Evening Prayer is in a dark environment this time of year. Day light is sparse and it is chilly, even cold in mid-December, even here. Lots of people are sick, or stuffed up and tired. Life is super busy (notice how my blogging is becoming a rarer thing). In the midst of all that, we are invited to Advent, a season of watching and waiting. In "cold, dark, not feeling great and so busy I meet myself coming and going" watching and waiting is not easy...
Today's assigned readings are challenging. We continue with Amos, the most social justice orientented prophet. Each day there is fresh, new hellish judgment on those who ignore the poor and the needy. As we are busy buying Christmas presents for the family and friends, many of us realize the most appreciated gifts are the ones going to an inner city kid with nothing. I hope your Christmas buying includes such things. Jesus' preaching from Matthew 22 and 23 has also had an edge. He sort of takes apart our hypocrisy even if there is love and mercy in the background. So daily readings have helped keep a focus on what matters.
Tonight we read from Revelation 1. The first church, Ephesus, is the most amazing to me. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, as did Ignatius fifty years later. In between is revelation. The church is commended for its willingness to endure struggles and be faithful. It is built up for rejecting heretics (the Greek is literary People Victors--we can only speculate what it refers to). From all the positive feedback you would think it is a great church, but Jesus seems concerned. "You have fallen from your first love" He complains.
First love is notoriously passionate and super focused. It tends to make the beloved the center of everything. First love is about making the beloved happy and sacrificing everything for them. First love has a romantic aspect and it is not measured or practical.
Jesus wants that. Too often the church is practical and careful to not go over board. Or it is self-seeking, loving in proportion to what it received. People can make Jesus an important part of their lives, like a third level focus. They treat Him as one other person out there. There is no 'worship' in that sort of love. It is love, but it is diminished love.[and for the atheists and people who aren't sure about Jesus it is worse.]
Jesus says He will take away the lamp stand of such a church. wow. Jesus wants a real relationship which is proportionate. He is the creator, savior, and future glory of God's plan. He is primary because He is before all things, above all things, sustains all things and the purpose and goal of all things. Loving Him in any way other than a passionate and totally self emptying first love makes no sense.It is like caring more about the bow on the box than the gift or the giver.
Distracted people tend to love the wrong things, the wrong people and love with the wrong intensity and perspective.It is good to ponder the first love, and return to Jesus. It is life.