Come, for God's sake

Seventh Sunday of Easter Season

may 8, 2016

 

In the name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

It’s not often that we’re privileged to celebrate 3 sacraments together within the space of a weekend.  But this weekend we get that special blessing.  Today we baptize little Caiden Kelly Buell.  Caiden’s parents, Rachel and Ryan, joined our parish this year.  And today Caiden becomes the newest little Christian in Redding.

Yesterday we celebrated the Confirmation of four of our parishioners:  Daniel and Will Brey, Donovan Furrer, and Francisca Tutu.  Each one of our teens stood before the assembled Church and took on for himself the baptismal promises that were made when they were babies.  And Francisca, better known among us as Tutu, took this step to deepen her commitment to the promises she made for herself last fall right here in this sanctuary at our baptismal font. 

How wonderful it is for our community to be able to celebrate these milestones together.

Now, one exercise I often have led with Confirmation classes of both teens and adults is to ask them the question, “Who is Jesus?” and see where it takes us together.  So let’s ask ourselves this question—right here and now—who is Jesus?  I will give you a hint—there are lots of correct answers.

Just shout out some responses—who is Jesus?  [The congregation answers.]

Our reading from Revelation gives us some answers to this question that we don’t always think about when we answer this question.  First of all Jesus claims in the vision to John that he is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.  What does this mean for us?  I see it as a statement about his perdurance from before time to after time—from eternity to eternity, if you will.  He was there before the Creation and continues after the end of things as we know them. 

He also claims to be the root and the descendant of David.  The root of David is saying that he’s his ancestor.  The descendant refers to his coming after him as a descendant.  Think about what a paradox that is—for one individual to be both ancestor and descendant.  It’s impossible—unless you are God.  The paradox points to the otherness and the mystery of the Holy.

Jesus says he is the Bright Morning Star.  I love this one.  It goes back to the Old Testament and is associated there with the messiah or savior of the people.  But think about how beautiful and bright the Morning Star is—it’s the planet Venus.  We usually see it low in the horizon at dawn or in the evening at dusk.  It’s symbol of brilliance and beauty and a beacon of hope.

And in this reading Jesus is also called Lord, a reference to his supremacy over us all.  He is our guide, our superior, our friend, and our Lord.

I think one reason I love this reading so much is that it gets at qualities of Jesus and the Godhead in general that are so hard to capture in human words:  he is the Alpha and Omega, from beginning to end, and the same throughout the ages.  He is the root and descendant of the watershed king in the history of Israel.  He is the Bright Morning Star, a glimmer of hope in the cosmos, shining above us and outside us.  These are qualities of majesty and splendor and beauty in eternity.  And we need paradox to capture them because prosaic descriptions fall short. 

So why does all this matter?  Why devote a sermon to it?  So what? 

The answer lies in the second half of our reading from Revelation.  This is actually the last few sentences of the entire Bible—and you notice it ends with the Amens.  Amen—so be it.  But there’s a different 4-letter word that’s repeated here, too, besides Amen, and that’s what holds the key to the “so what?” question.

It’s the word “Come.”  We’re invited to Come to Jesus, the Bright Morning Star, for refuge.  For recharge.  For a listening heart.  For comfort and challenge and centering.  For a reminder of our true home—our deepest place of belonging.

Now, coming to Christ is the essential movement in prayer.  Just show up.  And be held in the Mercy.  Coming to Jesus in prayer is the fulfillment of his prayer to the Father that we hear in the gospel today:  “Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory.”  (John 17:24)  And that’s what happens when we turn to him.

And, of course, we cannot come to him for all these things if we don’t know him—if we can’t find him.  So cultivate prayer.  Set aside time each day to be in prayer and in the Presence.  Come to the Source.  Come to Jesus.  It’s what we do here together each Sunday, isn’t it?

 

Now, it’s kind of funny for me to stress this word, “Come,” on the eve of my sabbatical.  I’ll be away, as you know, for 3 months.  And as we also know, when the rector’s away, attendance may have a tendency to fall.  When the summer’s upon us, even the folks still in town tend to want to take time out from church.  We’ve seen this phenomenon before.

This is what happens when our faith is not fully grown to the point where we come because we are drawn by love—not by someone who appears to be taking attendance. 

Come to grow in God’s love first and foremost.  That’s mature faith—the seeking of the Holy One, no matter who’s behind the altar.

So consider this a direct invitation from God to continue to come together in Christian community right here on Sundays.  Cultivate faith through prayer.  Lean back into the Mercy. 

Those just confirmed, those just baptized, and everyone else:  Come.  Come to worship our Bright Morning Star.  Come to encourage each other in the life of faith.  Come to take into your own body the Creator of the Universe.  Come.  Come.

Amen.