This summer, I had the joy to being at the Keswick Convention. Week 3, the week I attend, has an arts strand called The Keswick Unconventional. The idea is that the Unconventional provides a home and hub for artists of all kinds, but these arts are also used to help the main convention think about the Bible, the Church and faith in new ways.
This year, there was an evening series in the letters to the churches in Revelation and I was invited to provide something that might be funny and relevant on these verses from the ESV:
To the Church in Pergamum
12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. 13 “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans
16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
To the Church in Thyatira
18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, whohas eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
19 “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw heronto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into greattribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.
24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come. 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, gas when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Here’s what I wrote, which you can see me perform here.
To the Church in Thyatira
Dear Church in Thyatira.
The Church in Pergamum here.
We just received a very weird letter from John. Did you get one too?
To be honest, we’re all a bit worried about John. Maybe there’s something in the water on Patmos. Apparently, we’re the dwelling place of Satan but that’s okay because we are faithful witnesses. Did he say that to you?
But quite a few were upset about the letter, especially those running the church bookshop where books about Balaam and the Nicolaitans sell out quicker than hot unleavened bread at Passover. Lots of people here find the teaching very liberating. It seems a shame to refrain from food sacrificed to idols, when we’re just about to launch a new cook book called Zeus on the Loose: Running wild with meat. But the letter at least gave us an idea for a follow up: Stone-baked Hidden Manna.
Anyway, let us know if you’d had a letter this like. Keep the faith.
Church in Pergamum.
Here’s the reply:
To the Church in Pergamum
Dear Church in Pergamum.
The Church in Thyatira here.
Yes, we had a letter a bit like yours. It’s such a shame that John has become this prophet of doom. I much preferred his early stuff like that first letter where he talks about love. Now he seems to be speaking for Jesus, whom he says has “eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.” My Jesus isn’t like that, and John won’t get very far talking that way. And I should know because I have a prophetic gift.
Everyone in my church is so supportive of me and what I say, especially I tell them they can do things our pastor says are sinful, wrong and unhygienic. That’s why I’ve not shown him John’s letter, as it will probably be misinterpreted, so that’s why I’m answering on his behalf.
I was particularly distressed to get the letter as I’m ill, and so are my children, and some of the men that I know. Maybe that new cookbook is the answer. Please send a copy as soon as you can.
Yours faithfully, Jezebel.
There’s more of this sort of thing in my book, The Gospel According to a Sitcom Writer, which you can order directly for me - signed - along with my previous book, The Sacred Art of Joking, by clicking here.
In the run-up to the Keswick Convention, I produced podcasts talking to Keswick Convention speakers. My two favourite interviews in the last season were probably the ones with Dr Garry Williams and Rev Andrew Sach, but you can find plenty of others here.