Sunday Night Musings: Of Table Prayers and the Parousia

When I was a child, our common table prayer was: "Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let this food to us be blessed." It's kind of the Protestant version of the Catholic "Bless us, O Lord, for these, Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty through Christ Jesus our Lord." It was said at our family table as well as my grandparents' table. Though we seldom say it ourselves, our children know it and will say it from time to time when they're asked to pray for the food.

The prayer starts the same way the Bible ends. Right near the end of Revelation in the penultimate verse (22:20), right after Jesus says he will come again, we find the simple prayer: "Come, Lord Jesus."

It's not an uncommon prayer. We say it often in some form or another. During Advent we sing, "O come, o come, Emmanuel." We grace our meals with it. We offer it up in troubled times.

And we usually mean it: we want Jesus to come and set things right. We want to be in His presence. We want Him to fill the earth with his justice, mercy, kindness, goodness, redemption, and love.

Theologians call Jesus' return the Parousia. It's a Greek word that simply means presence, arrival, or official visit. But biblical scholars use it to refer to the second coming of Christ, which is something Christians have been waiting for since the Resurrection occurred. The early church was growing impatient that it hadn't happened yet. From all indications, it was supposed to happen soon. Jesus says so right at the end of Revelation (again in 22:20--which elicits John's response of "Come, Lord Jesus"). But John writes Revelation in part to assure the churches in Asia Minor that they could trust Jesus' promise that He would return.

And here we are, two millenia later, and we're still waiting for it.  Clearly, God's definition of "soon" means something different than in our timing. But we know it will happen, so we still pray, "Come, Lord Jesus."

But it's a dangerous prayer. And if I examine myself, I realize that I don't really want it to happen yet. I have places I want to visit, things I want to do, things I want to accomplish in life before Christ returns. If I'm honest, I'm not really ready. My life feels too messed up in so many ways, I feel that I need time to get things in order before He returns. Yet, that is also precisely why I need Him to return.

As we've been discussing over the past few weeks at church as we've been going through Revelation, the book isn't just about the future, but about the present. The now and the not yet. That though the Kingdom of God isn't here yet, we can still make it so. And so, when we say, "Come, Lord Jesus," we know He is here with us. I'm still learning and working on practicing the presence of Christ, but I know He is with me. I just don't always live like He is. Which is why I'm not ready for His return completely. But I desire it--at least to some extent.

And so, even in the midst of my messy life and my unwillingness at times, I pray, "Come, Lord Jesus."

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