Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Neither hot not cold...

We have this place in Kas, Turkey, a whimsical, quirky 5-story villa perched overlooking the Mediterranean, that we dream of opening as a quiet space for retreat and refreshment. All those balconies and rocky nooks in the garden turned into places of prayer and solitude, a kitchen equipped to turn the region’s local produce into celebrations of God’s creative goodness, and community areas on main floor and rooftop for nourishing community.

Though today 99% of Turks are Muslim, the nation is rich in biblical images--the geographic backdrop of much of the New Testament. Paul put in at Patara, a few miles up the coast from our place. Not so far inland
, he planted churches at Colossae and Laodicea. Later John took Jesus’ mother, Mary, and settled in Ephesus—or so goes the tradition. Before he died, he wrote Revelation, which includes seven prophetic letters to seven Turkish churches.

I know your deeds,” says Jesus in the letter to the church at Laodicea, “that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Rev 3:15-16.

Words to make one squirm—a challenge to one's passion for Jesus and His gospel.

But recently I learned something fascinating about the geography and history of the ancient spa-towns of Laodicea and nearby Colossae and Hierapolis. These places were spa-towns famous for their springs! Hot geo-thermal mineral baths at Hierapolis drew people from all over to soak up their restorative properties and experience healing. Colossae’s cold mineral water provided invigorating refreshment from summer’s heat. In Laodicea itself, though, tepid springs turned the stomach and made people nauseous.

Any Laodicean would easily catch the implications of John’s imagery. The letter to Laodicea speaks not of a failure of passion for the gospel, but a failure to generously, consciously serve up its life-giving properties so that we spill out refreshment and healing on the world He brings to our door. The quirky village house on the rocky hillside becomes a spiritual spa where people drink in refreshment; or splash, float, and immerse themselves in healing restoration. Stopping for awhile to leave invigorated for the onward, upward journey.

Likewise, your place and mine right today. For it’s not about the great location, or all the balconies--the beauty of the vessel, but about what God puts in it to be served up and poured out. We just have to be generous enough, prayerfully dependent and outward-facing enough to do it!

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