After watching Return of the Jedi last Sunday evening I expected to be dreaming about Star Wars all night. I didn’t, but Marilyn did. Instead I spent the night dreaming about my business trip to Sweden this week. In my dream everything went wrong. I ended up with the wrong people at the wrong site, got lost, couldn’t get any sense out of the locals, and just couldn’t get the job done. In my dream there were distractions everywhere preventing me from working effectively and leaving me in a state of panic. Now that I am at Arlanda Airport waiting for my flight home I am grateful that the dream did not come true. There were no distractions, and we managed to complete everything planned for my two-day visit.
The message at church last Sunday morning was given by a young man called Tom who is training for ministry at another church. He was excellent! Tom spoke from Revelation 2:1-7 where John recorded a message for the church at Ephesus. Verses two and three speak positively about the Ephesian church. Then verse four arrives with the ‘but!’ It is a BIG BUT! Not the sort of but a church or any follower of Jesus would want to be made aware of.
“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!” (Revelation 2:4 NLT)
In other words: “You have forgotten your first love.” The Ephesian church had become distracted and somehow wasn’t looking at Jesus any more. How could such a thing happen?
Marilyn and I have been married for thirty-six years. I still remember falling in love with her. This included thinking that I wasn’t good enough for her. Our honeymoon back in Guernsey remains fresh in my mind to this day. The beautiful weather, the joy of being back in the island where I grew up, and of being able to share it with my wife. And how I remember being suddenly and completely overwhelmed by my love for Marilyn as we walked hand-in-hand one day along a cobbled street in St. Peter Port. While our love has grown and matured over the years I never want to forget the journey we have walked together. Each step is part of what we are now.
In the same way I need to remember with clarity the joy that fell into my heart when the penny dropped and I fell I love in with Jesus. Or the excitement at the various high points of our relationship – the mountaintop experiences when I have been so close to Him. Far easier to forget is the experience of the valleys, but the words of the Psalmist come to mind as I remember that He was there with me too – even closer than I could ever imagine.
During his message Tom challenged our church with the following words: “Human success is nothing without loving God and loving people. We exist to bring people into the presence of God. If we don’t love God how can we make disciples? It is not about making replicas of ourselves or of our way of doing things. God sees deeper. We are not to make disciples of ourselves, but we are to help people fall in love with Jesus. To do this we need to be overwhelmed and transformed by our first love.”