As we finish up our visit to our first church, Ephesus in many ways captured the very heart of the book of Revelation, a call to endure for the eternal promises to be fulfilled rather than given our earthly lives to promises which end at death. They had embraced Christ’s teaching, endured the earthly consequences, but the letter reveals a deeper issue, in the process of being obedient they had lost the object of their affection.
Do you remember what it was like to be in love for the first time? Every word was poetry, every moment together precious, every note was history to be chronicled. Yet sometimes we can end up…
Forsaking their first love (2:4-5) 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. Paul had spent over two years living in Ephesus, teaching daily, building up leaders who could answer all the questions of the day, who understood scripture, theology, and orthodox, but somewhere along the way, they had forgotten that they had first been loved by Christ, before they were lovable. They were in a habit, doing a project, fulfilling a duty, getting work done not because of their love for Christ but because of their sense of obligation—“wonder less work” and a “loveless labor.”It can happen almost without notice—relationship with Christ becomes religion—Is Jesus Enough? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IAhDGYlpqY
That in some ways is hard to listen too, it pokes all of us—but it reminds us of our first love—that freedom we felt coming out of the waters of baptism, that moment we are transported back to the cross, seeing Jesus pour out his life in the name of love! When a church embraces its first love, it ends up loving others outside of the church. Let me be blunt, when I talked with people around town, told them where I worked, some people knew Walnut Grove Christian Church, “the chicken fried church.”
We have more to give than chicken fried—look what Christ offers for those who renew their passion for the one who endured the Passion—“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
The people would have related to the talk of paradise, as the emperor/ Caesar had on their palatial estates extensive gardens that became known as paradise, where VIP’s might be invited into the inner circle, reserved for only the most politically connected or financially capable. The majority would never step into the garden. Outside of the Artemis’s temple sat a tree so large and ancient that people would come from miles away to touch it, hoping it provide renewed health or enduring life. Both were beautiful and majestic symbols, and yet with the passing of time the tree of Artemis’ temple was cut down by invaders, the temple itself razed to the ground, and the paradise gardens burnt and ripped to the ground.
Jesus walking among the lampstands, living among the churches was clear: “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE.” Let’s embrace our first love—and take a trip outside of these walls, outside of what is comfortable, and let’s invite others to eat from a tree of life and to step into the paradise that will grow and produce a harvest forever. If we really believe Christ is enough, what do we have to lose?