Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wake up and smell the...reality

Many years ago, a man was in a bar in his hometown in Illinois.  The men there were swapping war stories.  This fellow, whose name was Jack Genot, wanted to appear brave, too.  So he made up a story that he had served in the Marines in Korea and was taken prisoner during a bloody battle.  Word got out.  Jack became a local hero.  He was elected a city councilman, was asked to march in parades and tell his story to schoolchildren.  To keep up the façade, he bought a Marine uniform and ordered medals from a catalog, which he wore on special occasions.  He forged discharge papers so he could get a “wounded veterans” license plate.  But then someone became suspicious.  A veterans’ group began investigating and found no record of Jack’s stories.  For two years, he dodged the questions.  Finally, at the age of 71, Jack Genot admitted he made the whole thing up. 

            Jesus had a name for people who pretended to be something they weren’t; He called them hypocrites.  Our Lord didn’t invent the term; He just gave it a new meaning.  It had always been used to refer to actors, as in “Daniel Day Lewis and Meryl Streep are the greatest hypocrites of our age!”  But Jesus used it in a spiritual sense, to describe someone who pretended to be more holy than they truly were.  The irony is that today, no single group of people gets charged with hypocrisy more often than the very people who follow Jesus.  After all, who among us has NOT heard someone say, “Christians are all a bunch of hypocrites?”  Is it true?  Would Jesus say that about Westbury Baptist Church? 
            2000 years ago, Jesus Christ appeared in a vision to his elderly friend John and revealed to him mysteries about the end of our world that became the book of Revelation.  At the beginning of that book, Jesus gave John messages to send to seven churches that existed then in modern-day Turkey; messages that I believe are intended for all His churches, in all times, until He returns.  They tell us what it means to Be the Church.  This Sunday, we examine the fifth of those letters, to the church in Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6).  We have a saying these days when someone refuses to acknowledge the reality of their situation: “You’d better wake up and smell the coffee.”  That’s exactly what Jesus is saying to the Sardians...and to us.

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