Spirits and Stars, Life and Death

Chapter 3 of the Apocalypse opens up with the letter to the angel of the church in Sardis. The living one designates himself as holding in his hands the spirits and stars, that is, the one who holds the church and its future in his hands. Noteworthy is the command to awaken, to remember, to repent and to be vigilant. Again, there is no sign of external persecution. Rather, this church is dying from the inside. The command to awaken means that the church has forgotten the danger that it faces, that its work is less than perfect. This is corroborated by the command to remember. The living one is reminding the church that it has received the message of redemption, and that at one time it heard that message and became alive through it. The fact that the church is dead, that is, that it has removed itself from the living presence of the divine, means that it has already been judged. I identify a different form of pretense from what I identified in the last two letters. Now the church pretends to be alive! “You have the name of being alive, but you are dead.” The Name they have is “Jesus,” the living one, but that which is redemptive has become judgment. As I have commented, pretense is not simply deceit. Pretense is to make oneself what one is not. It is the essence of idolatry. This church has died, and is dying because it is not living out its baptismal covenant, because they have not kept what they have received. The command to repent and to be vigilant is a demonstration that the divine is still engaged in the battle for the soul of the church, that is, to recover those who have soiled their garments, rejected their baptism. The divine is present because there are some who are still pure. The living one will remember those, and confess them before his father. The Book of Life is the promise of remembrance, the affirmation of belonging, the sure sign of the embrace of the almighty. To be in the Book of Life is to be inscribed upon the heart of the divine, to be already sharing in the eternity of the almighty. The Spirit says this to the churches: you know not the day or the hour, therefore, Watch!

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