In addition to my pastoral duties, I have been teaching one class at Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, MN. My class, Exegetical Explorations, has been exploring different genre in the New Testament. Most recently, we have been working through the Book of Revelation (using Reading Revelation Responsibly , written by my friend and former colleague, Dr. Michael Gorman).
I want to share some results from a recent in-class assignment that proved to be particularly insightful for me, a transplant to Minnesota. I had the class break into groups and using the form of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, write a “letter to the church in Minnesota.” Some of you Minnesotans might appreciate how these young students see the church here in the Twin Cities. Here are the letters the seminary students wrote, reflecting what the Lord might say to us here in Minnesota (NOTE: I did not edit the letters, but got permission to post them):
And to the angel of the church of the Twin Cities write:
The words of the One who says more than just good when asked how are you? I know your intentions, and that you want to avoid confrontation at all costs. You long for harmony and seek the appearance of sound relationships. But I have this against you: relationships go deeper than appearance. You clean the outside of your Tupperware, but you don’t clean the inside. Likewise, your relationships appear to be peaceful, but are in reality in passive war. Seek transparency, for those who walk in the truth will experience the truth of God’s promises in the coming Kingdom. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the eight churches.
To the angel of the church of Minnesota,
These are the words of him who is worthy to open the scroll. I commend you for your many good deeds. You have clothed the naked, fed the hungry, and offered assistance to the forgotten. Oh how I love to hear of your deeds of mercy, love, and justice. But I have this against you. Have you forgotten that there will be people of tribe, language, people, and nation in my heavenly throne room? Have you so quickly forsaken the call to gather together people of all the nations? For you live in a land of many ethnicities, yet your gatherings don’t reflect that.Repent and make efforts to come together as one just as the Father, Son, and Spirit are One. Otherwise, the light you shine will be dull because of your lack of unity. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is united in spirit, truth, and love, I will give to them the keys of the Kingdom of Light.
To the angel of the church in Minneapolis write:
These are the words of him who died, yet is alive forever and ever. I know your culture. You are nice. Your kind hearts show hospitality to those around you. Nevertheless, you are on thin ice. You gossip and talk behind the same backs of those whom you take in with smiles and coffee. Repent. Let people know what you mean, because you mean what you say. To their face, not behind backs. To the one who is victorious, I will give the North Star. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
To the Angel of the church in Minnesota,
These are the words of the Holy One, who is the way, the truth, and the light. Praise to you on being knowledgeable of scriptures, for being so nice, and for your generosity! You give a good show of hospitality and graciousness with your money and you instill the importance of scripture in your children. But your niceness is false! It’s not a true love for oneself and ones neighbor. Your outward compliments and generosity are undermined by secret gossip and inward self serving love.Take your knowledge of scripture and make it real. Put it into practice! Wake up, hear the words, “love your neighbor as yourself,” and you can turn your lives to authenticity. Your lives will be a light in a place of great confusion, darkness, and pain. Whoever has ears let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
To the angel of the church in Minnesota:
These are the words of him who wears a royal robe and whose eyes are flames of fire. I see how you value nature and have adored my creation from the beginning until now. You who smile with your mouth, but have anger in your hearts. You fool yourselves. Your smile does not always represent Christ. Therefore, repent and be united in Christ despite your differences. He who has ears let him hear, what the Spirit says to the churches. To he who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the pine tree and you will be nourished by the hidden sap in the paradise of God.