As we head into the messages to the churches, you will notice that each letter heading begins with a description of Jesus from Revelation 1. For the folks at Ephesus, Jesus is described as ‘him who holds the 7 stars in his right hand…’ The lampstand and the star symbols actually point to the same thing.
Jesus explains at the end of chapter 1, that each lampstand stands for a church. They are separate, Jesus can stand in the midst of them. The worldwide church is made of discrete communities of people who share belief in a common creed and are submitted to the same Scriptures and who are filled with the same Holy Spirit.
But the stars are also a symbol that is connected to the church. Jesus says they stand for the angels of the seven churches. Angels are real. In this particular passage, we learn that angels can be connected to communities– our church has angels that are particularized to us. In contrast to the discrete lampstands, the stars are held together, in Jesus’ right hand.
Now normally this word for ‘take hold’ is followed by the genitive case, which expresses that we take hold of part of something– If I take hold of my computer, I am only grabbing a side, because it is too big to hold all of it in my hand. But if ‘take hold’ is followed by the accusative case, a direct object, well this is unusual and indicates the person is holding the whole thing in his hand. For example I can hold the quarter in my hand. The whole thing fits.
Guess what case ‘the stars’ are in in Revelation 2:1? Accusative. Jesus is holding the entirety of the seven stars in his hand. And that’s great news.)
On Sunday we talked a lot about ‘abandon’. When we forgive, we abandon the wrong and hurt that was done to us. We can also abandon our love by making lots of little decisions that lead us to a place we didn’t want to be– abandoned love. The Good News is the Jesus NEVER abandons us. He walks among the distinct churches AND He holds them all together in His right hand. We are held. Not abandoned. And even if we walk away, He is always ready to receive us back.
Good News, indeed.
The lampstands represent the distinct separateness of churches scattered around the world. Jesus uses millions of discrete communities to accomplish his purposes. But The stars also represent the church. And Jesus is holding all of them together in his hand. And he is holding the entire aggregate together in his hand. It is not any one church which belongs exclusively to Christ, no single church is the church of Christ. But Christ does hold all the churches together. Physically we may look separate (like individual lampstands) but spiritually we are held together by Christ (like stars in the palm of his hand)
This is also good news for those of you who know you have wandered away from Jesus. You can walk away, but his love will not let you go. He holds the church in his hand. He holds you. You may abandon your first love, but Jesus does not abandon you. He is committed to you and your discipleship.