Sermon for Sunday, May 8, 2016 || Easter 7C || Revelation 22
You probably didn’t realize it, but a few minutes ago _____ read the very last prayer in the Bible. “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” These are the words of John of Patmos as he wakes from his vision, which we know as the Book of Revelation. Come, Lord Jesus. A succinct prayer, to be sure, but powerful. It sounds to me like a breath prayer; that is, a prayer short enough to be said slowly in a single breath. <demonstrating> Come, Lord Jesus. Praying a breath prayer is a wonderful practice that helps us stay immersed in the healing waters of God’s presence. A breath prayer can be anything that you can say with one breath:
Have mercy on me, Lord.
Help me, Jesus.
I put my trust in Christ.
Lord, grant me peace.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Today, I’d like to spend our sermon time in guided meditation, using these three words – this last prayer in the Bible – as a foundation. I invite you to get as comfortable as you can in your pew. Uncross whatever you have crossed: legs, arms, fingers. If you’d like to close your eyes, please do so. If you keep your eyes open, then at least allow your focus to soften. Take a deep breath and as you exhale it slowly, whisper that three-word prayer to yourself: “Come, Lord Jesus.” Allow the sibilant sound at the end of “Jesus” to continue you as you breathe out. Whenever I say this prayer during the guided meditation, I will give space for you to take more deep breaths and breathe the prayer for yourselves, if you choose.
There is power in these words. They begin with the invitation: “Come.” We hear echoes of Jesus inviting the disciples with the same word: “Come and see.” (John 1:39, 46). We hear Jesus beckon forward those who were barred from him: “Let the little children come to me” (Matthew 19:14). We hear Jesus invite people to find refreshment in his presence: “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We hear Jesus invite us to come to him, and now we reciprocate the invitation: “Come, Lord Jesus.” <pause>
Our invitation is not a blind one; it has an addressee: Jesus whom we call “Lord.” Sovereign. The One who is truly in charge. The Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the One in whom all our endings find new beginnings. This Lord reigns over the living and the dead, now and into eternity. St. Paul speaks the truth when he says: “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s [possession]” (Romans 14:8). This Lord is our savior; we live in his territory, in his realm; we owe him our fealty. And to remind ourselves whose grass is under our feet, we pray: “Come, Lord Jesus.” <pause>
Who are we to address such a Lord on a first name basis? How dare we? We dare because he has called us friends and has made known to us everything that he heard from his father (John 15:15). We dare because he knows and calls us each by name and leads us out to the still waters and green pastures (John 10:3; Psalm 23). We dare because “we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). Jesus is our friend and our brother, as well as our Lord, and thus we desire the intimacy that first names offer. And so we pray: “Come, Lord Jesus.” <pause>
There is power in these words, in this final prayer in the Bible. Three little words that speak of invitation, sovereignty, and relationship. Whenever we breathe out this prayer, we affirm our relationship with Jesus Christ. We locate ourselves as his subjects. And we invite him to be present in our midst.
And yet even as we make this invitation to him, we remember that all prayer begins in God, that the desire to pray is catalyzed by God reaching out to us. And so our invitation is really an RSVP, a response to God’s movement in our lives. Our breath prayer is an echo of Jesus’ own invitation. Listen for this invitation with the ear of your heart. When you breathe out the prayer, listen for the echo of Jesus calling your name. “Come, Lord Jesus.” <pause>
As this prayer begins to inhabit your breathing, you may begin noticing Jesus’ reciprocal invitation appearing again and again. This invitation may fill you with peace, and it may also make you feel uncomfortable:
Come to me in places of darkness where you would rather not look.
Come to me when I’m alone at the table in the soup kitchen.
Come to me when I’m picked last at recess.
“Come to me when I am hungry or thirsty.
Come to me when I need clothing and shelter.
Come to me when I’m a stranger in your midst.
Come to me when I’m sick or in prison.” (Matthew 25)
Come to me when no one else will grant me the dignity I deserve.
When we pray our breath prayer, we invite Jesus to encounter us in these ways. The air we take in feeds oxygen to our blood and the blood pumps through our hearts and our hearts cry out to the Living God and the Living God sends us outinto the world in peace to love and serve. As we walk out into that world, we continue to breathe – in, out, in, out. And the breath prayer carries us to Jesus disguised in so many forms. “Come, Lord Jesus.” <pause>
This is the last prayer in the Bible, the literal last word in the bound volume we call our Holy Scriptures. But God’s story continues after the Bible is closed, for God is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the One in whom all our endings find new beginnings. The Bible ends with this prayer, but the prayer begins again on our breath. Each breath a new beginning, planted in the rich soil of reciprocal invitation: Jesus to us, us to Jesus. And so we pray now and with our next breath and the one after that these words of invitation, fealty, relationship, love, and service: “Come, Lord Jesus.” <pause>