Alrighty. I'm speaking at our men's retreat this weekend, so that means I've got a massive document to put on the blog for a public roasting! Our theme is the Lord's prayer, and I wanted: "Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven." Here's a rough outline of what to expect:
-The Kingdom is born out of love
-The Kingdom is essential
-The Kingdom is counter-intuitive
-The Kingdom is at once past, present, and future
-The Kingdom is total
-The Church must embody the Kingdom, and Christianity can actually oppose the work on the Kingdom
I start with an overview. So here is said overview and the first section:
My time this morning is going to be focused on answering the question brought on by praying the Lord’s prayer, “What is the Kingdom of God?” My intentions are to show what “The Kingdom of God” means to us each personally, and all of us as a community, and how our community (the Church) can relate to the world around it.
For modern Americans, the word “Kingdom” is a bit odd. Sadly, when Americans think of a “kingdom” or “The King” my guess would be that Elvis or Disney or Burger King to mind far before any political entities. Even the Queen of England really holds no political authority to speak of as the functions of royalty have devolved into pomp and tradition. However the concepts of Kings and Kingship have still largely influenced the American ethos. In our system of government and throughout American history the idea of a King and subsequent kingdom is precarious and archaic at best and a high offense of treason at worst. Indeed our nation was founded by those who broke out from tyranny and forged a new way of government distinctly separate from the Monarchies of Europe: Kingdoms who waged wars upon one another for hundreds of years, often with religion helping to fuel the fire; sometimes as an afterthought or used like a pawn for political gain. But make no mistake, the separation of Kingdoms (or “the state”) and religion was a novel one in the days of our nation’s founders. In modern America the notion of authority (be it political or otherwise) resting outside of the hands of the people might have gotten you slandered or imprisoned as late as the mid 20th century; and even to this day if you check out the right books from the St. Louis County Library you’ll be put on a list which might require a little extra travel time at the airport! It is through this suspicious lens that we, as Americans usually see the concept of a Kingdom, so let us recalibrate our minds to the the Kingdom of God and consider the following statements.
2. The Kingdom is brought out of love, personified in Jesus Christ.
This might sound sappy to some of you, but whatever. I’m getting married in June. I have been with my fiancé Sarah for about 3 years now. As some of you may notice, she is entirely out of my league! In addition to many strange looks at the mall and people saying “You are with her!?!?!” many times I have been asked “How did you know when Sarah was the one?” or “When did you know that you wanted to marry Sarah?”. I think I can answer that fairly difficult question pretty easily: I knew that I loved Sarah when I didn’t have to cognitively put her needs before my own. In other words, when it wasn’t a problem to consider her before myself, when I could somehow manage to not be prideful and egocentric, when my instincts lead me to serve instead of focusing on myself, I knew it was love.
Friends that is what I gather from this portion of our Lord’s Prayer. Because implicit in saying “your Kingdom come, your will be done” is the idea that there exists another Kingdom and will beyond our own! Putting other’s “wills” before your own is what love is. So in praying the Lord’s prayer, we are actually already doing what we are asking God to do- mold our will to his. There’s a wonderful song by Shane & Shane titled “The Answer”, the chorus says: “I have found the answer is to love you and be loved by you alone”. At the heart of Christianity is devotion to and love of God; and this was personified in Jesus Christ, who himself taught us not only how to pray but how to live:
1 John 3: 16 (note the difference, not the Gospel of John, but the first letter of the apostle John) This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
So the Kingdom is not brought about through billboards or church signs or even just by well-meaning intentions. We do not advance the Kingdom through coercion, guilt, or worst of all force. The Kingdom is brought about by love- we know this from Jesus’ example long ago, and by his fulfilled promise of the holy spirit with us today.