Sunday, May 8, 2016

Come, Lord Jesus

Acts 16:16-64; Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21; John 17: 20-26

Many people call the seventeenth chapter of John the “Real Lord’s Prayer.” In this text, Jesus prays for the first disciples, and for all his followers since that day. He prays that we would come to know him and his love for us, and that we would see God’s glory in our relationship with Jesus. He prays that even though we may have differences, we will be united in our love for him and for each other.
This same evening, Jesus has promised the disciples that he will not abandon the them, that he will send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to be his presence with them in the future. So, even after his death and resurrection, we may call on him and he will come to us.

In this final selection from Revelation, John of Patmos reiterates the availability of the Holy Spirit of Jesus. Call on Jesus, and he will come. Take the water of life – be baptized – and fill up on the gift of the Holy Spirit. If we pray, Come, Lord Jesus, he will come to us. That doesn’t mean Jesus will come and fix all our problems, but we can count on Jesus’ presence in our lives, no matter what we are going through.

In this great story today from Acts, Paul and Silas find themselves in need of the Holy Spirit’s help. They are still in Philippi, getting to know the city and the people. As they were sharing the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, they were being followed by a woman who was possessed by a spirit of divination, fortune-telling. 
She began “helping” Paul and Silas by shouting that they were slaves / servants (the Greek word doulos can be translated either way) of the Most High God. After a few days, Paul grew frustrated with the woman’s constant presence and shouting, so he called the spirit to come out of her. She was healed instantly.

While the woman may have been happy to be free of the spirit, she was no longer valuable to her owners. They had Paul and Silas arrested, beaten, and put in jail. Rather than shouting for their release, they sang songs of praise to Jesus, loud enough so the other prisoners and the jailer could hear. They never wasted an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus.
Suddenly there is an earthquake, which loosens the chains on all the prison cells. Paul and Silas remain in their cell. It amazes me that none of the other prisoners choose to escape, either. The jailer is terrified that he will lose his life if the prisoners have escaped, but Paul assures him that they are all still in their cells.
The jailer then is curious. He wants to know what makes Paul and Silas so content. He assumes they know something he doesn’t. He wants to be saved, to have what they have. The Greek word translated “saved” has many meanings: healed, rescued, saved. The Message Bible adds the phrase, “to really live.” What does the jailer need to really live?
Paul says, “Believe in Jesus and you and your household will know what it is to really live.” Do you hear in this invitation the prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus?” Paul invites the jailer to ask for Jesus to come into his life. The jailer takes Paul and Silas to his home, cleans their wounds from the beating, listens to the good news, and he and his entire household – wife, children, servants – are all baptized.
When Jesus comes into our lives, it can change everything. We can have the relationship with God that Jesus describes in his prayer for the disciples. We can experience the love that God brings us through Jesus, through the Holy Spirit and through our family, and through our friends and neighbors.
So, when we pray “Come, Lord Jesus,” we are praying for Jesus to come into our lives right now, this minute. We are praying for Jesus to come to us, to sit with us in the hospital, to share a party with us, to comfort us while we go through one of life’s messy times, and finally to receive us as we breathe our last.

When I was a child, I learned a simple table grace, which I still pray. Please join me. “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest. And let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen” There are several versions, and some additional verses, but this is all I learned as a child. The simple prayer is filled with meaning.
Come Lord Jesus … come to us Jesus. Join us at our meal, join our conversation, join us right now.
Be our guest … we welcome Jesus, we want him to be included in all we do. We are glad he can be with us.
Let these gifts … everything we have, but especially the food we are about to enjoy.
To us be blessed … may we remember that everything we have comes from Jesus, and may it all be good and helpful and healthful for us.
Amen … So be it. As Jean Luc Picard would say in Star Trek Next Generations … “make it so.”
In just the same way that we invite Jesus to sit with us at the dinner table, we can invite Jesus to be with us in everything we do. The key element in having Jesus with us is his love for us and for all people, all creation.

Especially today, we remember all who love like mothers. We don’t need to be a mother to love like one, we simply need to open our hearts and care for others, especially children. Mothers love like Jesus loves, without restraint, forgiving easily. Mothers would willingly give their lives to save their children. Mothers constantly pray “Come, Lord Jesus” whenever their children are ill or in trouble. 

When we or loved ones are ill, we all cry “Come, Lord Jesus”. We count on the presence of Jesus’ Holy Spirit to heal us, to guide the surgeons and doctors and technicians and CNAs as they care for us.  We are grateful for the cards and visits of our family members and friends who bring Jesus’ Spirit to us. 

When we feed hungry people, we answer their cry “Come, Lord Jesus”. We bring Jesus to them and show that we care, we love like Jesus loves. We hope to end hunger, for at least a few people in the community. 

There is a sense in the text from Revelation that Jesus will come at some future date, in a blaze of glory and power. But we live in the here and now, and these words, “Come, Lord Jesus” apply to us now, today. Whenever we need Jesus, in our own lives or in the lives of those we care for, Jesus is as close as a prayer. 
We can imagine Jesus sitting with us at the dinner table blessing our food and our conversation. We can imagine Jesus sitting at the hospital bedside, praying for our healing, and giving us all strength.
There will probably not be an earthquake to loosen our chains, but there are plenty of opportunities to share the good news with someone who needs some good news. Let’s be on the lookout for the times when praying the simple prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus” would be just the right words to use, either silently or aloud.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, we need you now, just to know you are near. Help us to remember that you are just a prayer away, and to call on you often to come to us in our time of need. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus