SERMON: Thy Kingdom come
One of the highlights of visiting New York for me is a special place in Central Park West, the John Lennon Strawberry Fields memorial, with a beautiful mosaic with the word “Imagine”(seen on the front page of the bulletin). It is only a few hundred yards from the spot where the former Beatles member was shot dead on December 8, 1980. Every time I visited the memorial, someone was singing John Lennon’s well known song: “Imagine.” On one occasion, people spontaneously joined in singing:
Imagine all the people
Livin’ life in peace
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
At that moment, we were deeply connected in peace and harmony!
How would you imagine our world if you could dream any dream? Any dream will do!
One of the things that struck me most last year when the confirmands read their creeds was the resonance of their creeds with the Kingdom of God:
Rebekah Marvel said: I believe that everyone belongs, and I know that just saying this is not enough; my actions must make this a reality by consistently educating myself to get rid of my prejudice and bias, actively fighting against acts of discrimination, basing my treatment of others on the Bible, and being a support system for those who are being told they don’t belong… Social justice is a very prevalent topic in the Bible, and is what my faith is centered around.
Andrew Metzler wrote: Many have forgotten, where we have come from, or ignored the fact. They have come to hate each other, instead of uniting into one family with lots of love…In today’s society, we have many problems, for example, racial injustices. Some people do not understand that we are the same people.
Carlin Tysz: Jesus Christ… was a Prophet, a Priest, and a King. He teaches us about God, and God’s undying love. He loves all of us and helps the less fortunate. He is not afraid to help those whom other people may have ignored. He reached out his hand to everyone, even people hated, rejected, and scorned by society.
Caitlin Tucker: I believe in God the Father,
Who created the world and all those within it, in equity and in beauty
Who unites us, as brothers and sisters, community, and family
His masterful creation that we are so obli-gated to protect and serve
As to share the commonwealth and joys of the World.
“Thy Kingdom come” is one of the most important lines in the Lord’s Prayer. Father Daniel Harrington, a Jesuit scholar, notes that in this petition, we find the “central concern” of the entire Lord’s Prayer. In fact, the Kingdom of God is the central concern of Jesus’s entire ministry. His teaching, life, death, and resurrection focused on announcing God’s kingdom, inviting people to be a part of it, and encouraging people to not only pray, but to live in such a way that God’s kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven.
There is meaningful poetry when we use “Thy” and “Thine” in the Lord’s Prayer, as they rhyme with their antonyms, “my” and “mine.” Consider giving special emphasis to as you pray the words Thy or Thine. In saying these words, we make an intentional choice as we pray: Thy name, not my name, be hallowed. Thy kingdom come, not my kingdom come. Thy will, not mine, be done. And, when we come to the doxology of the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, Thine, not mine, is the kingdom; Thine, not mine, is the power; Thine, not mine, is the glory.
The word “mine” is among the first words, we seem to learn as children. I remember seeing children learning to play with other children when they were just toddlers. When one child would pick up a toy, suddenly the other wanted it, would grab it, and say, “Mine!” The first child would either start crying or grab it back and say, “Mine!” That seems to be how we’re wired, and though we become more discreet about it as we grow up, we continue to struggle with the “my and mine syndrome” our entire lives. The Lord’s Prayer is an antidote for this soul disease.
When we pray, we fix our hearts on what we pray(compass). As I pray these words, I am asking God to change my heart to think less of myself, what I want, the hallowing of my name, my little kingdom, and my power and glory. Instead, I yield all of these things to God.
This is the essence of what it means to call Jesus “Lord”. The word Lord signifies one in authority over another. It is what it means to recognize that “God is God, and I am not.” With these little words, we pray, “less of me and more of thee.” We yield to God’s will, and we seek God’s glory and honor before our own.
Can you begin to see the power of praying this prayer daily, or as the early church did, three times each day? How dramatically our lives change when we’re not focused on getting our way, building our kingdoms, and striving for our glory. Every part of our lives is better when we live “not my and mine but Thy and Thine.”
By praying the words of this prayer, we submit to God’s kingdom, rule, and reign and to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
The focus of Jesus’s preaching and teaching was what he called the kingdom of God, or in Matthew’s Gospel, the kingdom of heaven. Jesus mentions the Kingdom more than one hundred times. You cannot fully understand Jesus and what he taught, stood for, and incarnated without understanding the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus mostly uses metaphors when he talks about the Kingdom of God. A metaphor is a figure of speech that sees one thing as something else. A metaphor equates something unfamiliar with something familiar. Jesus’ metaphors tell us about the unfamiliar Kingdom of God through familiar scenes of everyday life. The Kingdom of God, Jesus says, is like a mustard seed, like yeast, like a seed springing up, like a man preparing a banquet, and many other parables or metaphors painting pictures of the Kingdom of God.
It is very important and interesting to see that the way that Jesus communicates the Kingdom is not just explained using rational arguments. Still, he evokes an experience of the Kingdom of God through stories and pictures. We need the eyes of imagination to become like a child. How open are we to noticing and experiencing the awe and wonder of the Kingdom of God? We need IMAGINATION!!! We need to Imagine a new world!
The Kingdom of God is what life on earth would be like as God envisions it and as God is making it. It is a life lived in God’s way. It is in Robert Funk’s words, and alternate depiction of reality. It is another reality already present in this world. To be aware of it, we must learn to see from two perspectives simultaneously. In addition to seeing the world we live in, the world of our senses, the world of business and politics – we must see the world as God envision it, the world where business and politics are done God’s way. Jesus’ ministry brings these two worlds together. The Kingdom of God that Jesus ashes in is not something static, but it is dynamic.
Matthew’s use of the Kingdom of heaven may lead us to think that Jesus is talking about the Kingdom in heaven rather than of heaven, but nothing is further from the truth. He’s talking about God’s rule already beginning on this earth. BUT, “Sadly, for centuries at a time too many places to count, the Christian Religion has downplayed, misconducted, or forgotten the kingdom of God coming to earth. The Christian religion has too often become preoccupied with abandoning or escaping the earth and going to heaven. Too often, its members have forgotten the teachings of Jesus about making peace and turning the other cheek, and crossing boundaries to serve people formerly considered “outsiders.” Instead, we launched or baptized wars, perpetuated racism, and defended the status quo. We have betrayed the message that the Kingdom of God is available for all, ….and have instead taught that the kingdom of God is available for the elite, beginning with the correct, and the clean, and the powerful. We have been preoccupied with guilt and money, power, and fear, control, and status – not service and love, justice, and mercy, humility, and hope. Frankly, our music has too often been shallow, discordant, or played with a wooden concern for technical correctness but without feeling and passion. Or it has been played with passion but has departed from the true notes, rhythm, and harmonies of the Master. And whenever that happens, our audiences do exactly as they should: they ignore us and our message, or they turn from us in boredom and disgust.” Brian McLaren
Christians often fixate on getting people to heaven, but Jesus seemed focused on creating heaven here on earth. “The Kingdom of Heaven has come near! As Matt Krick says: We as humans are always trying to go up and get to God and into heaven, but God is always about coming down to us, bringing heaven to earth… and the Church is called to join him in that work.”
When Jesus began his public ministry, his message was: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17 NRSV). God’s invisible new world was breaking into our visible world as Jesus preached and ministered. As it is in “Heaven”, Ouranos, is sometimes used in Scripture to describe God’s invisible realm. Jesus came not only announcing God’s heavenly kingdom was coming near; he literally embodied the Kingdom.
The Kingdom of God is where Jesus Christ is. But Jesus Christ always lingers in the darkest places in the world. The blind received their sight, the lame walked, leprosy was healed and the deaf could hear, the dead were raised up, and the poor had good news preached to them. And this message means that the Kingdom of God appears precisely at the place where there is blindness, lameness, leprosy, and death. The Kingdom of God is the light that shines in the dark places of the earth where people sit in darkness.
When Jesus was asked when the Kingdom of God was coming, he uttered those enigmatic words the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you. Meaning it’s right here just as I am standing here in the midst of you—Luke 17 verse 21.
And Jesus says here, right here in the midst of this misery the Kingdom of God has come, for I am here. God came all the way down through those heavy laden with guilt and grief. He squandered his whole heart upon them. We can never draw the Kingdom of God too deep into the misery of this world.
When we pray “Thy” not “my,” and we yield ourselves to God, seeking to live as citizens of the Kingdom, God’s kingdom does, in fact, come on earth as it is in heaven. We become citizens of two kingdoms. Who decides to follow Jesus, begins to live in the kingdom of heaven, even as each one simultaneously lives in this present earthly realm.
When we “repent” as Jesus called his hearers to do, we have a change of mind (meta-mouia) that leads to a change of heart and, ultimately, a change of behavior. While the Kingdom comes in ways that cannot be easily observed, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ Luke 17:20-21, but once we become a part of the kingdom of God, gelding our lives to him, the Kingdom becomes visible through our lives.
Each time we pray the Lord’s Prayer with meaning, we yield our lives to God’s will, and in some small way, the Kingdom is coming on earth as it is in heaven. In praying this prayer, we not only fix our hearts and minds on God’s kingdom coming, but we also invite God to use us as instruments to fulfill our prayer. We’re also praying, ”Here I am, Lord, use me.”
The Lord’s Prayer calls us to examine the world around us and ask, Where does the world as it is, not align with it as it should be? And we recognize that the kingdom of God will always be “already and not yet,”. Among us and still to come. Something we participate in ushering in and something that can’t fully be realized until Christ ushers it in on the last day. So when we pray, “Thy kingdom come”, we yield to how we might be a part of bringing that kingdom near.
What would our world look like if God’s will was done on earth as it is in heaven? Every public policy decision, every social issue, and every place where humans suffer is somehow meant to be affected by our praying and living the Lord’s Prayer.
As we read our news feeds and watch the news, so many of the stories we see should drive us to our knees to pray this prayer, Thy kingdom come! And then, in praying this prayer, we are driven back to our feet and out into the streets as agents of God’s work to answer this prayer.
Racism and racial injustice: Thy Kingdom come!
Global warming and environmental concerns: Thy kingdom come!
Poverty, food, and food insecurity: Thy kingdom come!
Gender issues: Thy kingdom come!
Materialism: Thy kingdom come!
So, the Lord’s Prayer is more than a prayer; it is a vision to strive toward, a call to action we seek to live, and a road map for a life of character and faith. Each of us has our part to play in the coming of God’s kingdom. And together, we can have a significant impact on ”closing the gap” in our communities.
The Kingdom of God is heaven in the everyday world of the present time. Jesus says it is like yeast. It is concealed from the human eye but still has a huge gradual influence. God’s Kingdom is hidden in the small and the insignificant; the greatest things are hidden in the smallest things. Magnificent things are hidden in insignificant things.
Moeder Teresa: We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis,
it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
– Mother Theresa
5″When you send your voice to the Great send your Spirit, do not be like the ones who love to stand up and pray with a loud voice in the gathering houses and along the village pathways, hoping to be seen and heard by others. The truth is, they have their honor already. They will get no more. “Instead, find a quiet hiding place where no one can see or hear you and send your prayers to your Father in secret. He will see what you have done and honor you.
7-8″When you pray, do not be like the people from the Outside Nations, who use empty words over and over again, thinking their many words will help them be heard. Your Father, the Creator, already knows what you need even before you ask.
9 “Instead, when you send your voice to the Great Spirit, here is how you should pray:
“O Great Spirit, our Father from above, we honor your name as sacred and holy.
10″Bring your good road to us, where the beauty of your ways in the spirit world above is reflected in the earth below.
11″Provide for us day by day-the elk, the buffalo, and the salmon. The corn, the squash, and the wild rice. All the things we need for each day.
12″ Release us from the things we have done wrong, in the same way we release others for the things done wrong to us.
13″Guide us away from the things that tempt us to stray from your good road, and set us free from the evil one and his worthless ways. Aho! May it be so!