Working with the kids in church today, our theme was ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, taken from Luke’s gospel. As part of this we watched a great drama skit (to be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afUpKRxwtVc) – which begged the question: how much do we mean it when we recite this prayer, and are we really prepared for the results? What if God asks that the things we are praying for start with us?
So moving on to ‘your kingdom come’ … what does that look like? Is it something that we are waiting for in Heaven or something that can start here and now on earth?
Jesus mentions the ‘kingdom of heaven’ many times, from the calling of the first disciples onwards. In Matthew 13 there are a number of parables which tell of the kingdom. The Hidden Treasure, the Pearl of great price – tell us that this kingdom is something precious, worth investing in: ‘be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things’ (Matthew 6 v 33.) The kingdom is worth keeping our eyes fixed upon, the ‘race’ that Paul speaks of in his letters, a sure hope in the midst of our earthly travails.
Throughout the gospels we are told the requirements for entering the kingdom of heaven – humility, or poverty of spirit; a child-like attitude; a willingness to accept God’s unmerited grace rather than rely on our own self-worth. Surely the epitome of this is the sinner on the cross: “Remember me, Jesus when you come as King!” (Luke 23 v 42) or in other versions, “when you come into your kingdom” (NIV.) He is speaking of a future hope, a state that is yet to come as indicated by Jesus’ reply: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (verse 43, also NIV.)
But the kingdom is more than a destination towards which we are heading – it can be right here, right now. “The right time has come,” Jesus says to his first disciples, “and the Kingdom of God is near! Turn away from your sins and believe the Good News!” (Mark 1 v 15.)
Would William Wilberforce, Lord Shaftesbury, William Booth, Elizabeth Fry, amongst others, have bothered to spend such time, make such efforts to improve the life and conditions of the poor and mistreated, if the Kingdom to come was all we needed to concern ourselves with? Surely we get a glimpse of the Kingdom come in Jesus’ life and ministry. When John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the Christ or not, the answer came: “Go back and tell John what you are hearing and seeing the blind can see, the lame can walk, those who suffer from dreaded skin-diseases are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are brought back to life, and the Good News is preached to the poor. How happy are those who have no doubts about me!” (Matthew 11 v 4-6.)
The Kingdom of God is one where there is healing of body, certainly, but also of mind and spirit: sinners are restored and transformed, God’s grace is opened up to all, and His justice and priorities are reflected in the lives of His believers.
So how are we a part of making God’s ‘kingdom come’? We are told in Matthew 13 that the kingdom is something potent and powerful – a mustard seed that grows from something tiny to become a sanctuary where birds can make their nests or a quantity of yeast that permeates through the whole batch of dough to make it rise. God’s kingdom will come – inevitably – Jesus will return and usher it in. But when we pray ‘your kingdom come’ we have to be prepared to be a part of this – to work towards God’s ultimate kingdom of justice and peace in our everyday lives.
So our actions, when directed by God’s will and imbued with His purpose, contribute to and usher in the coming of the kingdom. As Micah has it: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6 v 8 – NIV.)
Don’t think I can put it better than this song by Rend Collective Experiment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcSWpVKKMcs
(Picture credits: Pic 1 – http://mobc.org.au/motto-2012, Pic 2 – http://coastalhaven.org/category/coastal-contemplations-blog/. Bible verses unless otherwise stated come from the Good News Translation.)