Come Lord Jesus
5/23/04Times New RomanArial
Today we confirm several adults in the Lutheran faith and receive 3 long time Lutherans into our Church family. To those we're confirming, I forgot to mention in class one aspect of Lutheran piety that they're sure to run into, our table prayer. "Come Lord Jesus be our guest and let Thy gifts to us be blest"is a particularly Lutheran table prayer that you will hear Lutherans all over the country praying. But "Come Lord Jesus" is not only particularly Lutheran it's throughly Biblical.
Look at our text. Twice the risen, ascended Jesus proclaims, "I am coming soon." In response, the Spirt and the Bride, which is the Christian Church, say, "Come" and finally, the individual at the close of the text says, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." Now the fact that the Spirit and the Church which has the Spirit pray for the Lord Jesus to come is not surprising, but that individuals say this prayer is downright miraculous.
Jesus says He comes to "give to everyone according to what he has done." What sinner on earth can pray for Jesus to come and give him or her what he or she deserves? We don't want the IRS to come and audit us and we get nervous when we go through airport metal detectors such guilty sinners are we. Who among us is safe if Jesus comes to give us according to what we have done? Who among us has ever feared, loved, or trusted God above all things? That makes us idolaters. Who among us has not embittered someone's life or hated someone? That makes us murderers. Who among us has not lusted? That makes us sexually immoral. And who among us has not lied repeatedly? That makes us practitioners of falsehood.
How in the world can guilty sinners such as us pray, "Come Lord Jesus?" Because our robes have been washed clean of the idolatry, the murder, the lust, and the lies in the blood of the Lamb. That's what Revelation 7:14 says and our text returns to, "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city." Jesus, the Lamb of God, went to the cross bearing the sins that prick your conscience and even the ones that don't. His blood was poured out there covering your sins and cleansing your robes.
Holy people have attitude. Did you catch that? They have a right to the tree of life. The tree that Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 were kept from lest they eat and live forever, you have a right to. The gates of heaven that are shut to sinners are open to you clothed in a robe washed in Jesus' blood. Go ahead. Strut into heaven. It's all yours. The tree of life, the water of life, the joy beyond compare. That's what Jesus says He comes to bring you, forgiven sinner, so is it any wonder that you pray regularly and often, "Come Lord Jesus?"
The Lutheran table prayer is a miraculous prayer, but it's more than a table prayer. I had Debbie change the cover of our bulletin to a copy of a 19th century painting. There you see the meaning of the table prayer "Come Lord Jesus" illustrated. See the family gathered at the table; see the head of the family inviting Jesus to a place at their meager table; see the family all focused on Jesus. "Come Lord Jesus be our guest." Now there's some practical piety for new and old Lutherans. At every meal, we ask the One who feeds all things to eat with us. To our humble homes, to our harried homes, to our hurting homes we ask Jesus to come, and come He does. And where Jesus is, there is heaven on earth.
But we're not just praying about our dinner tables. We're praying about something bigger. Depending on where you are in the country, Lutherans say, "Let these gifts; Let Thy gifts, or Let these Thy gifts, to us be blest." I prefer "Let Thy gifts" because the gifts of the Lord Jesus extend far beyond what happens to be on my table right then. Jesus says He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. These word are a quote from Isaiah by which Jesus unmistakably identifies Himself as the Jehovah of the Old Testament.
The One carried by Mary, born of Mary, nursed by Mary, and raised by Mary is none other than One who appeared to Abraham, met with Moses on Sinai, and spoke in a still small voice to Elijah. To Jehovah belong not just the food on my plate but the cattle on a thousand hills. To Jehovah in flesh and blood belong not just the water in my glass but the fountains of the great deep. To Jesus belongs not just my table but the earth on which my table stands. When we pray, "Come, Lord Jesus" we're asking that Jesus would make all of these things which can work for good or evil work a blessing for us.
So "Come, Lord Jesus" sees beyond our table to the universe beyond, but it even goes further than this. It sees all the way to heaven. The Greek words "Come Lord" are the Aramaic equivalent of maranatha which is "Our Lord, come." Maranatha was a watch word of the early church and probably had its roots in the Jewish liturgy. Maranatha in the early second century of the Church was associated with Holy Communion. It was the final word the congregation said in the liturgy before communing. The congregation said, "Maranatha," "Our Lord, come," and the prayer was answered in the Communion.
Now we go back to the picture on your bulletin. This is how Lutherans see the reality of Communion. Jesus is as present to us in Communion as in that painting, so we bow to Him and receive Him into our mouths on bended knees when physically able. Lutherans don't go by what we see but by what Jesus tells us is there. So we see Baptism as a water that gives life because that's what Jesus says it is. We see Absolution as the forgiveness of our sins right then and there as if Jesus did it Himself because that's what Jesus says it is. We see not just bread and wine on that altar, in our hands, and in our mouths but the sweet, forgiving, life giving, Body and Blood of Jesus because that's what Jesus says it is. Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus.
Come, Lord Jesus is a miraculous prayer, a table prayer that goes far beyond our dinner table, and it's a prayer out of the dark for the sunrise. It's a prayer for our Lord Jesus to come for us. In the early communion liturgy, I told you the congregation ended by saying, "Maranatha." They began that part by saying, "Let grace come and let this world pass away." When the Church prays, when individual Christians pray, "Come, Lord Jesus be our guest," it's not just a prayer for our dinner table or communion table but a prayer for the Lord to turn the tables.
This is the dark night where Satan appears to rule. He is at work in the wars, the disease, in the attacks on marriage and the unborn. In the darkness Satan brings tragedy and despair to billions. But we're to remember that in the darkness nothing looks as it should. This is the time when bushes look like threatening people, when swishing branches sound like an approaching attacker. This is not the time to go by sight and sound, but by what Jesus tells us. Jesus' words and works are our only patches of light. In the light of Baptism, death is not death but life. In the light of Absolution sinners aren't damned but forgiven. In the light of Communion Jesus is not far away from us but present with us. In Jesus' light we see ourselves not just as sinners but as holy saints. So we pray, "Come Lord Jesus;"bring your light to stay.
Jesus says, "I am...the bright Morning Star." Don't think of Venus. It is much brighter than other stars and people do call it the Morning Star. But there is a morning star brighter still, the Sun. That's the morning star which when it rises eclipses all other stars in the sky and obliterates the darkness. This is the moment all Christians everywhere are waiting for. That's why the front of a church building is called the east even if it faces another direction. That's why Christian graveyards are laid out so that when the dead are raised they'll be facing the east. The east is where the sun rises and from which we expect Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness.
So whenever we pray, "Come, Lord Jesus," we're asking for Jesus to come and to dispel the darkness where evil seems to triumph and Christians seem to lose. Think of soldiers on a battlefield in the darkness. Think of people lost in the woods at night. Think of long nights in the hospital whether as a patient or impatiently waiting. How people pray for sunrise in such situations. That's the situation Christians are in; day in and day out it's night. But rather than simply curse the darkness, we pray against its tyranny and light a candle of hope every time we say, "Come, Lord Jesus."
I began by saying that "Come, Lord Jesus" is a miraculous prayer for sinners to pray, and it is. Our prayer testifies to the fact that God's free grace has touched our hearts, cleansed our hearts, and enabled them to long for rather than to fear the coming of our Lord Jesus. But there is a sense that the prayer "Come, Lord Jesus" is a natural response. You know how every Versicle in our Liturgy has a Response? When you hear, "The Lord be with you" from your heart comes, "And with thy Spirit" a certainly as a drum being struck must sound. This is the comfort of liturgical worship. And this is a comfort the Lord Jesus leaves to us in the last chapter of the last Book of the Bible.
He says from heaven, "Yes, I am coming soon," and as often as Christians hear this they cannot help but say, "Come, Lord Jesus." Come Lord Jesus to our dinner tables, to our Communion tables, to turn the tables on the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. Come, Lord Jesus to deliver us from our sins, from our hunger for you, from this dark night. Come, Lord Jesus be our guest where we are, so that we might be Your guests where You are and so be blest forever and ever. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Easter VII (5-23-04); Revelation 22: 12-17, 20