Summary: The Kingdom of God--it’s presence and it’s coming theme
onsider the power of words. Two little words can change your life and many of us have discovered this truth when we said, “I do.” Hopefully we haven’t heard the power of the word pronounced in a court, “guilty as charged”. There are those who have even experienced the power of an oath such as: I, [insert name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
But I want to suggest that one of the most powerful utterances we’ll ever make take place in this prayer that Jesus gave us as a model. Especially in the phrase before us today, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Yet, as powerful as it is it doesn’t seem to have the same affect on us as the others I mentioned. Why is that? Part of the answer lies in not understanding what it is we’re saying. Any of you ever click “I agree” on a software installation without reading the “end user agreement”? Sometimes I think we approach prayer the same way.
Years ago John Fischer was serving as a musician and youth leader at a church in the Bay Area. He, Dr. Ray Stedman and Ron Ritchie were having dinner to celebrate Stedman’s birthday. Ron looked at Ray just after their main course arrived and asked, “Are you ready to go?” John said he was surprised because they had just started eating. Ray then answered. “Yes!” He told the two his children were raised, the church was doing well and that he had a sense of completeness about his life. Fischer suddenly they realized that they weren’t talking about leaving the dinner table. Ron said he wasn’t ready yet. There were things he still wanted to do. When the two of them looked at John who blurted out, “I’m not even willing to entertain the question.”
When I was in seminary Dr. Lewis Smedes would ask, “who wants to go to heaven.” We knew he wasn’t getting a group to go right then but we were hesitant to raise our hands because we knew that the way we would get there was to die. What surprised us was when he asked, “Which of us would like to live in a world where there was no more bigotry? Would we like to be in a place where no child is left behind, where everyone is fed, where drive-by shootings don’t happen and where the world is wholesome, safe and everyone feels good?” Most of us wanted that badly and then Dr. Smedes told us, then you want to go to heaven!
The problem with this dichotomy, this separation between what we want and what we don’t want is seen in a quote by Evelyn Bence who quotes an English visitor as saying, ‘"You Americans are so concerned about being happy," then she goes on to comment that it is, “as if our kingdoms were the focal point of God’s designs rather than God’s kingdom the focal point of ours.” In Jim Carry’s recent hit “Bruce Almighty” you have a reporter who never gets the breaks and blames God for it all. In the clip I’m going to show you his life hits a breaking point. See if you recognize anyone you know in his actions…maybe even us.
I can’t help but thinking of Job when I see this, BTW if you haven’t seen the movie it’s God who is paging him. Consider what it is we’re praying for when we use The Lord’s Prayer. It is seeking His Kingdom and His will and what’s more God’s Kingdom=God’s will. That’s how Jews thought and wrote. It’s called parallelism, you say something and then you say it again in a different way so that people get what you’re trying to tell them.
What is this Kingdom? There are two definitions and both are true. God’s kingdom involves God’s reign. That is his power and right to be the Lord and boss of all of creation. It’s not only his Kingship or reign but also the realm, the place in which God exercises this Lordship. We know from the Bible that eventually that will include a perfect kingdom for all of creation, for a new creation is on the way. But for now it’s exercised within the world mainly through His Body—the Church and the individual lives that have been yielded to God’s control.
A major difference between how the world understands a King and the way that God exercises His Kingdom is that God is closer to us than earthly Kings. Remember the musical Camelot? Genevieve asks in song “What do the simple folk do?” and the answer the king gives is that they whistle, sing and dance and finally they think about what the “royal folk” do. God doesn’t wonder what our life is like. He’s much more like Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper than Camelot.