Sardis: Dead or Alive

It’s time for a confession: I’m not a shopper. When my wife and I were dating years ago, we went to the mall to Christmas shop together. This is where I first truly understood that different philosophies exist about this.

After nearly eight hours, I finally asked my energetic bride-to-be, “Do you think it would be ok if we stop for at least a small bite to eat?” I was physically exhausted and she thought it was the best day ever!

My philosophy of shopping still resides in the minority position in my home. My wife and I were blessed with five daughters. For nearly thirty years, I have been the only “guy” in the house – even our dog is a female.

When it comes to shopping, I have only one simple observation: my daughters approach shopping much different than I do. For me, it’s a task; for them, it’s a life event. For me, it’s get in, get out, go home. For them, it’s, “Let’s make a day out of it – and can I have some more money!” There is a smile that comes to their face with this simple question: “Do you want to go shopping for new clothes?” The answer has never been, “No, thank you!”

Regardless of your personal feelings about shopping for clothes, the promise to the believers at Sardis is worthy of our investigation.

The Setting at Sardis

Excavations provide a glimpse into this ancient city’s past. The typical buildings expected in a Hellenized culture existed here as well: theaters, temples (with Artemis being the patron deity), and a gymnasium have all been uncovered. There was also an impressive Jewish synagogue, perhaps suggesting this was a favored location for Jews during the Diaspora.

The city, located at the junction of five major roads, was well-known and respected. Sardis traded in jewelry, dye, and textiles. Its location on a trade route had enabled the city to become influential due to its wealth.

The pagan religions of the city “attributed healing power to their deities, but in Sardis special emphasis focused on the power to restore life to the dead.” The source of this alleged power came from their connection to some hot springs just about two miles outside of the town. The worldview of the locals considered these springs as the visible manifestations of the god of the underworld.

The Church at Sardis would struggle between reputation and reality – and that’s still a real problem today. In the next post, we’ll unpack the message given to this church who had a name that they were alive, but were, in reality, already dead.

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