“The Invitation” – 05-12-13 – Easter 7 – Cycle C

Listen to the sermon here:

Scripture: Acts 16:16-34 Psalm 97 Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21

“It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star. 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.” This is Jesus speaking in Revelation 22.

Jesus said, “I am the root and the descendant of David.” Jesus came before David and is also a descendant of David – the root and the branch of David. This is no ordinary branch, of course. This is God. The marvelous result is that we are all hanging on that branch. We do have our own family trees so to speak but all of us, every single one of us, can be part of that branch if we choose. Our whole family tree can be clinging to that branch.

We are invited! And we are to be inviting! We are welcome to accept the invitation of Jesus to be part of this tree of life. We are invited to drink of the waters of life. But Jesus expects us to be inviting him into our lives. Jesus expects us to be inviting other people to be part of this branch. Jesus tells us to say, “Come.” Anyone who is thirsty shall come.

In John 17, Jesus is emphasizing the “oneness” of himself and the Father and the great love which flows between them. Jesus is not selfishly clinging to this love. He wants to share it with us and we shall share it with each other.

Jesus calls himself the bright morning star. Hymns have been written on this theme. Congregations choose to name themselves using this idea of the Bright Morning Star. We don’t need to wait for the star in the sky at Christmas with the Wise Men. The Bright Morning Star is more like the sun – giving life and joy.

2 Peter 1:19 has these words, “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” Way back in Numbers 24:17 we read: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.”

So Jesus is the bright morning star. We read the word “bride” in these passages. In Revelation 22:17, we hear, The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” In Revelation 19:7 we read, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”

We are considered to be the bride of Jesus – we, the church. Do we have fine linen, bright and clean? Do we have this cleanness, this righteousness in our souls? Have we given ourselves to Jesus? Have we handed our lives to him as close to completeness as possible? Or maybe a little more and a little more until we feel as one which is the goal. Yes, Jesus is inviting us to be his bride; to be one with him and one with the Father as the Father and Jesus are one. Add the Holy Spirit.

Revelation 2:7 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” It is the invitation! We are invited but, if we are the bride, verse 22:17 indicates that we shall be extending the invitation, not just accepting it for ourselves.

Marjorie was developing her family tree – going back and back and back. Some of her ancestors had pleasing lives and some did not. Marjorie wondered why some people in her ancestry developed into kind and helpful people while others seemed to be just the opposite. This was not a passing thought for Marjorie. She spent many hours thinking about this – not all at once but here and there and then more here and there. Where was she going to fall in this history? Was someone named Marjorie, in a generation not yet born, going to continue this history and would know how clean Marjorie’s own linen was, so to speak? Was someone down the lane going to realize that “the Morning Star” was part of Marjorie’s life and wonder if Marjorie had been faithful in extending the invitation to family and friends, even strangers, to enjoy the tree of life?

The realization crept into Marjorie’s mind and heart that she was not passing this legacy. She was not focused on her own husband and children. How much did they long for the fruit of the tree of life? How much did they care that the leaves of this tree would heal nations? Revelation 22:2 has, “On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

But Marjorie was a bit fearful – well, a lot fearful – to start the endeavor of quietly, subtly moving the focus of her family from the secular world in which they lived and “had their being.” Should she be verbal and say loudly one day, “Come. Come to the tree of life.” That’s the bold up-front approach. Or should she just start to live her life a bit differently, noticeably redirecting her feet and her words toward the possibilities that Jesus and the Father and the Spirit offer? Or, should she be so firm and so re-directed as to make new rules for the family? What approach is left? Oh, conversation! Good idea. Marjorie agrees. This is the way.

However, Marjorie does not know how to start. She finally realizes that prayer is the best way to start. She is slowly led to change some of her activities: her activities for recreation, her volunteer activities, maybe even her job, so that she is surrounded by people who are thirsty. Her own family does not know they are thirsty. There is all that sugary soda in the refrigerator and as long as mother stocks the refrigerator they will drink, not realizing that their thirst continues.

So Marjorie slowly bought less soda and added half-gallons of water which she took from the kitchen sink tap. A silly step toward the goal of the tree of life and the clear heavenly water? Maybe so. But her family started to take notice. Betsy complained first. But one day she had eaten something very salty and that clear, cold water seemed more appealing than the sugary soda. One by one, there were comments about was it time to go to the store; the soda was gone in the ‘fridge. So the door of the refrigerator brought about the door opening for conversation. Marjorie had the family’s attention.
But what to say? Ask the Holy Spirit, Marjorie! Ask the Holy Spirit! So she did. She found herself saying, “Do you know those expensive sneakers we buy? Well, I think they are taking us in the wrong direction.” Bobby says, “What does that mean, Mom?” between his bites of lasagna, his favorite meal. Well said Marjorie, “Why are we buying these high-priced sneakers? I know we need quality sneakers because each of us uses our feet in big and strenuous ways each day.

“Betsy is a cheerleader. Think of all that abuse on her feet. Bobby, you run along the road to train for cross-country running. All those stones are hard on your sneakers and on your feet. Daddy, you need firm sneakers to play tennis and I need long-lasting sneakers so I don’t need to be buying them so often. Would you be willing to help me to investigate the sneaker market to find quality sneakers that are not name-brand sneakers?

“Why would I ask you to be bullied in school because you are no longer wearing the accepted sneakers? I am being led by the Holy Spirit to do something about our walk in life. I know. You think I have really crossed the line of sanity. It would be neat if you would think about this to humor me. You don’t have to tell your friends about this, but it is fine if you do. If you have trouble coming to a conclusion about your willingness to do this, you may want to try praying to God – any part of God – Father, Son, or Holy Spirit. If that is too complicated and boring just say, ‘God, I have this question’ and start to talk. Don’t forget to listen. God may actually have some advice for you.”

Bobby pipes up, “What will we do with the money we save?” “Oh!” say two other voices. Marjorie says, “That will be our next discussion. Get some ideas ready. You may want to remember that the nations need healing. What does that mean to you? Can our little money make a difference?” Marjorie quietly hopes that “giving” will actually make the list of possibilities for the saved money. Marjorie does realize that the healing of nations will take more than money. It will take more of this “Come” invititation. Marjorie will be spending more time in prayer with the source of all healing, while she remembers this tree of life whose leaves heal the nations. Is she supposed to be a leaf on this tree? What do you think?

So Marjorie is on her way. How far will she get? Quiet persistence may win the day. Or, she may fail in this attempt to re-direct the footsteps of her family. But attempting a good move counts with God. And the old story is try and try again. But, not by ourselves. Never! We do this in unity with God. Remember – becoming one with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is the goal. We must invite God to help us. We must invite Jesus to come.

“Yes, I am coming soon.” That was Jesus speaking. We are to say, “Come, Lord, Jesus.”

We don’t need to wait. We can invite Jesus into our hearts today.

Into my heart, into my heart. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.
Come in today. Come in to stay. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen