Chuck Swindoll in his book Hand Me Another Brick told the remarkable story of Thomas Edison. Edison had invented the microphone, the phonograph, the incandescent light, and more than 1000 other things. You probably recognize his notable line, “I haven’t failed, I simply found 10,000 ways that it didn’t work.” He was famous for his innovation and creativity, but in December of 1914 after working for 10 years on a storage battery he was feeling the finance strain of trying to come to a breakthrough. This particular evening spontaneous combustion had broken out in the film room. Within minutes all the packing compounds, celluloid for records and film, and other flammable goods were in flames. Fire companies from eight surrounding towns arrived, but the heat was so intense and the water pressure so low that the attempt to douse the flames was futile. Everything was destroyed. Edison was 67. With all his assets going up in a whoosh (although the damage exceeded two million dollars, the buildings were only insured for $238,000 because they were made of concrete and thought to be fireproof), would his spirit be broken?
It was the same situation my dad found himself in one day driving home from work. He saw the smoke rising over the hill. As he got closer, that pit in his stomach grew worse, and finally as he rounded the last corner, his worst fears were realized, everything he had worked for was gone in a heap of ashes from the flames. Those are moments in life that many of you have probably endured, moments that have the potential to leave you with nothing, to break your spirit.
Today, in our sermon series Church Shopping, we visit the church of Philadelphia that like Edison has seemingly every reason in the world to give up. Yet, Jesus begins in the ashes reminding them of His:
Strength In the Midst of Weakness (Revelation 3:7-8) To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Every door seemed to be slammed in their face. A natural disaster in the form of an earthquake devastated the city. A man-made disaster devastated the economy when Emperor Domitian deciding the fertile volcanic ground was producing vineyards that rivaled or surpassed Rome ordered the burning of their fields, and Jesus alludes to their religious disaster. Then came a spiritual closed door. The Jewish synagogue pushed the Christians out the door (they were early on considered a sect of the Jews). Jesus in response focuses first on his character and then on their circumstances. He describes himself as fulfilling the role in a royal house of majordomo–the bearer of the keys. The one who despite their appearance could lock or throw open any door. Continue reading “Church Shopping: Philadelphia”