By Pastor Cherie Dearth
We are in our sermon series, The Kingdom, a phrase that Jesus refers to over 80 times in the Gospels, so it is a good idea for us to understand what it means. Last week, we looked at the when of the Kingdom. It is already here, it is within our grasp, but it is not fully realized yet.
Today, we look at the question of what. What is the Kingdom? And this week our theme scripture comes from a passage that is very familiar. We say it every week. It comes from Matthew 6: 10. “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.”
Just because we say it, does not mean that we know what it means. In one aspect that could be okay. We may not be sure, but we trust God, so it has to be good, right?
Have you ever listened to a song thinking you knew it, to find that when you read the lyrics that you had it mixed up. It is easy to do. Here are a couple that are very famous (or notorious):
- The Rolling Stones: “I’ll never be your beast of burden” – becomes “I’ll never leave your pizza burning.”
- Elton John: “Hold me closer tiny dancer” – becomes “Hold me closer Tony Danza.”
In a similar way some children were overheard as they were in the process of learning to the Lord’s Prayer. A mom was listening to her child say his prayers. He started, “Dear Harold.” At this, his mom interrupted and said, “Wait a minute. How come you called God ‘Harold’?” The little boy looked up and said, “That’s what they call God in church. You know the prayer we say, ‘Our Father, Who art in Heaven, Harold be thy name.'”
Or take the little girl, who was around three years old, who every night would say the Lord’s Prayer with her dad. One night she decided she wanted to recite it all by herself. She went through almost the whole prayer perfectly except for when she said, “Give us this day our daily bread. And deliver us some email…”
But none of these could compare to the one little boy who was heard praying this in church one Sunday:
Our Father, makes art in heaven.
How do you know my name?
The kingdom comes, the Wallaby runs a nurse that is with Kevin.
Give us this day our dilly bread, and forgive us our trash passes, as we forgive those who passed trash against us.
And lead us not into Penn Station.
But deliver us from eagles.
For mine is the kingdom, the flower, and the jewelry. Amen. (Craig Pesti-Strobel)
In Jesus’ time the Jewish people were fervently praying for God’s kingdom. That is why people were flocking to John the Baptist when he was proclaiming that the Kingdom of Heaven had come near. (Matthew 3:1-6)
But why… Where did their ideas for this come from? When the Jewish people in Jesus’ day were looking forward to the kingdom of God, what did they think it meant? Why did they think it would be good? Where did their ideas come from?
A lot of it came from the book of Daniel chapter 7. Daniel lived in the time of the Babylonian exile. He was Jewish, but he was a high official in the Babylonian government. He was known, not only as a person of great wisdom, but as an interpreter of dreams, and one who had visions from God. The one recounted in chapter 7 was quite disturbing to Daniel. He dreamt of four kingdoms, four countries, that were depicted as wild beasts, dangerous and ferocious: a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a fourth one that was terrible beyond description with iron teeth that trampled everything in its path.
People in Jesus’ day were sure that this fourth beast referred to the Roman Empire, a nation that would crush anything its path, in the most brutal way that they could dream up. But … but… God would reverse all that. God’s representative is not a bear, a lion, or leopard, but a man. God would send the Son of Man. The beasts would all be defeated, and he would set up an everlasting kingdom so different than these beastly kingdoms, one where God’s righteousness would reign.
When we pray for God’s kingdom to come, we are praying for the time to be over for the beasts that are in charge. What we don’t always realize is that often we too are the beasts. That is why in just a few lines of the Lord’s Prayer, we are asking for forgiveness.
We talked about Kingdom, but some like to modify the word little bit to Kin-dom. This is where we are all kin, family, brothers and sisters, where we all love everybody.
“For there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. We are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
It is a vision of what existence will be like when God establishes God’s ultimate reign, and it is on Earth as it is in heaven.
The Lord’s Prayer is in the middle of The Sermon on the Mount, and just a few lines before Jesus talks about those who are exalted, lift it up. The people who will be exalted when God’s reign is finalized. They are the meek, those who mourn, the poor in spirit, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted because of righteousness. (Matthew 5:3-10)
You may be more familiar with them by another name called the Beatitudes. That term always confused me because they aren’t told to be these things, and there is no reference to “beauty.” Actually, the word “beatitude” comes from the Latin noun for happiness. In other words, happy are the meek. Happy are those who mourn. Happy are the poor in spirit. Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers. When it is on Earth as it is in heaven, this is what society will look like. Where the Son of Man, the Human One, the one that is the most human, the way God intended in the creation.
He came not to be served but to serve. The one who came to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45) He bought us out of slavery to sin and death, buying us out of slavery to the system’s where the beasts are in charge. The systems where the rule is not “blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.” Instead you have the law of the Jungle. “Do unto others, before they have a chance to do it to you. Do unto others worse than what you are afraid they will do to you.” That is the law of the jungle the law of the beasts. Instead Jesus gives us the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Luke 6:31) What that means could be a whole sermon by itself.
When we live as Kingdom people, we live that way now. This is what it looks like when God’s sovereign and absolute rule is established people are set free to live in harmony.
Many people are put off by the idea of the absolute sovereignty of God, but we have to remember that Jesus is our example of what the sovereignty of God looks like, the one who came not to be served but to serve. (Mark 10:45) The one who on the night of the he allows himself to be taken by the Jewish authorities… Let me repeat that… Allows himself to be taken, that night he takes the lowest job and washes the disciples feet. He came not to be served but to serve. This is what the kingdom of God is. The situation where relinquishing our independence, our striving, our beastliness to the absolute authority of God results in our living in a Kin-dom, a land where we are all kin, all brothers and sisters, where we all serve one another through the example we have in Jesus Christ.
Lord, may we be so bold to pray, your kingdom come your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven!
And the church said, “Amen!“