CLEF Newsletter - October 2021
“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars says this: I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, and you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen that which remains, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. Remember therefore what you have received and heard; keep it, and repent. If then you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you… He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev.3:1-3,6)
The ancient city of Sardis (in modern day Turkey) was founded circa 1200 BC and a quite prominent capital city, fabulously wealthy and considered virtually unassailable. Its wealth was literally in its rich and fertile soil, and sand along an adjacent river contained much gold. Its strength was due to its location on a high plateau with nearly perpendicular cliffs. For centuries it was thought to be impregnable, until it wasn’t. In its prime, the city was visited by Solon, one of the seven wise men of Athens, who forewarned them “no human (or city) is self-sufficient in every respect; something is always lacking. In every matter, it becomes us to mark well the end, for oftentimes (prosperity) gives men a (false sense of security), and then submerges them into ruin.” Sardis ignored this, and was ultimately conquered, twice, both times taken by complete surprise, 330 years apart, by Persians and then Romans, largely because it grew lax with an arrogant presumption of safety, and unguarded walls.
The above warning to this church was quite apropos considering the city’s history, reproved for seeming as though they were alive, but had a deadened spirituality, and was alerted to wake up and pay attention to their perilous circumstances lest they be destroyed. Ironically, the mountains around Sardis were inhabited by bands of thieves that would suddenly swoop down upon travelers and pillage them. No government ever controlled them. Yet not all was lost, and worthy means that remained were worth remembering and reaffirming. The name of the city itself translates “that which remains.”
The world we live in today writhes under so much hostility and carnage, and even the Church, Jesus said, “suffers violence, and violent men take it by force” (Mt.11:12). There is “dismay among the nations, perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world” (Lk.21:26). Is it only a matter of time before all that is virtuous and worthy of honor, all that was labored for and sacrificed to obtain, all that was established by the heritage of God’s lovingkindness, justice and righteousness, the hard-won legacies of security, satisfaction and significance, are overrun by the enemies of all that is good, true and beautiful? We still have reason to hope.
I have often referenced JRR Tolkien’s trilogy “The Lord Of The Rings” as an architype of life’s challenges. In the second book, the fellowship was split up and each were fighting impossible battles in separate theaters of war. The state of middle earth appeared doomed to the encroaching forces of darkness and all that was ever noble and right were being crushed. Yet in the heart of Sam Gamgee was still the courage and resolve to believe that the light remaining was still enough to quench that darkness and emanated the essence of the soul and spirit of hope. It is the central quote of the whole trilogy, and everything centers upon it. In the moment, Frodo voices doubt that he can go on, and Sam tells him why he must, and can…
Sam: It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.
God created this world, the cosmos it hangs in and the physical, moral and spiritual laws which govern it all. And He remains sovereignly in control of all things after the order of His will. From the beginning this world was formless and void, and darkness reigned. But then God said “Let there be light.” In that Word was LifeSam; Life that became the Light of men. That Light pierced through the darkness and overpowered it. That Light of God’s Word remains supreme to vanquish darkness within those who do understand, and who won’t turn back from being and fighting for what is good in the world. Take hold of and advance with that Light. Much good remains. Be that which remains to move forward, and yet defeat the darkness.
“Now the God of peace, Who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be the glory forever and ever, Amen ” (Heb.13:20-21)