9“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11Give us this day our daily bread. 12And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. 14For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
The Lord’s Prayer #2 Thy Kingdom Come
Rev. Julie Jensen
We are spending this season before Lent looking at one of the prayers central to our faith – the Lord’s Prayer. Last week we looked at the beginning of the prayer – Our Father – and today we pick up with verse 10 – Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. This prayer is one that we say when we gather – for worship, at weddings, funerals — sometimes we say it before meals, or when we don’t know exactly what to pray. In the Catholic tradition, the “Our Father” as it is known is said either 6, 16, or 21 times when the rosary is prayed. The repetition allows for those praying to enter a contemplative state, while focusing on their prayers. It is a prayer that is familiar to many who are not Christian, and one that we say here each week. Our children are taught it when they learn the Apostles Creed – it is a building block of faith education. Sometimes when we pray the Lord’s Prayer we pray from rote memory rather than paying attention to the words we speak to God. We say the words from today’s section in less than 5 seconds. What are we praying for in that short amount of time?
When we think of the word “Kingdom” we tend to think of human made boundaries. In the movie The Lion King, lion cub Simba wakes up early one morning, and coaxes his sleeping father Mufasa out to the edge of their den. From there they can overlook the African savanna. As the sun begins to rise, Mufasa tells Simba to look – that everything where the light touches that they can see is their kingdom. As the sun covers the land, there are places that are in shadow. When Simba asks about them, Mufasa says that that is beyond their boarders, and Simba must never go there. “But I thought a king can do whatever he wants?” says Simba. “There’s more to being a king than getting your way all the time.” Is the answer his father gives. “Kingdom” calls to mind a finite area of land ruled over by a monarch. It is a geographical and political term. In modern terms, we might think of the word “country”. And, like Simba, we want to claim it as “mine.” As we look at old maps and globes, we see the shift of power and kingdoms across time. I remember when the maps that hung on the wall of my classroom had a vast red area called “Russia”, and a line called the iron curtain. Today, we see that the “kingdom” of Russia is now divided in to many smaller kingdoms, or nations.
In the New Testament, we see a different idea of a kingdom. Throughout scripture, we hear repeated references to The Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is not a set geographic region defined by people, but rather refers to the authority of God. Jesus uses parables to teach what the kingdom of God is like. The kingdom of God denotes the coming of Israel’s God in person and power, and this, through forgiveness, deliverance and resurrection, is happening now. He will do again what He did in the exodus: come and dwell in the midst of His people. The Kingdom of God, or the kingdom of Heaven is the proclamation that the power and authority of God has come near. Jesus says that those who keep the law and commandments he presents are those who will be called great in the Kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:17-20). Those who do the will of God will enter the kingdom of heaven (matt 7:21-23). In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus uses parables to illustrate what the kingdom of God is like. Jesus compares the kingdom of God to growing seeds, to the tiny mustard seed that grows to be a massive bush, he illustrates what his kingdom looks like in the way he lived his life. We see that in Jesus’ kingdom all are welcome. Jesus ate with prostitutes, with sinners, with tax collectors, with those who denied him and betrayed him. When God reigns, all are welcome to come and participate.
When we pray “thy kingdom come” we praying for this kingdom to be present here and now. As my Greek professor used to say “pay attention to the little words – those can make all the difference.” Just as we thought about the word “our” last week, we think about the word “thy” – or “your” in reference to the kingdom. We are not praying for a kingdom for us. We are not praying for our country, for anyone’s country, actually. We are not praying for anything that is ours, but recognizing that it is God’s kingdom that we are calling to come. God’s kingdom has also been described as the household of God. One of the ancient Jewish words for Kingdom closely translates into the word for household. A household is the joining together of people for the good of all. Think about different types of households – households where singles live alone or with children. Households where parents raise children together. Places where adult children move back in with parents, or grandparents move in with children to help provide care, or to be cared for. A household can include siblings or friends who come to stay because they have no place else to go. A household is a place where all can come and find sanctuary, nourishment, and care. It is a place where we can find the healing peace in times of sorrow, and justice to right what is wrong. The kingdom of God, the household of God is one all are welcome to live. It is not mine, it is not yours, it is God’s. When we pray for the kingdom of God to come, we pray for that place where all shall be well.
The themes of Advent echo through this section of the Lord’s prayer. We spend the time before Christmas preparing for the arrival of Christ. Not only as an infant in the manger, but also as the king of kings and lord of Lords. Jesus knew the prophecies of Isaiah – the words we sing and pray and hear in December – words calling for the lion to lie down with the lamb, the messengers who proclaim “your God reigns”, words proclaiming the release of the captive Israel, a defeat of evil, healing for the nations and Israel being the light of the world. Prepare the way…
The next clause is one that can cause us to pause. How many of us have prayed for what we want and then prayed something like “unless you want something different” or “your will be changed.” When we pray that God’s will be done, we are submitting to God. We release control, release our own desires, and know that we will allow God to act in our own lives, often in ways we might not understand. When we say “thy will be done” we make known and accept that we want to be in a profoundly intimate relationship with God – you have to trust in order to give up control and authority. Prayer is never a solitary act. When we pray, there is always another participant – the one to whom we address our prayers – God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit. When we speak the needs and desires of our hearts, there is the presumption and the reality that one is listening. We never pray alone. Prayer is a conversation with God about how we want things to be. It is interactive – we speak, we listen, we speak. Not only do we pray for things to be the way we wish they would be, we also pray for courage to accept them as they are.
This is an easy prayer to pray when times are good, and things are going our way. When we know the outcome will be what we want either way. However when times are hard, it can become a litmus test of our faith. When we want things to change, and change now, how do we pray? We pray for God’s kingdom to come now, and yet there are people who slept on the streets last night in the below freezing temperatures. That’s not the kingdom of God here, and if we take what Jesus teaches throughout his career, that’s not God’s will. We never just get the good, and often get the unexpected, so how do we sincerely pray about this? The last word of the clause is the word done. Done carries a variety of meanings. Sometimes it means, “I’ve had it. I can’t take anymore.” Parents may say it about tending to their energetic children “I’m need a break – I’m done.” In this context it has a sense of giving up or quitting. But, done is the past tense of the verb “do”. As in an action for us to carry out, or for God to carry out. “God, do your will” may be one way of looking at the clause. Or, perhaps, may we DO God’s will. And what if we hear the word “will” as “love”? May God’s love be done. May we do the love of God. So then, how do we do the love of God, what would happen in the kingdom of God for others? Instead of fretting over the homeless sleeping outside, perhaps we offer our extra coat, or work to provide shelter for nights when it is frigid. When we pray, asking God to help us DO what God wants us to, rather than bemoaning the fact that the world is not exactly as we like it opens us up to truly living out the Lord’s prayer.
A grandfather was walking past his young granddaughter’s room one night when he saw her kneeling beside her bed, with head bowed and hands folded, repeating the alphabet.
“What are you doing?” he asked her.
She explained, “I’m saying my prayers, but I couldn’t think of just what I wanted to say. So I’m just saying all the letters of the alphabet, and God can put them together however he thinks best.”
Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done…
…on earth as it is in heaven. God’s kingdom is not relegated to one realm. We think about “Heaven” as the place that God inhabits, and Earth as the place that is ours. We think about them as distinct, but pray that one day they will be one. We pray for God’s kingdom to come to earth, for God’s space and our space to finally become one integrated space. However, in this prayer, we also pray that God’s kingdom will come to this earth. That while we wait for the day when heaven and earth come together, we can live here simply and kindly, showing God’s love. We know that living on earth is a messy task. The earth is subject to the laws of decay and impermanence that rule over us all. When we pray that God’s will be done on earth, we again take a risk and open ourselves up to be used as agents of God’s love and healing here and now. It has been said that heaven is born on earth in a thousand invisible kindnesses offered every day. This section of the Lord’s Prayer is a call for us to discover through love and kindness that we can find heaven on earth, and we can pray and work for the kingdom of God right here, right now. As scholar N. T. Wright said, when Jesus taught his followers to pray the Lord’s prayer and to say “your kingdom come, your will be done”, he wanted them to succeed in that prayer. What does success look like in this case?
You (noticed) will notice that the words of the Lord’s Prayer are different for today. They are from the Anglican Prayer book for New Zealand. Much as we often sing along to a favorite song without noticing the lyrics, sometimes we can pray the Lord’s Prayer without noticing the words. Today’s portion is prayed, “The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world! Your heavenly will be done by all created beings! Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.” How do those words strike you? They are a prayer for God’s justice, God’s will, and for the promises of God to sustain us until the return of Christ. How are you praying, and doing the Lord’s Prayer? Are you willing to really pray it and open yourself up to fully submit to the will of God, and to work for God’s kingdom?
We live in a state of “already-not yet”. The Kingdom of God is both already here, but at the same time is not yet fully here. As we look out into this world that God made, we see that there is truly much that needs to happen before we are all living together in the household of God. And so we pray. And so we act. Our lives are lives as answers to this prayer. In it, we tell God that we are committing ourselves to God and what God has in store for us. It may be the most wonderful thing ever, or the challenge of our lives. This prayer is how we sign up for the work that we are going to do for God’s kingdom. It is a prayer that is spoken, and then lived. May you go out and live it. Amen.