Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thy Kingdom Come

The Virgin and Child under an Apple Tree painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder around 1520. Now in Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come.  What does this mean?  The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.

How does God’s kingdom come?  God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.

It is an extraordinary act of faith to pray “Thy Kingdom come.”  We are asking and begging God for something that we do not see with our eyes.  We pray for something that seems to lie well beyond us, an elusive dream – a distant land.      

God’s everlasting Kingdom – that eternal reign of heaven – seems like an idea that we just say with our lips and don’t really believe.  And we often wonder whether that kingdom is just that – an idea, nothing more – a nice idea to make us all feel nice for the time being.  Kind of like a fairy tale, just made up to make us sleep a little better during the night.
 
Let’s face it.  The month of March in the Midwest can be pretty miserable.  We have had months of winter.  Gray skies, bare trees, and bitter cold.  March in the Midwest is kind of our desert experience – our temptation in the wilderness.  We are tempted to despair - tempted to give up.  Seasonal depression reaches an all time high in March.  Our hearts and attitudes in this lingering winter often become as hard and cold as the frozen snow covered ground outside.
 
In the world of politics, our own country is gridlocked in a clash of cold and stubborn wills.  Few times in history have been more polarized.  There is little harmony here.  Fighting over foreign wars, healthcare, and a catalog of ethical subjects.      

Yet more than anything – more than the weather and more than political infighting – it is our sinful condition that seems to separate us from the kingdom of God, and its coming to us.  We do not live, pray, work, and sleep as if the Father were our Father.  We do not naturally hallow his name and entrust all to His heavenly care, in all things. 

We go about our lives nervously, anxious about many things.  The pettiness and infighting in politics is evident in our own lives, where we hold an endless list of grievances against others; against friends, family, and coworkers.    
          
We often plead to God that our Kingdom come, rather than His Kingdom.  Secretly we ask that our name be hallowed rather than His name.  When Jesus was coming to the river Jordan, John the Baptizer, yelled out “Repent, the Kingdom of heaven is drawing near!”  That Kingdom drawing near – that Kingdom coming was the King himself. 

Whenever you hear the words of Jesus spoken to you, there you hear the sounds of the Kingdom of heaven.  When you see your Christian brothers and sisters coming to kneel at the Lord’s Supper, there you see the Kingdom of heaven being made visible.  When you hear preaching and the forgiveness of sins you can be sure that the Kingdom has come to you.  When you sing praises to God in the midst of the congregation, here is your foretaste of that Kingdom that is coming. 

When His Kingdom comes there will be no cold days…There is no political infighting – everyone is of one will – and one accord. 

If you want to live in the Kingdom of God, and you want it to come to you, you do not have to look far.  Have humility and compassion.  Our Lord tells us to be merciful to one another and to speak the truth in love.  If we desire virtue and godliness the kingdom of heaven will blossom in our hearts.

God’s kingdom is not just talk.  It is not something of our imagination.  God’s kingdom consists of nothing other than piety, purity, gentleness and kindness.  In short, Thy Kingdom consists of nothing other than Jesus Christ himself.

As we journey through the kingdom of this world toward His heavenly Kingdom, through the valley of the shadow of death, we will not fear.  The Kingdom of Heaven has come.  And whats more it has come to us, whom hear the voice of Jesus and gather around His Word.  For wherever Jesus speaks there is His Kingdom and there He is making His church.  Nothing is left to chance. 
  
The cold ground will be warmed by the sun and our hearts will be warmed by the Gospel message.  The trees will bud and the sun will shine with a new brightness that will never fade. Politics will cease and peace will reign.      

The Kingdom is not an idea.  It is not a fairy tale.  It is your home, your place of birth and your resting place.  It is where you can fully be you – just who you are.  For the Kingdom coming has been prepared for you since the beginning.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen.                

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