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The Angel of Laodicea

Sister Doreen’s Reflections

The Angel of Laodicea to the Church (Revelation 3: 14-22)

The angel of Laodicea who is a faithful and true witness of God holds out a challenge and a gift that call us to living abundantly and gracefully and is cause for personal and communal soul searching!  There is also a gift held out to us if we are faithful and true, the gift of a place of honour, of a seat alongside of God. In reading and meditation on the passage there were words that stood out for me as I pondered:

  • you are neither cold nor hot because you are lukewarm.
  • You are rich but really you are poor.
  • The people I love I call to account, I prod, I correct and I guide so that they will live to the best
  • I, God, stand at the door and knock.
  • If you open the door I will come in and sit down with you

My pondering also made me think, what a statement this angel brings! You are neither hot nor cold, you are lukewarm! Lukewarm tea, lukewarm friendship, lukewarm enthusiasm, lukewarm love … a very unattractive list, which if I were to continue to consider my life, I would probably be able to add more examples! What kind of interaction is needed to give away lukewarmness?

Our interaction with each other and for each other is vital in our spiritual journey and for deepening our faith. This is what gives hope, this is what tests our automatic responses and normal gestures of respect. It is this that teaches us to love as almost nothing else can. “Not hot nor cold”: how can we meet this challenge? And what gift do we need?

The angel of Laodicea presents an important challenge to us. The angel speaks tough language “you are neither hot nor cold so I will spit you out”, “you pretend to be rich but are poor”. The angel also speaks tender language “the people I love I call to account, prod, correct and guide so that they will live at their best”. The message is almost similar to the psalm “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other”. I thought about the times when I know the situation calls for ‘tough’ and about the times when I know it calls for ‘tender’, and how sometimes it is easier to just be ‘lukewarm’ rather than get involved in the confrontation with myself and the situation!

The sort of justice God dispenses flows with mercy because it reverses life’s unfair circumstances as we know them. God seems to enjoy turning the tables upside down! God’s offer of hope to those who have been denied hope and a challenge of trust to those who have lived without cause for trust. The challenge we meet in this angel is tough mercy and gentle justice. Here we see that justice and mercy nourish each other. What is now called ‘tough love’ is not hard-hearted, but full-hearted, watching for faith and honouring it whenever it is found.

What gift do we need? Sometimes in situations like this I find myself powerless, a kind of powerlessness that brings to the fore my own vulnerability. It opens the way to the hard road to learning something about humility. For me, I have begun to see that this is the gift that the angel of Laodicea holds out within the challenge of facing neither hot nor cold, rich but really poor. This gift of humility is the experience of an interior bowing of the heart and the mind before the mystery and majesty of life, of God, of myself, and of one another. It is the gift of learning how to live honestly, abundantly, and gracefully. It is living out of the conviction that all of us – every person and every created thing is a beloved creature of God. It is acknowledging that we are the beloved of the Beloved. It is the willingness to learn from each other, to be unwilling to stand in judgement of each other. It is a way of finding one’s place with God and with each other, a way of loving both without allowing the need for attention, honour, gratitude, or even being right to interfere.

There is in humility a connection between humility and the earth (humus) from which we were crafted, that little-great-one, that dust thou art splendour! It is being open to seeing oneself realistically, as a flawed and gifted person just like all other persons. Humility gives us new eyes with which to see, new ears with which to hear, new heart with which to love.

This angel of Laodicea is the angel that opens the door for me to hear God’s voice beginning to murmur to me “Do you see me within this person? I am here. Love me.” I hear an echo from scripture “when was it that we saw you?” That is the other question that confronts us in the challenge held out to us by the angel and is the question that the gift of humility begs an answer. In each person we begin to see the face of God.

Faced with lukewarmness, longing for abundance and graceful deep committed living, knowing the powerlessness to do it on my own, and being able to admit that I am not in control, not in charge, opens the possibility of moving into a place where we can lean on God. And this angel tells us “If you hear me call, open the door and I will come in and sit down to supper with you.”

The moments of humble awareness of what is really important, that love is more lasting than achievements come as a valuable gift, an open-hearted awareness of each other. Here as we open the door and sit down with the angel, we greet the face of God in each other.