church in Ephe­sus the­re were and are two pos­si­bi­li­ties for every church:

4.1. The church will disap­pe­ar, dis­sol­ve. (»…its lamp­stand will be moved away from its place«; V.5)

This was true for the church in Ephe­sus, and so it will be for every church which ‑without com­pro­mi­se- offers a »gre­at« church pro­gram, but whe­re the first love is mis­sing. Sin­ce every con­gre­ga­ti­on is made up of indi­vi­du­als, this final assess­ment is the­re­fo­re also about every sin­gle per­son in the con­gre­ga­ti­on: Does he or she have first love? Are they bur­ning for Jesus Christ? Do they infect the other mem­bers and friends of the church with their »ardent zeal«? — If this is not the case, then the church will fall apart, then »at some point the lights will go out« and not­hing will remain.

4.2. The second pos­si­bi­li­ty: If a church remains in first love or returns to it, if it »burns« again or the first time for Jesus, if it is or beco­mes a »white-hot« church for its Lord Jesus Christ, then ever­yo­ne who works for and works in it in this way recei­ves eter­nal life (refe­rence to the tree of life) in God’s new world ( in his Para­di­se). Jesus Christ affirms it this way: »He who has ears, let him hear what the Spi­rit says to the church­es! To him who over­co­mes, I will give food from the tree of life which is in God’s para­di­se«.

May God help us that we have ears to hear and strength to over­co­me, so that we may be with him for eter­ni­ty!

Amen