This is the final sermon I preached at Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church. I preached on the end of Revelation. The context is that, the following week, the pastor of 17 years and his wife (who is the beloved children’s choir director) would be leaving, as would I. We’ve been talking a lot about transition.
7The 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. 20The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! 21The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.
Transition. Anyone tired of that word yet? Transition can be such a difficult time – emotions are all over the place: fear, excitement, sorrow, joy, apprehension, the desire to just jump right in, the desire to push the transition off and the desire to just get it over with already. Not only are there all of these emotions, but often they happen either in rapid succession or at the same. Time. Ugh. It’s exhausting. One minute you’re sure that the four horses of the apocalypse are on their way, and it’s all bowls of blood and plagues, and the next moment you have a flash of hope and a vision of the new world that is possible after the change.
When a person, or a community, is struggling through transition, it’s tempting to repeat the message that everything is going to be alright. For some people, that works. The promise of a better tomorrow provides a reason to keep working through transition, to power on through change and hard times. And that is where Christ’s promise of return hits us. Christ will return and not just make everything okay, Christ will return and renew the world. But this was written almost 2,000 years ago and we are still waiting. We know that Christ will come again, and that it could happen tomorrow, but it could also be another 2,000 years. While we have hope in this return, most of us want everything to be okay Right Now. Sometimes, someday just seems too far away and hope feels too hard. Sometimes, it is hard to not get trapped in the darkness, to not push away the promise of hope because it is too obscure, to undefined or too far away.
Some days, just isn’t enough. In the midst of trouble, we often need more than hope in the future, we need hope and comfort in the right now.
God knows that. God knows that for some people, the hope for the future, the knowledge of Christ’s return is enough, but that some people need comfort right here, right now. So here, at the end of Revelation, Christ promises more than the hope of the future, more than the promise of his return. We are given an invitation to Christ’s presence in the here and now.
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.
I don’t know about you, but this is the message I need. The invitation to come to the Holy Spirit and the church and sit in their arms. The invitation to be as we are, in all of our confusion, fear, joy, anger, optimism, eagerness, and whatever other feelings that are going on inside of us and just be comforted and accepted in the arms of God.
Lately, when I pray for some glimpse of the future, some assurance that everything is going to be okay, I hear God’s voice saying to me, “Everything is going to be okay.” Which is really comforting. Until my brain gets involved. And then I remember that God’s version of okay and my version of okay are often very different things, and God’s time and my time are definitely different things. And I get frustrated. And I freak out a little, wanting to know what my future will hold, wanting to control my life path to the minute details. Until I remember that God is with me. God just responded and is present with me right here, right now, in the midst of my jumbled emotions. God is here. And I can lean into God’s presence in my life in prayer and in the form of all of you.
So as you walk into one of the scarier parts of your transition as a community, and as many of you walk in scary transitions in your individual lives, remember that God is calling you to come, be with the Holy Spirit. God is with you here and now. God knows what you are going through. God has given you this amazing community to lean on and lean forward with. When you are thirsty for God, remember you have been invited to drink. And when you can’t find God, when you can’t hear God’s voice and you don’t know where the water of life is, come here, to this place, where you have a giant cloud of witnesses and someone will be able to be God’s presence for you, someone will be able to hold you up, and someone will be able to point you toward the water of life.
But in these words from John, there is more than just the invitation from the spirit and the bride – the church. There is a call here. As much as we are invited to come to the spirit, we are called to invite others in the same way. To reach out a hand to those who are in tribulation and say, come. Come be with us. We get it. Life can be really hard. We want to walk together through it. We want to hold you in our arms as you struggle, to hold each other up on this crazy journey called life. We are often God’s voice for those who cannot hear it in their lives. We are God’s invitation to new life, to the table, to the love and hope and grace and joy that can be found in Christ. We are called to hear God’s call and to respond be calling out to others, “Come.”
Then there is the final invitation – the invitation to all who are thirsty to come to the water of life. No boundaries. No separation. No qualifications but thirst. And, really, who isn’t thirsty. Who isn’t striving for things that will quench our thirst, only to get them and be unsatistfied. Who hasn’t pondered the work put in to have things that only leave us wanting more? We are invited to the spring that will leave us thirsting no more.
As we live into the hope of Christ’s return, we can rest in the knowledge that God is present with us right here, right now. We are invited to the bosom of the Holy Spirit, to lay down ourselves and be embraced by her love.
17The 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.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all, now and always.