Summary: Letter to the church in Smyrna
Dear Sleeping Beauty
Isaiah 52:1-6 Rev. 3:1-6
Mark Twain once said, “The reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated.” Well, just the opposite was true of the church in Sardis. Today we continue examining the series of letters Jesus writes to the seven church in Revelation to see what He was saying to them, and to see if perhaps he has something to say to us in those same letters. You may remember that the first letter was to the church in Ephesus, where, according to Jesus, they had forgotten their first love---which was Him. Other loves and other interests had captured their fancy and their heart. The second letter was written to the church at Smyrna who was in danger from both internal as well as external threats. The following week, we looked at the letter to the Christians at Pergamum who were conflicted about their faith. Some faithfully followed Jesus while others followed teachings that were contrary to Jesus. And last Sunday, we examined the letter to the church at Thyratira. You remember that some of them were rather careless with their beliefs and had lost their way, their True North. They were proclaiming Christ but knowingly tolerating ungodly teaching and behavior. And this morning, some of you may be surprised to find that the sermon has nothing to do with a Walt Disney character. Dear Sleeping Beauty was addressed to the church in a place called Sardis.
A little background first: Sardis was a city that seemed to have a lot going for it, and the church there seemed to have a lot going for it too.
Located some 30 miles to the east of Thyratira, it was built on a plateau some 1500 feet high and overlooking a valley. Steep cliffs protected Sardis on almost every side, with only one rather difficult way into the city…and that was along the ridge that ran on the top of the plateau. A high wall surrounded the city itself, so that militarily, Sardis was practically impenetrable. And yet, twice in its history, the city had been conquered. Cyrus the Great had conquered it in 549BC and Antiochus captured the city in 218BC. Both times, the city was taken by surprise…at night, by enemy soldiers who followed the ridgeline and scaled the walls only to find everyone asleep and no one on guard. The citizens were so secure, so sure that they were in no danger that nothing could happen to them that they let their guard down. They became lax and lazy. And the same thing was happening to the church in Sardis. There was no threat to the church from the outside—no persecution—and no threats from the inside—no serious heresies to battle and so the Christians in Sardis grew dangerously comfortable. They really weren’t doing anything wrong, they just weren’t doing anything. For you Veggie Tales fans, they were the original Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything. They were rumored to be alive, Jesus said, but they were dead or dying inside. They were just there…taking up space, staying well within their comfort zone, going through the motions but really doing nothing for the Kingdom. And so, Jesus warns the church that unless something changes…unless they wake up, He will come like a thief in the night.
You remember that one of the questions posed in the message about the church in Smyrna was, “When Jesus does return, will He even recognize His Bride?” Well, a similar question arises for the Christians at Sardis, and that is, “When Jesus does return, when He comes for His bride, how will He know if she is even alive?” You know if you’re in a deep enough sleep, if you are absolutely still, it can be difficult to know if someone is dead or alive.
Early on a Thursday morning in February of last year, workers at a funeral home were shocked when they found Walter Williams alive, and literally kicking from inside one of their body bags. The man was set to be embalmed later that morning. After finding Williams alive, the workers at Porter and Sons Funeral Home in Lexington, Mississippi called the County Sheriff. And what happened is that at about 9 pm on Wednesday night, the county coroner declared Williams dead after he failed to find a pulse. Later that night, he was taken to the funeral home. Williams was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he recovered.
NOV. 2014 Caption, Never underestimate the healing power of a good nap…CNN reported that a 91-year-old woman in Poland was declared dead and sent to a funeral home, only to wake up 11 hours later in cold storage. Now she's home and doing fine. The doctor had gone to the woman’s home after her family said she'd stopped breathing. "I checked the pulse on the forearm artery, he said, and listened to the heart, to the breathing. I also examined the pupils. There were no reflexes. Typical symptoms of death." So, the doctor signed the death certificate, and the woman's family began planning services.