Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wednesday in Advent 2: The church that forgot to love

Opening Sentence
The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. Isaiah 40:5

Commemoration: Ambrose
O God, who gave your servant Ambrose grace eloquently to proclaim your righteousness in the great congregation, and fearlessly to bear reproach for the honor of your Name: Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellence in preaching and faithfulness in ministering your Word, that your people may be partakers with them of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Psalter: Psalm 38

Lessons: Amos 8, Revelation 1:17-2:7, Matthew 23:1-12

Several years earlier, Paul had written to his protege Timothy, urging him to "remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculation rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith" (1 Timothy 1:3-4). Apparently, Timothy succeeded in keeping the Ephesian church doctrinally pure. Addressing the church in Revelation, Jesus says, "I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary."

If doing everything "by the book" were the key to being a vibrant church, the believers in Ephesus would be a model congregation. Jesus, however, holds them to a higher standard. "But I have this against you," he says, "that you have lost the love you had at first."

Ephesus is the church that forgot to love. Jesus admonishes the believers to "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent."

Truth divorced from love is legalistic, judgmental, and cruel. Indeed, there is no church more spiritually dead than the church which does the right thing for the wrong reason. Chasing off false apostles is certainly not wrong in and of itself, but defensiveness cannot take the place of love as the defining characteristic of the church. Love compels the church not only to drive out the wolves, but also to seek out and bring home the lost sheep.

(JAG)

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence