Well here we are! It’s week 3 in our sermon series about the Lord’s Prayer. We’ve heard from Pastor Randy the last two weeks about “Our Father, who art in Heaven” and “Hallowed be thy name.” Today we are talking about “Thy kingdom come.”
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, this line comes and goes really quickly. It’s only three words-- don’t blink because you’ll miss it as you go to the next part of the prayer, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It’s easy to miss. But those three words—“thy kingdom come” are REALLY important to the Lord’s Prayer.
So first of all, what is God’s kingdom? We don’t have kings or queens in America, so it’s kind of strange for us to think of a kingdom. Basically, it means God’s rule and reign (reigning over, not rain!). I came across a really great definition of God’s kingdom by the late Dr. Anthony Hoekema-- he said that God’s kingdom is “the reign of God dynamically active in human history through Jesus Christ, the purpose of which is the redemption of his people from sin and from demonic powers, and the final establishment of the new heavens and the new earth.”
I’m going to say that again, because there is a lot going on there. God’s kingdom is “the reign of God dynamically active in human history through Jesus Christ, the purpose of which is the redemption of his people from sin and from demonic powers, and the final establishment of the new heavens and the new earth.”
Although this definition is a bit high-falutant and smacks of academia, I love this definition. It shows us how God’s kingdom is present in the past, present AND future. Here is a bit of a simpler translation that I came up with: God has done and is doing doing amazing things through Jesus Christ, to save us and redeem us, and will ultimately establish a final kingdom here on earth when Jesus comes again.
A big way people talk about God’s kingdom is this phrase—“already but not yet.” The first part—the already-- means that God’s kingdom came here to us through Jesus when he walked the earth and taught and healed and cast out demons, and when he died on the cross for us, and rose again-- and continues to be present with us. So God’s kingdom is already here.
But I don’t have to tell you that our world is not perfect. There is evil, and sin, and illness, and death. So God’s kingdom isn’t FULLY here, not yet. That won’t happen until Jesus comes again, and the new heaven and the new earth come to us.
So God’s kingdom is here already, but not yet.
So how is God’s kingdom already here? In our first reading for today in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is asked by the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the time, when the kingdom of God was coming. And Jesus says to them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed… For in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”
So we hear about a future of the kingdom—we hear that the kingdom of God WILL BE coming, but we won’t know when or observe when—but we also hear from Jesus that the kingdom of God is here, now, in the midst of us, among us, within us.
We can see glimpses of God’s kingdom in our lives and in our world today. That’s how God’s kingdom is here already.
When a person comforts another person who is dealing with grief, that’s God’s kingdom breaking into our lives.
When countries around the world welcome men, women, and children, who are displaced because of war and have nowhere else to go, that’s God’s kingdom.
When someone hears about Jesus’ love for them for the first time, that’s God’s kingdom.
When someone realizes that they are of ultimate worth no matter what the world tells them, that’s God’s kingdom.
When people who are different than us are welcomed with open arms, that’s God’s kingdom.
When someone prays with a friend who needs to feel God’s presence, that’s God’s kingdom.
When someone who is beyond hope is told that they are loved by the One who created them, that’s God’s kingdom.
When people in developing countries, who have almost no material possessions, still praise God loud and clear and know that God loves them and cares for them, that’s God’s kingdom.
When you have a moment—in could be in church, when you’re alone at home, with family and friends, in the supermarket, wherever—and you know without a doubt in that moment that God is so very close to you—that’s God’s kingdom.
I could go on, but we will be here past [lunch and] dinner and maybe even dessert!
Although we live in a broken world, God’s kingdom is breaking into our world all the time in small, big, and medium-sized ways. That’s how God’s kingdom is already here.
A friend of mine had God’s kingdom break into his life in an amazing way. He suffered from what they call a frozen shoulder. He had very limited mobility in his right shoulder, and any sudden movement meant excruciating pain. His whole life was impacted, because he had to plan ahead and think through anything his right arm might do and plan accordingly—or deal with the pain. He had to figure out different ways to do everyday tasks that you and I don’t think twice about.
He eventually went through 3 months of physical therapy. He regained a bit more mobility, but not much. When they discharged him from therapy, he still wasn’t able to lift his arm more than 20% above shoulder level. He tried to get used to it as the new normal.
Until one day, during the Alpha Course (that’s the class on the Christian faith that we also run here at Zion in the spring), they were doing a class on healing and how God can heal. There is a time at the end of the class when people can get prayed for, for specific things.
So he asked for prayer during this time, and all he said was that he wanted prayer for aches and pains. The group laid hands on him—some people instinctively put their hands on his right shoulder, even though he hadn’t told them—and they prayed for him.
And nothing happened.
…Until the next morning. When he woke up, he had full mobility of his right shoulder, and absolutely no pain. And 10 years later, his shoulder is still completely healed. He continuously praises God for healing him. That was God’s kingdom breaking into his life, hands down.
So when we pray for God’s kingdom to come, that’s actually a pretty dangerous thing to pray. Because God’s kingdom is powerful. God has the power to heal, to do amazing and miraculous things. And sometimes we don’t feel ready to experience God’s power—and we can actually be afraid of what God can do. Praying for God’s kingdom to come means that we are praying for God to break into our world and DO SOMETHING AMAZING.
Now we know that sometimes God heals, and sometimes healing doesn’t come. And that’s the “not yet” part of God’s kingdom. God does some amazing things right now, big and small, so God’s kingdom is here already—but not everything is complete and perfect, so God’s kingdom is still not here yet. We live in this tension, this in-between, of experiencing God’s kingdom in glimpses and moments right now, but still waiting for God’s kingdom to come fully in the future.
So what is God’s kingdom going to be like in the future? I’m so glad you asked!
We heard just a few minutes ago in the Book of Revelation about God’s kingdom coming to us when Jesus comes again. I’m going to read a part of it again—listen for how God’s future kingdom is described: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
So when Jesus comes again, God will fully establish God’s kingdom here on earth. Everything will be as it should be. God will be with us in an even more immediate way, always and obviously with us, and there will be no more crying, no more death, no more pain, no more suffering. We will be living in this perfect, complete world, for all eternity.
That is what we have to look forward to as believers in Jesus Christ—when Jesus comes again, all of the crud that life throws at us won’t exist anymore. God’s kingdom will be here.
Do you see why praying “thy kingdom come” is so dangerous? When we pray that, we are not only asking God’s kingdom to break into our world right now—we are also praying that Jesus returns to us a second time and establishes God’s kingdom once and for all.
That means that our world as it exists right now will cease to exist. And although we know that what’s coming will be beyond our wildest dreams, that God’s perfect kingdom will be, well, perfect-- we fear the unknown of what it will be like to have the only world we’ve ever known disappear. We don’t know how this all will happen, or when.
But we do know WHY. We know that God loves us beyond anything we can imagine, so much so that God’s own son Jesus Christ died for us so that we could enjoy being in God’s kingdom forever. We know that God’s kingdom breaks into our world now, in glimpses—but those are just a taste of what awaits us at the Great Banquet, when God’s kingdom comes for good. We know that God’s kingdom is already here among us—but at some point we will spend all eternity basking in God’s light and love when the kingdom comes completely.
So knowing all these things—and experiencing God’s love through Jesus Christ both now and in the future we pray, “THY KINGDOM COME.” Amen?