So there is this two word Aramaic formula that occurs only once in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 16:22, and it can be read either maran atha or marana tha. Depending on how you read it, it could mean a couple of different things. I’m not remotely an expert on languages, so I’ll leave that to others more qualified. I will go with the New Revised Standard Version of the New Testament that translates this Aramaic phrase as “Our Lord, come!”
I have heard people pray this before. In a sense, Jesus prays something similar when he says, “Your kingdom come”. I like the idea of God’s kingdom coming (although there was a time when even this was weird to me), but I used to not be so thrilled about the idea of the Lord coming. I think it is because this signified the end of times, and if I was honest, I didn’t want to see that day (partly because I had weird pictures in my head of what that meant). In fact, I remember being in a small group talking about death and if we were ready to die. The focus of the group was that this should be a happy thought because then we would be with Jesus. I didn’t get this. We would be with Jesus, but it the pictures I had in my mind were strange, and compared to the pretty decent life I was living, I didn’t want that. I was young, just married, and thinking about a long and joyful life. Death, even if it meant “being with Jesus” didn’t sound better than spending the rest of my life on an adventure with my wife. At the time, neither did the thought of Jesus coming now and immediately ending my life as I knew it (so that’s what I thought would happen). Fast forward 9 years. I’ve got two beautiful boys that are 3 and under and our first girl on the way. I’m on this adventure with my wife and kids and loving every minute of it. However, I’ve changed my views on praying for the Lord to come.
I sat today at the funeral of a 23 year old boy and watched his parents, siblings, and other family members as they tried their best to say goodbye. Such a short life, and such a tragic death. No parent should ever have to bury a child. No child should struggle so much as this young man did, who had a sweet spirit and a big heart. And so I think about all of the brokenness around, and I’m starting to understand how people can pray “Our Lord, come!” I’m starting to understand why Jesus prays for the kingdom of God to come. We are praying for God to come, redeem, restore, and make new what is old.
When I think about a disembodied experience of my soul floating on a cloud, living in an eternal worship service of nonstop singing, I don’t get very excited. But when I think about God being all in all, as Paul says it in 1 Corinthians or see the world John gets a glimpse of where God wipes away the tears from our eyes, my thoughts change. When I think about creation being freed from death and decay, as Paul tells us in Romans 8, I get excited. When I think about an era that is coming when people aren’t starving, when wars cease, when enemies sit at a table together to eat, when people are freed from the slavery of addiction, when parents no longer have to bury their children, I too can pray, “Our Lord, come!”
So until that day when the new creation comes and God is all in all, I pray that I can live a life that points to that future world. I pray that I can live a life that proclaims the nearness of the kingdom of God. Sometimes I will be blessed to do that in big bold ways. Tonight, I will point to that future world in the simple act of hugging my boys a little tighter than usual and letting them know how deeply they are loved. Who knows, maybe I’ll even lay on the floor and wrestle with them, even though I’m tired. And I will pray for them. And if you are a young parent like me, I pray for us all that we can cling to the good things in life and things that matter with our children, and not get caught up in the distractions. And I will join with our Lord, and other Christians throughout centuries praying for God’s kingdom to come. I can boldly and expectantly pray today, as I actively wait on the revealing of God’s future world, “Marana tha!” Our Lord, come!
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:18, 22-23, 37-39