How many of you could use a nap? Life gets crazy, running kids around, keeping up with grandkids, appointments, doctor visited, etc. That is why the PowerNap Sleep Centers of Boca Raton, FL decided to move forward with their vision called, MinneNAPolis opened in Minnesota’s Mall of America in November 2005. The object was pretty straightforward. The new store had themed rooms including Asian Mist, Tropical Isle, and Deep Space. The walls had been sound proofed and reinforced to block out the noise of squealing children and overhead announcements.
The company website read, “Escape the pressures of the real world into the pleasures of the ideal one.” “Its not just napping,” according to a press release. Yet, after only 5 months the store was put to sleep after trying to charge seventy-cents per minute.
Falling asleep can sometimes come at a price. If you fall asleep at the wrong times can have playful implications, you wake up with a fake Italian mustache because your friends have written with sharpie or maybe serious implication—if the heaviness of your eyelids hit you when you were in control of your vehicle, when it was late at night, when every muscle in your body told you to relax, and your brain was yelling NO. There are sometimes where it just doesn’t pay to fall asleep.
That is the context for our sermon series called CHURCH SHOPPING which takes us to the city of Sardis. Sardis unlike Thyatira, was a city with a huge history and a reputation as one of the greatest cities in the world. In the 6th century BC, they had been the capital gem of one of the wealthiest kings in the history of the world: King Croesus (Crease—US). He had paid for and constructed a beautiful temple to Artemis (one of the 7 wonders of the world)—goddess of fertility—they enjoy prosperity, influence, and peace with the safety of a wall that many felt was impenetrable. Yet as Jesus writes to the city nearly 6 centuries later he is going to appeal to their past to remind them of a new future:
While other churches have faced persecution, some economic pressure, others wrestled with compromise or tolerance Sardis is unique—a church that has seemingly figured out how to keep the peace—a church that is able to take a nap—and yet just like with MinneNAPolis, their slumber had come at a cost. Just like when you fall asleep behind the wheel of your truck or car, there is a fine line between being asleep and being dead.
EXPIRATION DATE— Like milk that has been in the fridge too long—it looks good from the outside, but when you take off the lid there is no doubt that it is rank. (Revelation 3:1b-3a) I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Explanation: The people of Sardis, the Christians must have been a little surprised by Jesus harsh opening—after all, hadn’t been the most successful of any church so far, they had hit the pinnacle winning the prize of being at peace—yet Jesus sees through their peace as puny—giving into everything around them—reminding us that peace alone is never the prize, but being in the presence of God is. There is no temptation for the church that is already dead, no pulse for the church that has avoided the spiritual battle, no activity for those not standing for Christ. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. It is a subtle yet powerful reference that Jesus makes as he calls them to “hold it fast,” reminding them that what they had once built had come down to pummel them in an earthquake 2 centuries earlier. Leaving hundreds dead, that which looked strong was weak, that which was meant to protect actually pounded down, instead of holding up it came falling down. The peace they had built wouldn’t save them, when it caved in on them.
It is amazing how far some people will go to try to pretend they have built something lasting, even when the pieces have started falling down around them. Maybe after losing a loved one you took some form of memento or keep sake, a favorite piece of jewelry, old letters, or trinket to keep their memory alive, but I’m guessing you never knew about the big business of making the dead appear alive was actually a favorite keepsake of the Victorian era. It was known as Post-mortem photography, but the deceased was done up to appear alive and pictures were taken alongside the living, or with the deceased favorite animals sitting on his lap, or all the siblings in the family standing in their birth order including the sibling that had passed away held up by a special contraption. The people appeared living, but were actually a corpse.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer pointed that true peace doesn’t come by punting or pretending, but as he said, “God is a God who bears. The Son of God bore our flesh. He therefore bore the cross. He bore all our sins and attained reconciliation by bearing. That is why disciples are called to bear what is put on them. Bearing constitutes being a Christian. Sleeping Sardis were at peace but lacking a pulse. In order to sell in the marketplace—they made an incense sacrifice to Caesar, in order to worship without fear, they acknowledged other gods, and in order to get promotions they punted their potential in Christ. As soon as we sacrifice truth to be loved by the world, we become useless to the world—To build something that lasts, matters, that protects instead of pummels, we have to have the most important piece: Ephesians 2:20– Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. Peter added that “the stone the builder rejected has become the capstone.” We are called not only to start in Christ, but to finish in Him as well.
It would be like going to the car mechanic’s shop. It is almost never a fun experience. When I take my car in and they do the 20 point inspection, I want to hear that my breaks are fine. I want to keep the hundreds of dollars it costs to fix them, but if the reality is that the breaks aren’t going to work when I go down the next hill, I want to know—they aren’t being kind by withholding knowledge.