You can listen to the devotion here.
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. 15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”
This is by far the harshest letter of the seven letters to the churches in Revelation. This church receives no commendation from Christ, only judgment. This letter is a call of repentance to those who suffer from the sin of sloth/apathy (in the Greek acedia). So, it is an extremely appropriate reading during a pandemic since as we have seen in previous devotions that one of the things we should see in calamities is a call for us to repent in anticipation of the second coming of Christ.
Sloth. Apathy. False Security. These all describe the same thing. Sloth/apathy, biblically speaking, is a lack of care and concern for holy things. This is usually because of a disappointment and spiritual dissatisfaction with God’s gifts.
Sinners become bored with the things of God (sometimes they will say things like, “Can’t we do things differently?” and “Can’t we hear something new?”), and this apathy can often lead the sinner to despair. At the same time, they become infatuated with the things and cares of this world.
This is described by Luther in the Large Catechism this way: “Likewise those fastidious spirits are to be reproved who, when they have heard a sermon or two, find it tedious and dull, thinking that they know all that well enough, and need no more instruction. For just that is the sin which has been hitherto reckoned among mortal sins, and is called acedia, i.e., torpor or satiety, a malignant, dangerous plague with which the devil bewitches and deceives the hearts of many, that he may surprise us and secretly withdraw God's Word from us.”
In the reading, this is described as a “lukewarm” stagnant water that was neither hot nor cold. Hot water and cold water are useful in a variety of contexts – everyone enjoys a variety of hot or cold drinks. Lukewarm water is only good for being spit out (literally vomited out)– it is disgusting and is completely useless to quench your thirst.
The Laodiceans’ lives and their plans and hopes were self-centered. Faith and love toward God lived out in a life of service to the neighbor were of secondary importance to them. They didn’t care for what they believed or how they lived. They certainly didn’t care about proclaiming the message of the Gospel to others because they didn’t even care for it themselves. Jesus makes it clear that apathy towards God’s Law and Gospel will not be tolerated. The Lord will not tolerate a life of imagined self-sufficiency which has no need for repentance and forgiveness.
Luther spoke about this attitude contrasting it with the Lord’s attitude towards us: “He is wretched because he does not have mercy himself, and miserable because he cannot have mercy on others either, but is only miserable. But the Lord is neither wretched nor miserable, indeed, pitying the wretched and making the miserable one able to have mercy on others, so that He is not only rich toward His own, but also abounding, causing them also to make others rich” (AE 11:379)
He preaches the fullness of the Law in this text to prepare them, and us, for the Gospel. Those whom He loves He disciplines and calls them back to Himself. The call is to repent of thinking that we are sufficient in and of ourselves, and to see that all that the spiritual wealth and health we need is from Him! (Cf. Isa. 55:1-3)
So, the Lord seeks out His lost people with His Law and Gospel. Jesus desires to dine with us by giving us Himself in the Divine Service through Word and Sacrament. We as the church only hear His voice and open the door because of the work of the Spirit in us. Far from being a verse that teaches that we can save ourselves, it is a declaration that Jesus must seek us out, come to us, and give us His gifts in the very place that He has promised to do it – in His Word and Sacrament!
The promise at the end of the passage is that all those who have received these gifts will reign with Jesus on His throne. United to Him you have conquered sin, death, and hell because He has conquered these for you, and you will reign with Him forever.
Merciful Father, reveal to us the struggles we have with sloth and apathy that we may repent of these sins. Enliven us with your Holy Gospel that we may desire the things we ought to; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord. Amen.
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