We were blessed yesterday to have Rev. Nate Harlan as a guest preacher and he presented a different view of Revelation 2:1-7 than I've ever heard. He postulated that the "first love" that the Ephesians had lost was not necessarily their love for Christ, but their love for "all the saints" as they were commended to continue to have in Paul's epistle to them. He also asserted that, since the city of Ephesus no longer exists, their "lampstand" was removed and that was because they probably did not heed Christ's exhortation in Revelation.
Pastor Harlan then went on to encourage us to truly love the saints and for that love to be a light in the community and to extend to those outside the faith. He pointedly asked us how long it had been since we had had another family over to our home for dinner; how long had it been since we had shared from the heart over a shared dinner; how long since we'd looked our brother in the eye across a meal table; how long since we'd shared joys and sorrows with each other.
Now I must say that our church is abnormally good at sharing with each other. Every Tuesday evening our sweet pastor's wife hosts a ladies' tea for all the ladies 12 years old and up; our young men and older men get together usually once a week for breakfast and comraderie; we often have group gatherings/shared meals in our yards during the summer; we have fellowship meals after worship service twice a month; we often get together for work opportunities like reroofing someone's house or tiling someone's new bathroom floor or gathering firewood for the elders. But, there's always room for improvement, right, and so his sermon was right on the nose and of great value to each of us.
I especially was convicted because I had just been groaning to one of my daughters about how difficult it is to fit more people into our dining room during the winter when we don't have the option of socializing outside for most of the evening. The smallest of the whole families in our church have six children, the largest have ten. So I was unwilling to be inconvenienced for the sake of serving others a welcoming, hospitable dinner. And of course, like most Michiganders right now, we have to consider the financial question.
But Pastor Harlan didn't bring up either of those issues - as if they didn't really bear enough weight to excuse us from obeying the command reiterated in Romans 12:13. So now we're working on ideas of how we can more easily fit people in - maybe be less stuffy and go ahead and use TV trays in the living room. And we certainly don't have to serve a seven course dinner which would break the bank account. Warm, filling, hefty soups and breads are a delightful way to feel cozy together. Pastor would agree, I'm sure, as he praised our dinner of Corn Chowder and bread and salad which we got to serve him and his family after worship. And then the impromptu supper of roasted hotdogs with whomever could show up at our bonfire was a lot of fun, too.
Because God continues to work in us to make us more like him, I