It’s hard to be two places at the same time—-we would probably agree that it is impossible!! It’s a paradox! And paradoxes aren’t rational. We have to be one place or the other according to our dualistic minds! Sometimes we are here and sometimes we are there. If you are sitting in church you can’t be at the golf-course! If you have something pressing to attend to elsewhere, you must leave “here” and go “there”. When you do go “there”, what was once “there” becomes“here.” for you. Everybody knows that you can’t be in two places at the same time.
Now we can fantasize about what it would be like if we could do so. For example, I often dreamed that I could be in my dorm room sleeping while also sitting in my 8 a.m. class at college. While I tried to master the art of sleeping in class with my eyes open, I must admit that it didn’t work well for me! I think everyone here would agree that it would be nice to be at work and also lounging on the beach at Malibu. However, we know it’s not going to happen!
But according to the Book of Revelation that was what happened to John, the writer of Revelation—-he was in two places at the same time.
John wrote that he was on the island of Patmos. That is a tiny island in the Aegean Sea. It’s a beautiful little place now, it is said, but in the time that John lived it was a Roman prison colony—similar to the place we call Alcatraz. When you went to Patmos during John’s time you only needed a one-way ticket—-you hardly ever came back from Patmos!! And that was where John was—on Patmos, and yet he was not only there, he was also in God’s Kingdom as he wrote: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. And he wrote of seeing God’s throne and a vision of Jesus “on the clouds” and of the coming completion of God’ Kingdom as he was “caught up” and transported to another place He was at two places at the same time!!
Although John is in a difficult place on Patmos and probably awaiting a sad fate—he was also in a blessed place in his life—in the Kingdom of God.
I would suggest to you this morning that Patmos is not only a place, a geographical location, but a frame of mind. We all can be on our Patmos islands because Patmos is wherever and whenever we find ourselves trapped and imprisoned by our actions and our life. There are many people who feel they are trapped on their islands of Patmos. Somehow life has given us a one-way ticket and we feel as though we are trapped in a prison of our own making or someone else’s making—-but nevertheless we are “trapped.”
The reasons for our being on Patmos are as many and as unique as each of us are unique and individual human beings. We may be there because of bad decisions that we made. Or we may be there because of bad decisions others made that have affected us.
We may be imprisoned by a disease that is slowly taking our energy and eventually our life. We may be imprisoned by habits that dominate and ruin our lives and that we have not been able to overcome. We may feel life has “done us dirty” and that we shouldn’t be on Patmos—-but all of us spend some time on our “islands of Patmos”.
The great psychotherapist, Victor Frankl, writes of his “Patmos” in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Frankl was arrested by the Nazis in W.W. II Germany and sent to a Nazi prison camp. It was a horrible prison camp and most of his fellow prisoners soon died under the terrible conditions, the brutality, the starvation and the resulting hopelessness. But Frankl survived. How? He describes how he survived by recounting that on his way out to the work site every morning, he would be composing a book, all in his mind. He would go over the book, chapter by chapter. He would form each page in his brain, imagining in great detail the grand book that he was going to write once he got out of the Nazi prison. And that kept him going. In his body he was a slave in a horrible prison camp—-his Patmos—but in his soul he was free . He was in two places at the same time!!
Part of the human condition is that we don’t have control over everything that affects our lives. The one thing we have control of is how we cope with the things affecting our lives—-such as was the case with Victor Frankl.
John on the island of Patmos, was in the same circumstances as Frankl. He had been imprisoned by the emperor—-probably because he was a Christian. There he was languishing on the island of Patmos, right? Wrong! That is not what John says about himself. Rather he wrote that he “was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day”. John was in prison, in exile, far from home and loved ones, but he managed to “be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. In other words, he was in a quite different place and a long way from the island of Patmost. He was with God through the Holy Spirit on the Lord’s Day and God was showing him about wonderful things to come in God’s Kingdom.
John was in two different places at the same time—-and so can you be. You can always be with God, no matter what your life’s circumstances may be.
Think about it!