Friday, February 20, 2015

turn up the heat

“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.
     “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.  For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  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.  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.  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.  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.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (Revelation 3:14-22)



I'll have to admit that when I think of classic Lenten passages I do not typically think of the book of Revelation, but this particular passage hit me right in my Lenten sweet spot--whatever that is.  I think that's because as the season of Lent has rolled around this year it has felt more like a beautiful invitation rather than a hard obligation.  Maybe it should feel that way every year, but, sadly, that has not always been my experience.  But this year Lent has felt more like an invitation to "wake up" spiritually and set aside those things that keep me sleepy in my spiritual life and practice.  It feels like an invitation to come alive, to sharpen, to deepen, to turn up the heat of my inner fires, to encounter Jesus in an intimate way.  And I like that a lot.  

That's actually what this letter to the church in Laodicea is all about.  They had allowed their wealth and prosperity to lull them to sleep spiritually.  Or, to use the metaphor the letter itself uses, they had become lukewarm.  And lukewarm-ness is a trait that God doesn't care for at all.  Come to think of it, nobody cares for it.  Because being lukewarm just wreaks of apathy.  It has no backbone to it, no commitment, no passion, no zeal.  Which is one of the things God asks them to become--zealous.  The word zealous in the Greek is zēloō, which means "to boil."  God longs for their hearts to boil with love for him.  In other words, God is telling them to turn up the heat of their affection for him; be lukewarm no longer.

The image of stove comes to mind immediately.  God is saying, "Right now your passion and desire for me is about a four or five (out of ten).  Is that good enough for you?  Because it is not good enough for me.  I didn't create you to be just a four or five; turn up the heat.  I want more for you and I want more from you--don't settle for less."  I think that's why I love this invitation.  God wants my inner life to boil with affection and desire for him. 

The reality is that we all boil inside for something.  There is something in our lives that is getting our passion.  It might be work, it might be family, it might be a significant relationship, it might be wealth (like it was for the Laodiceans), or it might even be ministry.  Something is on the front burner of our lives, receiving all of the heat of our passions and desires that only God deserves.  Lent is the season when we are given an opportunity to figure that out, and to return (repent) him to his rightful place on the front burner of our lives.

The way we do that is by simply opening the door to him, the One who knocks and knocks.  To open our hearts and souls and invite him into our days and our lives to spend intimate time with us around the table of our hearts, feasting on the Bread of Life.  He will not intrude, he will wait (and knock) until space has been made, and the door has been opened, and he has been welcomed in.  Lent is that season when we make space and time for him. 

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