Greetings FBC, and welcome to the start of Socially Distanced Devotions! It is a privilege to be part of this church family, and while that is always the case, it is especially true during the unique times that we currently find ourselves in. God’s church is truly a remarkable entity. It is described metaphorically in Scripture as a family, with God as our Father; a body, with Christ as its head; a bride, with Jesus as the bridegroom; and a temple of God, made of living stones (believers), with Christ serving as its cornerstone. Each metaphor highlights a different aspect of the church’s unique function, position and/or relationship to God.
In reading through the book of Revelation in my devotions the past few days, I came across another, possibly lesser known, descriptor of the church. In Revelation 1:12-16, John begins describing the vision that God gave him of things to come. He speaks of seeing ‘seven golden lampstands’, and walking among these lampstands was ‘someone like a son of man’ (Jesus), who was holding ‘seven stars’ in his right hand. Later, in Revelation 1:20, Jesus provides an interpretation:
“The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”
Churches portrayed as ‘lampstands’ is an interesting picture. I found this especially true as I recently preached a sermon at FBC (February 23) based on the Sermon on Mount passage in which Jesus informs his followers that they are ‘the salt of the earth’ and the ‘light of the world’ (Matthew 5:13-16). There Jesus said:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16 (emphasis added)
Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world – lamps to be lit and not hidden, but rather to be placed on a stand in order to give light to the whole house. In that context, it is interesting to consider the role of the church as a lampstand. As I reflect on that, some interesting thoughts come to mind:
- The lampstand is not the light. In the same way churches, in and of themselves, are not the light that the world so desperately needs. It is the people, the believers and followers of Jesus Christ – the lamps who are filled with the oil of the Spirit and the gospel of Jesus Christ, who are the light. The role of the church is to provide a supportive, strategically placed foundation on which the lamps are to rest and to shine.
- A lamp functioning independently on its own loses much of its effectiveness. A lamp situated on the floor, or on a shelf in the corner, is able to contribute only a percentage of its lighting potential, compared to one that is elevated and strategically placed on a stand in the same space. How vital it is to remain connected to the church. To be part of something bigger than yourself. To be part of the synergy that comes from working together with others. Any voice in your head that is encouraging you to pull back or disconnect from the church is not from God. The church is God’s chosen foundation for accomplishing his purposes in this world.
- The image of Jesus as the 'son of man' walking among the lampstands is powerful. This illustrates the deep interest and concern that Jesus Christ has for his church and his people. He is present and involved in the work at the ground level, not merely sitting back observing from a distance.
- The concept alluded to in Revelation 1:20, that there are specific angels assigned to specific churches, is incredibly thought provoking.
- The master of the house strategically positions the lamps, aligning them with others so that each is making its optimal contribution. This allows each lamp to be part of a collective effort that is able to illuminate vast spaces, far beyond the wildest dreams or capabilities of any single light source.
- It is the responsibility of the master to place the lampstands where they will be most effective and do the most good. This is not something that the lamps need to concern themselves with. They just need to remain on the lampstand and shine. At this point in time, with virus precautions and all of the accompanying social distancing implications, we find ourselves positioned in unique places. For many that means spending much more time together at home, possibly with spouses, children, parents, and siblings. Take full advantage of this time! Don’t let the pressures of proximity snuff out your flame. Realize that there is purpose in your current positioning, and while your context is different from normal, your purpose remains unchanged – to brightly SHINE! Shine the warmth and love of God; the unity and fellowship of the Spirit and the peace and hope of the gospel to those around you! The master has positioned you to shine!