I was at a Christian rock concert a few years ago and between songs the lead singer said, “Ok everybody let’s bring in the kingdom as we sing tonight.” I looked at my friend with a puzzled look. We pray “thy kingdom come,” but is it dependent on us to pray for it to come, or even sing that it will come…tonight? So often we want God on our terms, in our time, in our lives, according to our schedule. We might start to think that faith and God’s kingdom are completely dependent on us and our ability to be faithful.
In the Gospels Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God and kingdom on many occasions. In a
world filled with faltering democracies and tyrannical dictatorships a word like “kingdom” seems somewhat formidable. Add to that a flat or flattening world (ala Tom Freidmann) through technology, globalization and a growing common culture and kingdom language just sounds arcane. Modern things like media empires seem to be crumbling under the own weight of their corruption. Kingdom language casts an image in my mind of a romantic forgotten age of castles and moats, knights and swords, conquering and the conquered. Yet Jesus calls us into his kingdom today and to see God’s kingdom all around us now. For decades if not centuries the church as a whole has taken that image of the kingdom not only seriously but literally – spreading church institutions, outposts, congregations and structures into a physical reality. While that may seem like a serious
option, and we might debate how well we continue in these efforts, Jesus is calling for something more radical than that.
While on trial, Pontius Pilate asked Jesus if he was a king. His response? “‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’
Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice’” (John 18:36-37). Jesus brings a kingdom into this
world unlike any other. It comes into this world not through power and might, but by suffering, sacrifice, and death on a cross. It comes not through our own efforts to work or pray for it, or by any romantic notion of a bygone age, but by Jesus himself, and the truth of his word that claims us.
“One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been
condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise’” (Luke 23:39-43). In the promise of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we catch a glimpse of that kingdom to come.
So what are we praying for when we pray for the kingdom? Luther’s take was that the kingdom of God will come whether we ask for it or not. In other words – God is God and
we are not God, and what God has planned will be – according to his words of judgment and promise. That does not leave us on the sideline however. We pray to be part of that plan, and the unfolding of it, just as God promises. Just as the thief on the cross asked to be part of the kingdom, we too pray, that God would use us, in this life and the next to serve that unfolding kingdom around us.
When forgiveness happens, when new life is declared, when we see in Christ in the way
we treat one another, and when new songs fill our voices in praise and joy of all that God has done, we catch another glimpse at the kingdom. The kingdom of God is not a political, economic, or ecclesiastical reality, but the unfolding promises of God in, with, and under our lives. Open to God’s unfolding word, we pray that we would take notice, and that God could use us in the restoration of his world. We may even hum a few bars while we do!
Peace, Pastor Geoff
Where do you see God’s kingdom unfolding around you?
“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
Martin Luther’s Small Catechism
Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.
What does this mean?
We are to fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching or God’s word, but instead keep that word holy and gladly hear and learn it.
Lord’s Prayer: 2nd Petition:
Thy kingdom come.
What does this mean?
In fact, God’s kingdom comes on its own without our prayer, but we ask in this prayer that it may also come to us.
When does this come about?
Whenever our heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit, so that through the Holy Spirit’s
grace we believe God’s holy word and live godly lives here in time and hereafter in eternity.