I am currently preaching a seven sermon series from the book of Revelation from the Bible. I decided to do that this summer because several people had been asking me questions about things in regard to the world and the future and we had gotten involved in conversations that brought the book of Revelation into the conversation. That nutty preacher from California who predicted the world would end on May 21 helped to launch some of these conversations. So, I have completed two of the seven, perhaps the two easiest ones to preach as they were somewhat introductory to the book.
Last week's sermon was called "Long Lost Love" and it was from Revelation 2-3, the messages to the churches. Each of the seven churches has a message given to it by the Risen Christ concerning what was happening in their congregation in the first century. I mainly concentrated on the message to the church at Ephesus in which Christ told them that they had lost their "first love". This had to do with a church where people were very excited at the beginning of the church's history and ministry but over the years they had lost their enthusiasm for the church. It also had to do with people who experienced that same phenomenon in their lives, excited about a venture or organization at one time but the enthusiasm had waned.
I told the congregation about my involvement with our local gym. When we first moved here, I found out that there was a gym and decided to get involved and improve my physical state. So, I went to the gym religiously, several times a week at many times of day and used the weights so that I saw a lot of improvement and began to take pride in my physical appearance. One day, though, when I was trying to bench press a weight that was a bit too heavy for me, I hurt my left shoulder and had to see a doctor about the injury. He ordered physical therapy and told me to lay off the exercise for a while. So, I stopped going to the gym and began walking for exercise instead. The injury took about six months to heal and by then I was out of the habit of going to the gym. Instead, my walking replaced my gym activity. Walking is good exercise but it does not give you muscles.
The analogy I made has to do with people who at one time in their lives were very active members of a church but today rarely if ever go inside a church. They may have been hurt by something that happened there or they may have just gotten out of the habit of going and now they rarely think about going. The Risen Christ told the church at Ephesus--"Remember, Repent, and do the things you once did." In other words, you can begin again. You can go back to the place where you once found joy and enthusiasm and start over. Christ will accept you and the church will also.
Losing one's first love can happen in any area of life. We can forget about friends we once had. We can not get any satisfaction out of our job. We can begin to dislike the house we live in or the city in which we live. Reclaiming that lost love involves trying to see the good things in those parts of life and making an effort to be involved in bringing about the feelings we once had that we considered to be good and worthwhile. We often had to make an effort, though, to bring this about.
On one particular episode of a popular television program, one person asked the other why she attended church when he did not. The woman told the man that she felt good about the person that she becomes after she has been to church, that being with the family of God had a positive effect on her. Whether one believes everything that is said or done in church is not necessarily important. Being with God's family and sharing in the joy and labor of the journey together is the most important part of Christian Community. We are the Church. God has no hands or feet to use except for ours. We are needed by Christ to carry out the mission and ministry of the Church in the world. Perhaps that is why the Risen Christ urged the church at Ephesus to remember and repent and do the things again they once had done.