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The Angel of Thyatira to the Church

Sister Doreen’s Reflections

The Angel of Thyatira to the Church (Revelation 2: 18-29)

The angel of Thyatira who speaks with eyes of fire and feet of bronze holds out a challenge about gentleness and mindfulness, of not giving up in our struggles, of patient endurance and the gift of being transformed in hope. In reading and meditation on the passage there were words that stood out for me as I pondered:

  • I see everything you are doing for me. Impressive!
  • I see the love and the faith, the service and patient endurance.
  • I am the one who searches the minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.
  • I will not make life harder for you than it already is.
  • Hold on to the truth.
  • Everyone who refuses to give up I will give authority over the nations.
  • I will give you the morning star, the hope.

We spend so much of our time in a hurry and a worry. Confronted by the angel of Thyatira there seems to be a message about gentleness and mindfulness, of not giving up in our struggles, of patient endurance. There is a promise at the core of our being that we are united in the heart of the mystery of God, that we are God’s home. During struggle, a struggle that often scars us, can we let ourselves be transformed in hope? By that kind of hope that indeed knows that we are held in the palm of God’s hand, that we are God’s home. Every night when we say Compline at the Convent we repeat the life-reassuring and life-transforming words: “We forget that we are your home.”

The message includes I will not make things harder for you than it already is, and sometimes I read that with a question mark! There are times in my own life when I really feel that God is making things harder than it ever was before! Then I think, it is time then for a reflection on Jacob wrestling with God, and I know that it merits my attention. Jacob wrestled with God and would not let God go during his struggles until he received a blessing. Jacob was marked by God (hip out of joint: blessed, marked, and forever changed, transformed in hope. Yes, we need to hold on and wrestle until we are transformed in hope!

Here we meet the angel of Thyatira and the challenge of holding firm to God, and discovering the gift of trust, and letting go of fear. What would happen if an angel, a messenger appeared before you and said “I see everything your doing, the love and the faith, the service, and the patient endurance. Impressive!” How would you feel? And if that messenger went on to say as did this angel of Thyatira “But why do you put up with untruth, injustice, exploitation?” How would you feel?

We live amid struggles. We live with things we can’t control. We are being challenged to live into the future, into God’s desire of fresh life for us all. We are being challenged, bit by bit, into the something better of God’s yearning. There is within us, and within the world we live in, new signs of growth, the sense of God’s light and ever presence. But there are also the dark, unreconciled places within us and within our world. In the teaching and healing of Jesus we are recalled again and again to reconciled relationships with God and with one another. This is the something better of God’s yearning: a healthy unity of life that God desires for all creation. All things are interrelated.

This angel seems to be challenging us by acknowledging how impressive we are but also admonishing us for coming to the edge of the safe and familiar, and being unwilling to challenge, to stand up for, to cross over to the other side. There are many boundaries that we may have to cross, to break down. When we are stymied by circumstances, confronted by situations and values that we cannot understand or are against, (and there are often so many of these circumstances), this angel is challenging us to persevere, to hold fast, to use our imagination in the struggle to find a way around or through our troubles. This angel is challenging us to cross boundaries and move out from the safe and familiar. Perhaps the boundaries of the possible are wider than they may seem, or that we can imagine. Taking a stand, rocking the boat for values of justice, and mercy and love is never easy.

We are being invited to think and to hope beyond fixed parameters, beyond the doubts that are scattered about our path, beyond those who think accepting the status quo is the best course. We are invited to imagine a different world, something we desperately need to do because things are so out of joint in our world. This angel calls us to hope. Hope that is living and active, vibrant, and ready to make a difference. Hope that must turn outwards, touching and caring for others. This angel seems to be challenging us to keep hope alive in a world where evil challenges our capacity to hope, where evil paralyzes even the strongest among us.

It is this hope that is the balance between the impressiveness that the angel sees and the ‘but why’ that the angel sees. It is what ushers us into the gift of trust. Trust in God take us beyond self-reliance into new depths of faith. It invites us to let go of our fears and reach out to the something better of God’s yearning for the whole of creation. God longs for us to remember that we are God’s home, and that God is at home with us, always and everywhere. It invites us to place ourselves in the hands of God and it carries us into the boundless love and care that God has for us.

Dusting off this angel, waiting in the face of the challenges opens us to vulnerability and fear, but also to strength and courage. It is in the waiting that we know ourselves carried into the boundless love and care of God. We can listen to the words of God as spoken through this messenger “I will not make things worse for you than they already are”.

God’s love for us is life-giving and positive, God is on our side. We can trust that God is working alongside of us for good. And to persevere we will be given authority – confidence, wisdom, and hope – the morning star will be ours!