Summary: A look at the 2nd Petition of the Lord's Prayer. This is part of our Sunday Lenten Sermon Series: The Lord's Prayer & Passion. (Note: series title is from CPH, but we hardly use any of the the sermon material they offer) Readings from 3rd Sunday in Lent.
I want you to think back—back to your childhood. And there was a game that I am certain you’ve all played. And, even if you didn't play as a child, you probably played with your kids or grandkids. Hide and seek! You remember that game, right? When you’re the one who’s “IT,” you cover your eyes, maybe face the wall, even. You’d count to 10 or 20 or 100, while the rest of your friends go off to hide. And then, when you finish counting: “…98, 99, 100,” you put them all on notice that you're coming to get them! But there's this phrase you typically shout out; say it with me: “READY OR NOT, HERE I COME!”
We’ve been teaching our daughter to play Hide and Seek, and she gets the basic premise. But she's only 1, so, she's pretty terrible at it! She doesn’t quite say, “Ready or not, here I come.” But we count it a victory that she at least closes her eyes and tries to count: “One….one…one…” She never quite gets past one, but she'll get there. When she hides…well, she’s terrible at hiding, too. If she even finds a spot Lydia is still very much visible. And when she hears us say, “Ready or not, here I come,” it doesn’t take long before she pokes her head out from behind the curtain, or crawls out from behind the rocking chair. It’s like she has this excited desire to be found. She just cannot wait to be found.
But, you know, I don’t think it’s too far of a leap to suggest that there are a lot of people out there just waiting to be found. Maybe they don’t know it, maybe they don’t show it. But I’m telling you, there are a lot of people waiting to be found; looking for something greater than themselves. Every day, every interaction they have is like they’re poking their head out from behind a curtain of pain and tears, waiting to be found. Every word, every gesture is like they’re crawling out from behind the rock and a hard place life circumstances have placed them in—just waiting to be found. But, one thing we know is that—whether you’re in hiding, or whether you’ve been found, or whether you’re trying to remain hidden—ready or not, here God comes. His kingdom comes, ready or not. And that’s essentially what we mean when we pray, “Thy kingdom come.”
That’s how Martin Luther took it, anyway. In the meaning of the Second Petition in his Small Catechism, Luther says this: “The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer…” In other words, “Ready or not, God’s kingdom is coming.” It’s happening, with or without our prayer. “But we pray in this petition,” Luther goes on to say, “that [God’s kingdom] may come to us also.” We’re praying that God’s kingdom, His reign and rule, would become personal and real in our lives. And it does. God’s kingdom does come to us by grace, because God reigns.
The Lord reigns over all things, all creation. And so, when we talk about the kingdom of God, there are three ways we might consider His reign and rule. First is called the kingdom of power. This is His rule over Creation. He made it. He sustains it. He keeps it together, in spite of creation’s rebellion against Him—because that’s just what is happening. Creation, His kingdom, is in rebellion. Second is what is called the kingdom of grace. This is His reign in and through Christians, as the Holy Spirit ignites a faith within us to repent and believe in Jesus. And in sanctified lives, we live in that grace until Christ comes again, which brings us to our third kingdom. The kingdom of glory. The kingdom of glory is God’s reign in eternity, restoring all things to perfection. While our eternal life in Christ has already begun, we won’t fully experience the kingdom of glory until He returns; on the last day, in the resurrection, in His kingdom that has no end.
Now, whenever we look at these three—the kingdom of power, the kingdom of grace, and the kingdom of glory—we see that they are very much intertwined. And, most especially, in Christ Jesus and His earthly ministry, we see all three played out. God reigns in Christ Jesus. Jesus came to do kingdom work. In His first message in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel.” “The kingdom of God, the reign and rule of God is right here, right now, in Me,” He’s saying. “Ready or not, here I come.” From there on, Jesus goes on doing kingdom work.
Even His cleansing of the temple, as we saw in our Gospel reading, is a reflection of God’s kingdom coming, I would say. There, in the temple, were a few worldly “kingdoms,” political powers, at play all at once: the Herodians, the Romans, and the Jewish religious leaders. Now, while the text doesn't explicitly point to these three groups, we know they were around. We know they were often vying for power, playing political games. Sometimes their interests aligned with one another, sometimes not. And ever so often, it seemed, the temple served as the battleground between them. From the control of the Temple Treasury, to those who took a “cut off the top” from the Temple Tax, to the Romans offensively decorating the Temple with Roman shields and insignia—and more and more and more examples from history. These three “kingdoms” went round and round, each of them seeking control, seeking the upper hand in one way or another. And, again, it ever so often centered around the Temple.