Sister Doreen’s Reflections
The Angel of Pergamum to the Church (Revelation 2: 12-17)
The angel of Pergamum who speaks with a sharp-biting sword holds out the challenge of faithfulness and the gift of patience and a new name. In reading and meditation on the passage there were words that stood out for me as I pondered:
- You have continued boldly in my name, never denying me even when the pressure was at its worst.
- Don’t give in, have patience.
- To the victor I will give you manna and a white stone inscribed with your new name, your secret name.
Dusting off the angel of Pergamum, waiting, taking time, and waiting for the spiritual gifts in the midst of challenge – of remaining faithful and of staying with something, of growing in patience and availability. And the gift that comes as an offering from that same angel is that we receive all that we need and learn our secret name: we are the beloved of the Beloved!
I found a sort of litany forming in my heart as I pondered the challenge and the gift.
- We are all birthed within the arms of God
- We are all weathered into glory.
- We grow from foundations, what foundations have I built my life on?
- We are formed by foundations, how trustworthy are my foundations?
- We need foundations, am I taking risks and shortcuts that may lead to quicksand?
- We are given gifts, moments of truth, glimpses of God, and we are forever changed.
- We are grounded in wonder, stillness, and reverence.
- We have an overwhelming impulse for life.
- We are packed with unimaginable potential.
- We are beckoned by God into light.
- We are part of one another – the stars, the rocks, you, and I
And we are gifted with eyes, hearts, and minds to see the miracles of life and to respond.
Angels in the attic, dusting them off, waiting and taking time for the spiritual gifts amid the challenge: the angel of Pergamum holds out the challenge of faithfulness and perseverance. There is a street in Victoria, BC called “faithful” and over the years that I lived there at our branch house, whenever I drove past that street, I experienced a deep longing to live on that street called faithful. It was perhaps one of those sacramental moments for me … an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace or longing.
As I reflect on the angel’s words “you have continued boldly, you don’t give up” that perseverance is the kind that is so often held onto during difficulties. It is a hard work challenge of discerning what we value as important and of being willing to pay the price of commitment to that; of taking responsibility for staying with, and finding ways to stay with, what we value. Repeatedly throughout scripture we see God’s faithfulness towards God’s people. Just as God’s love is the pilot light of our own love and it’s never going to go out … so too, God’s faithfulness is the source and fire of our own faithfulness, and please God, may ours never go out.
Something that seems to reach out to me from this message that God is the source and fire of our faithfulness, is that a life that perseveres in faithfulness lives both from and for God, from and for one another. Whenever we live for God, we find ourselves living for others. It is as if God receives us, takes us, spins us around, and aims us ever outward! This is the challenge that the angel holds out to us, to be faithful. It challenges us always to seeking a fresh awareness, a deeper look. It opens us to God’s yearning for the world. It leads us into the messiness of life where reconciliation and healing and wholeness, care for each other and the earth matter.
And we learn something about patience! Waiting in faithfulness will bring us into the arms of that gift of patience that has so much to teach us. Faithfulness struggles with believing and trusting that there are no quick fixes in life. It is so important for us to live life in small pieces … in the slow unfolding patterns that are needed: the healing from illness, the pregnant waiting for a child, the slow recovery from broken relationships. It is hard to wait, to be content with just a small picture when we would like to see the whole picture! Do we have the patience to wait until the mud settles and the water is clear? Can we wait until doing the right thing arises by itself?
We live in a culture that believes there is a quick fix for everything. It just isn’t so. We know how often we have had to wait until things come to light on their own. And when we must wait without knowing the answers, without knowing what is ahead, we are nudged into a new perspective.
In meeting the challenge of faithfulness there is a rightness about waiting, a maturing that is worth waiting for. We can often look back and know that had we not been patient we would not have been ready. It is a standing invitation to enter actively into the thick of life and be available to see and hear and touch, taste and smell as fully as possible the inner and outer events of our life. The angel is challenging us to the difficult discipline of faithfulness and patience – of staying with it, living through it, listening carefully to it. It means paying attention, searching for ways to bring separated things and people together. Faithfulness and patience open doors, create opportunities, and they stretch us. They make us available to others, wholly focused on the present moment.
And we are gifted with that manna – all that we need, held safe in the arms of God and given that new and secret name, the beloved of the Beloved – God’s own.