Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lord's Prayer: Thy Kingdom – Luke 17:20-21 and Matthew 6:10

Today we are going to continue our preaching series on the Lord's Prayer as we take time to truly explore and understand what it is we are saying when we pray this prayer. Last week we took the first section, Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, and explored not only the meaning of the words but the importance of the introduction. Today we going to take a look at the next section, “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven” to explore the nature of God's kingdom, where it is, as well as what it means to succumb to God's will on earth as it is in Heaven.

Take Me To Your Leader!
Growing up I used to love to watch those corny ol' space movies, you know the ones where the aliens would land and their first words were always, "Take me to your leader." I ran across one of those online this week and it got me thinking, if we were asked that question today, who would we take them to? The President? The Pope? Bill Gates? Mickey Mouse? Looking at the continued strong attendance at Disney World, somebody might be able to make that claim. But would anyone lead them to the Church, to the Cross, to Scripture and Jesus Christ?

Where is the Kingdom of God?
Each week as we gather for worship we join our voices together to recite the words of a prayer that Jesus taught his disciples. A prayer that includes the words: “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). For me, that raises a question: what are we asking God to do as we seek the ushering in of the divine kingdom upon the earth? And that is an important question to ask because a search of the four Gospels shows that Jesus referenced the kingdom of God (or kingdom of heaven) over one hundred times. Jesus himself spoke about how he was sent for the preaching of the good news of the kingdom of God (Lk. 4:43) and he sent the disciples out to preach it also (Lk. 9:2). Clearly this was an important emphasis of Jesus’ preaching and teaching and something that believers need to be concerned about as well.

So what do we know about the Kingdom of God? One characteristic of the Kingdom of God that Jesus repeatedly highlights is its closeness. He repeatedly comments that the kingdom of God is near (Lk. 9:27, 10:9-11; Mk. 9:1) and that because of the kingdom’s proximity people need to repent and believe the good news of the Gospel (Mk. 1:15; Jn. 3:3). Jesus also emphasizes the mysterious nature of the kingdom of God by comparing it to the growth of seeds from tiny stalks into enormous trees (Mk. 4:26-29, 30-34) or to yeast and the manner in which yeast can double the size of a loaf of bread made from scratch (Lk. 13:20-21). Jesus also speaks to whom the Kingdom of God belongs. Rather than conforming to the world’s kingdoms with their emphasis upon those who are greatest, Jesus points out how the kingdom of God belongs to the poor (Lk. 6:20) and to little children (Mk. 10:14-15). But perhaps the greatest expression of the Kingdom of God is found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). Here Jesus demonstrates the essential differences between the nature of God’s rule and kingdom and the political kingdoms of this world. Tyron Inbody probably said it best when he wrote, “His sayings and teachings….were illustrations of what human relationships are like when the reign of God is established.”

So where is this Kingdom? Dr. Inbody just revealed the location. Did you catch it? God's Kingdom is not in a local principality. God's Kingdom is not only found within the realm of Heaven. God's Kingdom is found within each of us as the sayings and teachings of Christ are fulfilled in our relationships amongst ourselves. When that happens, then the reign of God is revealed. Our first Scripture lesson this morning from the Gospel of Luke reinforces this, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you” (Lk. 17:20-21). And so God’s kingdom is a present reality, existing in part within the hearts and minds of believers. But it is also something else.

Thy Will...What is it?
The second part of the prayer that we are looking at today is, “thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” So how does that say anything about the Kingdom of God? This is part and parcel for how we find the Kingdom of God. Matthew 6:10 tells us, encourages us, to pray for the continued coming of the kingdom of God, “on earth as in heaven” (Matt. 6:10), suggesting that the kingdom of God has not been fully realized and is a future hope. Remember we said before that the Kingdom of God is a present reality, but it is also a future hope. It is not going to come and be static or unchanging. It is dynamic, it is fluid, and I believe that the kingdom of God will be realized in its fullness when “the reign of God’s peace, justice, and well-being” rules the world completely. Paul speaks of such a day in writing to the church at Philippi: when “at the name of Jesus every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11). Believers, as the body of Christ in the world, are called to participate in the kingdom of God now and through our preaching and witness, so that we can help usher the kingdom into its coming fullness.

When every person on the face of this Earth proclaims their allegiance to God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit, when every decision that is made is done so with a heart searching for God, and when all of our priorities are in line with God being the focus, then the Kingdom of God will come and be realized in its fullness.

So What's Our Part?
So what is our part you might ask. Our part is to work on ushering in that mindset to all humanity. Our part is to be witnesses and examples of how placing God at the center of our being and the focus of our lives changes us. Our part is to be uncomfortable in our pursuit of taking God to those that have never known, forgotten, or left the presence of God. We are the messengers, we are the teachers, we are shepherds, we are the ones that are to take them to our leader.

The Kingdom of God is not in a place, it is not only found in Heaven, but it is in each of us as we allow God to make us all that God created us to be. And it will not be fully realized till every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord!

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