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Easter 7C Sermon
Revelation 22: 12-14, 16-17,
John 17: 20-26

2, 2019


Sermon Archives


Revelation 22:12-21

‘See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.
‘It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.’
The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’
And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes, take the water of life as a gift.
The one who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

John 17:20-26

‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
‘Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our father be with us in the name of his son our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; Amen.

“Thoughts and prayers …” These three words began as words of comfort or solidarity spoken to people who suffer through any kind of tragedy shared personally, by text or on social media. A loved one dies or is diagnosed with cancer – my thoughts and prayers are with you … a tornado hits a city causing terrible destruction – our thoughts and prayers are with them … another school shooting – thoughts and prayers … Christians being slaughtered in Nairobi – thoughts and prayers … We have said those words so often that they have lost a lot of their power. As a matter of fact, many people in society have redefined those three words to be more of a joke. What good do thoughts and prayers do? What power lies in thoughts and prayers, especially when we sit around and allow all of the systems that encourage the presence of evil to exist. These three words have become a substitute for the actions called forth by followers of Christ which will effect the changes needed to combat the evil in our world.

For Jesus, prayers were powerful. The entire 17th chapter of John’s gospel is a prayer from Jesus on his last night with his disciples, before he is crucified, risen and ascended. But Jesus doesn’t just say, “These things are going to happen to me … thoughts and prayers for you in my absence!!” In this chapter-long prayer, he prays first for himself, then for his disciples, and finally (in our passage for today) for us … yes, for US!! “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may also be one.” That’s Jesus prayer for you and me and all Christians alive today – that we may put aside differences and unite together in the battle of love versus hate, good versus evil, justice versus brokenness. It is an intimate prayer … it is a powerful prayer … it is Jesus praying for us to be actively involved in sharing his love here and now.
Our second lesson from Revelation contains another three word phrase that I have often used to express my own frustration and futility in the face of overwhelming hatred and suffering in the world. Those three words are, “Come Lord Jesus.” A loved one dies or is diagnosed with cancer – come, Lord Jesus … a tornado hits a city causing terrible destruction – come, Lord Jesus … another school shooting – come, Lord Jesus … Christians being slaughtered in Nairobi – come, Lord Jesus … I must admit, I have spoken those words to express my resignation to the fact that the only way to rid the world of these evils is for Jesus himself to descend out of the sky – much like he ascended on Thursday – and take over. It is an expression acknowledging that true peace will only be experienced by the intervention of Jesus Christ himself.

But this week I had a bit of an “a-ha” moment with the phrase, “Come, Lord Jesus.” As I studied the passage from Revelation and read the previous verses, it struck me that these three words can be a call to Christians to get involved. Jesus says that he is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. He reminds us that he was in the beginning, has been all through history and will be at whatever culmination happens to this world and this life. In the same way, Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega for the church and for each of us individual members of the church. He was at our baptisms; he accompanies us along the ways of joy and sorrow, and he will be there when we meet our ends. We are made in God’s image, and Jesus is part of us because of the Holy Spirit and the gift of faith. No, I will never utter “Come, Lord Jesus” the same way again. Instead of resignation, it is a call to action for the church to be the body of Christ in the face of sin, death and the devil and all that opposes life.

“Come, Lord Jesus” is a Christian call to action … to remind each of us that we are more than pray-ers … we carry with us the love of the one who embodied love perfectly, Jesus Christ. Pope Francis once said, “Prayer that doesn’t lead to concrete action toward our brothers and sisters is a fruitless and incomplete prayer.” The Dalai Lama said, “I am skeptical that prayers alone will achieve world peace. We need instead to be enthusiastic and confident in taking action.” Our own New Testament, in the Epistle of James, says, “What good is it if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or a sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled” without giving them the things they need for the body, what good is it?” We all have a choice to make between activism and slacktivism – between sitting back and watching it all unfold, hoping and praying for the best – or, using the gifts that God has given us to feed, house, clothe, comfort and love those around us.
While this is a vital message for all of the church, it is an especially appropriate one for our graduates to hear this morning. All of them are going on to higher education in order to pursue careers. All of them have been baptized either at this very font, or at a wooden font in Oak Harbor, Ohio. Jesus is your Alpha and Omega – with you from the beginning through the very ends of your lives. When we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus,” we are praying for young people like you to change the world – to share the love and acceptance and peace that Jesus first shared with you in what you do … whether it be science and math, nursing, social work, engineering or whatever. Whatever you do, do it with prayer … and do not let prayer be the end of what you do. Live that prayer in your words and actions toward those around you. After watching a documentary this week on the making of the Pink Floyd album, “Wish You Were Here,” I very nearly sang the title song from that album as my special music for you this morning. I chose another path, but I do want to close by sharing a line from that song and it’s meaning with you. “Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage.” I have always admired that little phrase - it is one of the most profound lyrics in classic rock for me. Roger Waters, the songwriter who wrote those lyrics, reflects, “Can you free yourself enough to experience the reality of life as it goes on before you and with you, and as you go on as part of it or not, because if you can’t, you stand on square one until you die.” He also says that the song can have different meanings for other people, but that he is encouraged by it to not accept a lead role in a cage, but to demand of himself to keep auditioning for walk-on parts in the war, because that’s where he wants to be. “I want to be in the trenches, I don’t want to be at headquarters or in a hotel somewhere. I want to be engaged.”

If Jesus would put his prayer in poetic terms of today, maybe he would have prayed to God that those who believe in him because of his disciples’ words would keep on auditioning for walk-on parts in the war on hatred and evil. Friends in Christ – including & especially you graduates – keep on praying … and make your prayers complete by being activists for the love of God through Jesus for all people. Your church today joins in the prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus” not as words of resignation, but as a prayer of hope. That in you and in us, Jesus will intervene in history to give new life. May it be so, in the name of Christ our Lord; Amen.