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The Angel of Sardis to the Church

Sister Doreen’s Reflections

The Angel of Sardis to the Church
(Revelation 3: 1-8)

The angel of Sardis who sees right through our lives and our works holds out a challenge of growing in attentiveness and active love, and offers us the gift of compassion, a new white robe and our names in the book of life. In reading and meditation on the passage there were words that stood out for me as I pondered:

  • I see right through your works.
  • A reputation for vigour and zest on the one hand
  • You are dead, on the point of death
  • Think of the gift you once had and grasp it again.
  • Turn back to God.
  • Those worthy of a white robe and in the book of life

I am reminded of Paul’s letter to Corinth … “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging symbol …” or in the words of another translation “if I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate …”

The angel of Sardis seems to be telling us that each of us has boundaries in our lives that we hesitate to cross, and that we don’t often review to see if they need to change.  It can mean that we live life with energy and enthusiasm just skimming the surface, protecting ourselves from being vulnerable, getting involved, reaching out to care. This angel is a challenge, asking us to consider whether we are dead, stone dead! How do we make sure that we are not stone dead? How do we live in attentiveness and active love with God and receive the life-giving gift of compassion?

Here we meet the angel of Sardis, dusting off this angel from the attic, waiting, taking time to receive the spiritual gifts in the midst of the challenges of life. The angel of Sardis is very blunt! Lots of showiness but little depth … stone dead! This is quite a challenge, how do we live into the challenge of attentiveness and active love, to reach below the surface of life and get involved? How do we ensure that we are not ‘stone-dead’? it is tempting to look at challenges or goals set for us as things we need to live up to and failure to do so brings with it all sorts of reactions. (Failure, guilt, a sense of unworthiness). However, if we carefully read the angel of Sardis’s message, there is the reminder to turn back again. it is important for us in our spiritual journey to understand that we are being encouraged to live into the challenges set before us rather than trying to live up to a set of rules. Living into something is God’s invitation to us to grow. The angel of Sardis is blunt, but also encouraging. We are to live into and be enlightened by the challenges, not coerced by them. This challenge is a pointed challenge to wake up and to grow – it is blunt, urgent and a bit harsh, but it is a statement of the necessary conditions for the flowering of our deepest possibilities. That growth is into the image of God in each of us.

We don’t get there by pious aspirations, slavish copying of rules, well-polished public selves, or carefully guarded inner lives. We get there by the messier, slower path of learning step by step and mistake by mistake, how to love, cooperate, forgive, trust, work through the harsh and dark emotions. Attentiveness and prayerfulness in wrestling with the rough places in our souls is the way to the gift of compassion. Participating in active love while being attentive is the way the garden of the soul is tended, and relationships are cultivated. We are being encouraged to become wholehearted in our compassion: an active compassion that channels our energies into daily life. Here resolution of conflicts, forgiveness, acts of love and justice, hearts rooted in God’s peace become the daily life that brings us closer to God and to each other.

Our shared waiting together in important, we need each other more than we can ask or imagine. The angel of Sardis can give us a unique understanding in this challenge of what each of us is going through, an opportunity to embrace each other in compassion. Sharing fears and insecurities often bridges the gaps in understanding between people. Uncertainty then can create compassion and reminds us that we are not alone. It teaches us to receive. I am reminded of Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper and Peter’s reaction. Jesus reminds Peter, and us, that we have no share with anyone unless we learn to receive.

If we cannot receive, we will never empower those who would offer their gifts of compassion.

If we cannot receive, we will never treat others as our equals.

If we cannot receive, we will never fully understand compassion.

You and I both know from experience that when someone reaches out to us, accepts us as we are, sees us as we are, is present to us, we experience an enormous grace. When we are seen and heard we are on holy ground. We gather strength from each other, we experience connection and love. These are times of strength, maybe lonely times, but also times of encouragement, empathy, and hope for our journey. We enable this to happen much like a tetter-totter, the fulcrum points of balance being active love and compassion.

And with the angel of Sardis, encouraged by attentiveness and active love, and gifted with compassion we receive that white garment that covers us, all of us. Oh such gratitude!