Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
— Revelation 2:1-2
Unlike Paul and the other letter writers in the earlier books, John of Patmos is not writing to the church leaders, nor to the congregations. He is writing to the very spirit of these seven churches, the angels themselves, the ones holding the spiritual energy of the establishments, represented here as the seven stars held in the right hand of the son of man.
Any group of people is bigger than the group itself; there is a whole greater than the sum of its parts. This whole, this spirit arises as the group forms, lives with the group for the life of the group and disappears when the group dissipates. In his Powers trilogy the theologian Walter Wink identifies this spirit of churches, schools, governments, corporations, as "the angel" and in that sense is exactly aligned with John of Patmos, addressing directly the angels of the seven churches.1
To each angel John speaks for the son of man, drawing on the imagery from the earlier chapter, here he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, later the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive,2 then he which hath the sharp sword with two edges, 3 and he who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire.4 In each case the failure of the church is addressed, not the failures of the individuals nor even of the congregation as a whole, but something bigger than that: the very spirit of the movement. Something is rotten, and it is time to address it. Take heed.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.5
1 For a fuller exploration of this theme please refer to A light brush with angels, July 2019
2 Revelation 2:8
3 Revelation 2:12
4 Revelation 2:18
5 Revelation 2:29 & 3:22