by Pastor Doug Kings
“Come, Lord Jesus” is, as Richard Rohr says, the “Advent mantra.” Packed into that short phrase is as awareness of the “now/not yet” quality of the Christian life. On the one hand we live with the joyous knowledge that Christ has come. Yet as the same time our lives remind us daily, even moment-by-moment, of a world still looking for transformation and redemption.
In Romans 8 Paul says, “We know that that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains.” The older translation “in travail” may be more poetic but it hides an important point Paul is making. The whole world is waiting like a woman in labor, with both agony and the hope of joy to come.
Waiting for what? In a curious phrase, Paul says that “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.” “Well, who are they?” we ask. I think it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that “the children of God” means us. The world’s redemption is dependent on the people of God getting to work. The whole creation, Paul seems to be saying, is waiting for us to show up.
Over the centuries there have been countless movements of people, often fired up by charismatic preachers, believing that the “end times” had arrived and Jesus was about to return, a literal answer to the Advent mantra. Inevitably those movements have come and gone with Jesus most noticeable by his absence.
In his early letters, Paul also seems to be anticipating Jesus’ literal return very soon. In Romans, however, an older Paul seems to be looking further out, not so much in time but in scale, of what Christ’s return is really about. He envisions the parousia, or second coming of Christ, not as a rescue mission of God’s elect, but of the completion or fulfillment of Christ’s redemption of the world.
Paul’s vision is not unlike one popular among some Jewish traditions of tikkun olam, the “repair of the world.” A key to this “repair” is the performance of mitzvot, or good deeds, by God’s people. But what is so refreshing about both Paul’s birth metaphor and the Jewish notion of repair is that both see the world as worth being saved.
Out of frustration and despair, it has often been tempting to view the world as evil, a lost cause, and only worthy of destruction. Such a reaction forgets the simple yet profound assertion of John 3 that “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
And so to pray “Come, Lord Jesus” is not to plea for God to carry out some apocalyptic cataclysm, preceded by a just-in-the-nick-of-time rapture of the church. Rather, it is to pray that the Spirit would build and empower the body of Christ on earth. It is to pray for “the revealing of the children of God” as people engaged in good deeds for the rebirth of the creation as God intended it, the manifesting of the kingdom God. It is to pray for the people of God to show up.
“Come, Lord Jesus” is not a prayer of resignation or desperation but one of hope. As we live in the midst of the world’s brokenness, we know God has already set in motion it’s repair, rebuilding, and rebirth.
And it’s a prayer of faith and of love. For with these words we commit ourselves to this saving work, guided and empowered by the Spirit: the work of caring for the hurting, the lost, and the downtrodden, the work of being the presence of Christ for people look for healing and new life, the work of showing up, whenever and wherever needed, as the people of God.
Blessings in your life and ministry, Pastor Doug