The Scripps National Spelling Bee competition, held annually for almost 100 years, completed its 2019 championships on May 31st. The championships have resulted in two winners several times over the last 91 years, but this year, the judges were stunned when EIGHT – yes, eight, winners were announced at the end of two full days of competition. In the words of one judge, the entire competition was in uncharted territory as the finalists completed round after round without missing any words.
In fact, it took more than 2-1/2 hours after the anticipated end of the competition to whittle the contestants down to a final, manageable 16 finalists. Each year, the words have become more difficult to avoid the possibility of multiple winners, but organizers of the event were not prepared for the competitors this year. It is not uncommon for super spellers to hire dedicated coaches who spend hundreds of hours helping these kids virtually memorize their dictionaries.
Several years ago, a written sudden death type of event was held at the conclusion of a number of rounds to determine a winner in the event of a tie during the spelling competition. But that rule proved too cumbersome and was dropped from the rules this year. So… after countless rounds of correctly spelling incredibly obscure words, organizers declared the final eight kids “octo-champions” – each receiving a trophy and a $50,000 prize. Needless to say, this cost the Scripps people $400,000 instead of the customary $50,000 for one winner.
Fox News programming, for the Jessie Watters program several nights ago, decided to invite one of the “winners” on his show. Watters, in typical fashion, decided to challenge his guest with a word that he thought would be impossible for her to spell. The word he chose, the same as the title of tonight’s post, was laodicean. By the rules of the spelling competition, the contestant could ask for the word to be used in a sentence and that is exactly what happened.
In a moment of clarity, I knew the meaning of the word before it was revealed – and could correctly spell it! Now, mind you, I am far from being a spelling bee champion, but it was my seminary training that came into play and allowed me to successfully complete the challenge. By the way, the spelling bee co-champion also got it right…
Laodicean means “to be lukewarm – temperate – or half-hearted, particularly when it comes to politics or religion.” But even if the word is familiar to you, the origins may not be. It is attributed to the Bible – the book of Revelation to be specific – and the verse that references this text is our verse for tonight.
The apostle, John, in his apocalyptic book about seeing heaven and the story of things to come, references seven churches that were to receive messages from God. When John recounted the message to be given to the seventh church, the church at Laodicea, we are told, in Revelation 3:14-16, “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
See the connection? Jesus rebuked the church at Laodicea because they were lukewarm in their faith. They played the middle of the field. While they weren’t dedicated to liberalism (theological liberalism – not our political liberalism) they weren’t passionate about their faith, either.
My encouragement this evening is that Jesus wants us on fire for the faith and rejoices when we are not lukewarm about Him and what we believe. My prayer is that we will heed the words of Jesus, spoken several verses further in the book of Revelation. He tells us, in Revelation 3:19, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.” That word, “earnest” means that Jesus wants us to be zealous in our faith and to get on fire for Him! We are not to be laodicean! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…