Your Kingdom Come
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Last week, the public Religion Research Institute published a report on their research late in 2022. They interviewed 6,000+ American voters and asked them five questions. Let me ask you these questions and you think about your responses.
The U.S. should be declared a Christian nation.”
“Our laws should be based on Christian values.”
“If the U.S. moves away from our Christian foundations, we will not have a country anymore.”
“Being Christian is an important part of being truly American.”
“God has called Christians to exercise dominion over all areas of American society.”
The question is, of course, how do we take our Christian values and the teaching of Jesus and impact our families, our communities, our country, even the world.
This is also the issue we pray about when we obey Jesus and pray the words, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Let’s pause to pray with Jesus.
These words form in us the desire to do the will of God. This is a good thing. We must be alert to the pressure to do the will of other people: a political party, our national or local leaders, our church leaders, or even our family, our parents or children. Sometimes we are being pushed and pulled in many directions.
God puts the Spirit in you and in me to create the desire to do the will of God. Another powerful prayer Jesus prayed was this, “Not my will but your will be done.”
We want to do the will of God. One crucial purpose in our gathering each week is to support one another in this desire. Together we seek to discern God’s will. Together we seek to affirm each other as we obey God. Together, we pledge to do God’s will.
I recall the last sermon preached by the Martin Luther King Jr, in Memphis. It was the night before he was shot and killed. He talked about having a long life. He said, “I’ve been to the mountaintop.” He said, “I would like to live a long life. But I just want to do God’s will.”
He was in Memphis supporting the sanitation workers in their strike for better working conditions and better pay.
It is not easy always to know the will of God. Even when we want to do God’s will, it is not easy to know. Yes, the Bible gives us good guidance. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not lie. Be generous. Be joyful. Be prayerful. There are six thing we know to do. But even these get complicated. Is capital punishment—the electric chair—the will of God? Shall we give to this church or that charity or the poor family next door?
Often, we do not know. We must guard our motive and make a decision. God honors our intent to do right. God honors our motivation to obey God. This prayer forms in us the intent to do the will on God on earth as it is in heaven. The kingdom of God is the rule of God is the will of God. Our desire to seek the kingdom, however misguided, however selfish, however compromised, is still the aim. Our intent to please and obey God is at the core of our Christian life.
C. S. Lewis published an essay on church music many years ago, long before the worship wars of our day and time. I read it as a college student in his collection God in the Dock. In it he contended that all of us need to put aside our own tastes and preferences and embrace the music of the one who sits next to us in the pew or the one who sits across the room. Then he writes, “For all of our gifts, whether of music or martyrdom, are like the intrinsically worthless gifts of a child which the father values, but values only for the intent.”
Your kingdom comes, Jesus teaches us to pray. He learned this from his cousin John the Baptizer, perhaps. John, you recall, was that voice crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” And speaking of music, what is running through my head as I preach is the music of Godspell, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”
He spoke about the coming rule of God, the coming judgment of God, the coming messiah of God. Luke tells the story in chapter two. “Crowds came to him for baptism. He said, ‘You snakes! Who warned you to flee God’s wrath?’”
“What shall we do?” They responded.
“Give clothes to the needy. Give food to the hungry.” It was the beginning of the list that Jesus later used in a parable about the great judgment day.: “Feed the poor. Heal the sick. Clothe the naked. Visit the prisoner. Welcome the stranger.”
The tax collector asked, “What shall I do?” Be honest, John the Baptizer said. “Don’t over charge.” Then the soldier asked, “what about me?” And John answered, “Be fair. Don’t use your position to take advantage of others. Be content.”
Luke concludes his description of John the prophet, the preacher, the Baptizer, the forerunner with this sentence, “John used many such warnings as he announced the Good News to the people.” I smile when I read that to my self and to you. John used many warnings to announce the good news!
The good news is this: the rule of God is coming. Get ready. Seek the will of God now. Pray this prayer. Make it the intent of your heart, your will, your life to please and honor God.
There are two sides to this kingdom prayer. There is the kingdom that is coming, when time shall be no more, when death and destruction, fires and earthquakes, disease and pain shall be no more. The prophets of God see into the future and announce this.
But there is also a kingdom that is here and now, in us, and among us, and through us. As we live out this prayer, we are ushering in the kingdom of God.
Every time we surrender ourselves to God, we are living as kingdom people. Every time we trust God for our food, we are being kingdom people. Every time we give so others can eat, we are bringing in the kingdom. Every time we confess our sins, we are being kingdom people. Every time we forgive others, we are living the kingdom way. Every time we resist temptation, we are making the rule of God a true and living thing. Every time we life our hand, our ballot, our voice to resist evil we are joining hands with God to welcome the kingdom.
There are yet two more sides to this kingdom. There is the personal side, and there is the public side. When we give money at the corner or in the communion plate to feed somebody, we call it an act of charity. This is good and right. But there is a public side we call justice. When we pay people a living wage and prevent sellers from gouging buyers, we are doing the justice work of the kingdom. When we pass laws to help refugees and provide green cards so strangers can work, we are doing the justice work of the kingdom. When we provide lawyers for the poor and work training programs for the imprisoned, we are doing the justice work of the kingdom.
In the kingdom of God, charity and justice walk hand in hand. In the kingdom of God, personal charity and public justice work together to honor God and care for people. In the kingdom of God, personal charity and public justice together stave off the judgment of God and make possible the good news.
This is the gospel, the good news, of God: God’s will can be done on earth as it is in heaven if we commit ourselves to everyday acts of kindness and also to the persistent pursuit of public justice.
The earthquake on the other side of the world has stunned all of us and killed many of them. 25,000 people are dead with hundreds of thousands left homeless. Charity calls for generosity with our money: our personal gifts and also the gifts of money, supplies, and manpower from our government. Justice calls for housing codes, and public hospitals, and sturdy infrastructure less susceptible to destructive forces. Earthquakes, hurricanes, and famines we will always have until the new heaven and the new earth. But the kingdom we can have, in part, if we commit ourselves to both personal and congregational charity and also to public justice here and around the world.
Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Are you ready to make a fresh and deep commitment to the rule of God today, in your life? Can you pray today with Jesus, “Not my will, but yours be done, O Lord”?