It’s on the Blue album. Which I owned in college, because didn’t everyone. To be honest, when it came to today’s message, I had to go look up the chronology. This would be the Beatles nonsense song “I Am the Walrus,” loosely inspired by “Jabberwocky,” a poem by Lewis Carroll.
And the reason I had to go looking up a Beatles song is that today’s Word from the Gospel of John always – invariably – makes me think of the first lines of the song. Remember? I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. Not to be confused with the song “Come Together,” from the Abbey Road album, with its tagline: Come together, right now, over me.
Because that’s the word, the teaching, that Jesus the Teacher has for his disciples, his students, on this seventh Sunday of Easter.
So, with that in mind, and now that you have Beatles songs stuck in your heads, let’s look at today’s reading from the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts.
This is the scene in which Paul and Silas, whom the authorities have jailed for having liberated a slave-girl who told fortunes, are themselves liberated by an earthquake that shakes the foundations of the prison and opens all its doors. The jailer, expecting that all the prisoners have escaped, is about to end his own life in response. And then what happens?
But Paul shouted in a loud voice, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.’ He then asks Paul about salvation, and the scene ends with the jailer and his household being brought into the family of Christ.
There is so much to bear in mind in this brief, yet rich, scene. Notice the details of the welcome. After speaking the word of the Lord to the household, Paul: took them and washed their wounds; then [the jailer] and his entire [household] were baptized without delay.
There is so much more in this moment than the reflexive question, “Have you been saved?!” And if, as a good Lutheran, you want to field that question with an answer that invites conversation and relationship, one way to answer might be: “Depends on what you mean by ‘saved.’”
Yes, the jailer and his entire household are welcomed into the Kingdom. Alleluia! And what does that look like?
Paul stops the jailer from quite literally falling on his sword with a reassurance: We are all here. The jailer lights a lamp and sees for himself. Then he asks, “What must I do?” And Paul and Silas answer: Believe. We’re not told how the jailer and his household live into their lives as part of the family of faith after this scene. We’re told what must happen for salvation, for our heart’s Yes to the yearning and tender invitation.
And they speak the Word of the Lord to the whole household. And then Paul dresses their wounds, baptizes them, and feeds them. And then they all rejoice together. I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. Come together, right now, over me.
And from this demonstration of what it means to be in the Family of God, in the household of Jesus, we find ourselves together with the psalmist at the reign of the Lord. The Lord reigns, let the Earth rejoice. This is a psalm of the reign of God, the kingdom of God, that evokes the void and the dark of Creation to point toward the end that is also the beginning, when: light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the honest of heart. The vivid imagery of this prayer leads us to the last words that we have in the last book that we have in the Bible. The close of the book of Revelation. Blessed are those who wash their robes. … 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. The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’
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.
As Frodo Baggins would say, “I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.” And you know and I know that this end is also the beginning. I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. Come together, right now, over me.
“Any last words” is a cliché, a staple of low-budget books and movies, Westerns and resistance films. But the last words that we are encountering on this Sunday are all “last words” that are also the first words of the next story.
And then what happens?
Jesus prays, in what we may call the conclusion of the Farewell Discourse. For several chapters in the Gospel of John, the Teacher has been giving one last presentation for his students before he departs to make a place for them. This scene is described as the Farewell Discourse. And all of John chapter 17 is his concluding prayer – his final discourse with the one who sent him. And he says:
As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Here the conclusion of the conclusion, the prayer that closes the Farewell Discourse, brings you and me back to the question of the jailer in today’s first reading. The question that comes just moments after the jailer believed that it was time for his own life to end – and instead finds himself in new beginnings, the most amazing new beginning of all, the beginning that never ends.
So where do you and I find ourselves in this circle of eternal endings and beginnings, the psalm of the reign of Christ that evokes the chaos and fire of creation? Where are you and I and the people of God at St. Michael’s in the middle of the earthquakes and panic and worst-case scenarios of our own daily living?
You and I are he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. Come together, right now, over me.
Let everyone who hears me… Let everyone who is thirsty… Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
Here is the gift, wrapped in the ridiculous packaging of you … and you … and you … and you … and me. When you and I believe and are baptized – and then we go through the earthquakes of each day and respond by saying Yes instead of falling on our own swords … that is when we have the water of life in us that we can offer as a gift to all who will hear and all who are thirsty.
Come together, right now, over me.