Ps. 133; Acts 1:12-26; Rev. 22:1-20; John 17:20-26
Come, “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches” … The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’” (vv. 16a, 17a)
Our Readings from St. John’s Revelation and his Gospel have us anticipate the day of Pentecost, the HS’s descent from the Father through the Son upon the Church concluding the Easter season.
You have heard of Jubilee; an OT time of the Lord’s favor every fiftieth year. Forty-nine years an Israelite might incur debt, obligate his family, enter another’s service, and even turn-over the beneficial use of his property in the Land.
But all the Land belonged to God so the fiftieth year was Jubilee; all debts forgiven, servitudes released, and encumbered property restored the original families and tribes as God had apportioned. Jubilee was a reset to wholeness in God’s covenantal grace.
The annual OT feast of Pentecost looked forward to this Jubilee year; its promise of release, renewal, and restoration. Following Passover Israel liturgically celebrated the festival of Weeks, so named for commencing a period of seven weeks, each representing the passage of forty-nine years under God’s care until his Jubilee fiftieth restoration year.
Following Weeks and the seven Sabbaths, OT Pentecost’s fiftieth day commemorated the ingathering of God’s people out of Egyptian bondage into freedom. Tradition holds that on Pentecost Israel accepted God’s Law to become Israel, his first-born son.
We inquire how today’s mass, this Seventh Sunday of Easter relates? Precisely that Jubilee’s restoration expectation is fulfilled in Christ (cf. Lk. 4:19) and his gift of the HS on the coming fiftieth Pentecost day celebrates God’s re-creative work in and for the NT Church through Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.
On the cross Jesus spoke to Mary, whom since the Cana wedding he calls, “Woman” and the “Beloved Disciple” to declare their new relation. Henceforth, the “Woman” would be the “Disciple’s” mother and he, her son; together they picture the NT Church; born of Jesus’ water and blood from his side and handing-over the Spirit to the Father for Pentecost gift to the Church (Jn. 19:26, 27, 30, 34).
By the HS’s descent into the church, she worships God in grace and Truth. The Spirit writes God’s word onto hearts, a continuing circumcision for wholeness; and sending the “Woman” into the world with her militant proclamation of Jesus crucified and risen in whom all men have Jubilee favor; not periodically, but for eternity.
The HS with the Bride unveils God’s word, leading her to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20b), a desire for closer unity with Jesus in God’s “secret place” of Presence (Mt. 6:6, 18, NKJV), as Father and Son are one (Jn. 17:21).
Christian prayer, even done in private is always oriented on the altar of Presence and the Church’s Holy Communion united with brothers and sisters. Jesus’ Gospel “High Priestly prayer” on behalf of the Church is answered, “The glory that You have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me …” (John 17:22, 23a).
The Church participates in Jesus’ glory, a baptismal oneness into his death and resurrection. The Church prays for unity; yet our petition seems belied by centuries of schism, too long to iterate.
Christians appear more at home in the turbulence of the world than kingdom service. Periodically we may despair of Lord and Bride unity, by distractions to a mentality of entertainment, need to “feel-well” about ourselves, and engage in variegated social and political agendas.
If such dysplasia is inconsistent with our psalmody, that “brothers dwelling in unity” (Ps. 133:1); our prayer in the Spirit, “Come, Lord Jesus!” acknowledges the Church not yet; but being perfected.
The Church does not operate in idealized realms, never touching man’s frailty in sin; rather we possess the glory of God through the gracious exchange of our sin for Jesus’ righteousness. The heart of our “glory”, our sin and God’s forgiveness for Christ’s sake is, “the glory [the Father has] given [Him]” (John 17:22).
Christians live in tension; the world is spiritually dead, however, for the time, it is still physically kicking. By faith in Christ, we live betwixt heaven and hell, standing before the Father, source of all our righteousness in Christ (17:25). The HS impels to repentance; trusting our oft painful glory in Christ’s all-sufficient cleansing united with his pierced flesh.
Jesus’ “High Priestly prayer” sets the Church’s mission. By Baptism into his once for all sacrificial death we too are lifted-up for bearing Christ in our bodies. He became sin for us; and in our lifting we witness God’s love for the world (John 3:16), that all might be drawn to him (John 12:32).
After Jesus’ coronation into heaven on clouds, Peter observed the lack of the Church’s representative witness; eleven Apostles out of sync with the continuum of Israel’s twelve tribes. Comprehending the Church’s authority on behalf of her Lord, Peter preached Scripture’s meaning (Acts 1:20).
One may question the wisdom, method, and timing of replacing Judas; yet God does not overturn the apostolic decision to enroll Matthias as Resurrection witness and Apostle.
Moving through the world in Eucharistic forgiveness, the Church dare not take her apostolic authority for granted; always cognizant of her fragility and continual need of reformation and Jubilee restoration.
By institutional repentance, which is to say, reformation guided by the HS, the Church on earth grows in her office as the Lord’s helpmate. In the painful baptismal “glory” of repentance the Church advances. By the HS’ guidance God’s new creation comes into being through Christ with his Bride; in one accord we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Amen.