He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father , hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.’
And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. ‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’
This is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.
Let us pray: Holy and Everlasting God, pour out your Holy Spirit on us that we can hear and see your kingdom coming among us. Lead us as a church for ways in which we can colabor with you to heal the sick, feed the hungry, care for the forsaken, and bind up the broken hearted. Amen.
We are in our second week of the preaching series called God Sized Prayers in which we look at Jesus’ instructions to disciples about prayer. Last week, we focused on what it means to know the name of God and for God to call us by name. To know the name of another is to have a relationship or no longer be a stranger to them. As we work through the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer in Luke, today we are focusing on the petition that God’s kingdom should come among us.
The driving force through the Gospel of Luke thus far is Jesus’ proclamation that the kingdom of God is at hand. Whether teaching in parables or healing those cast out from community, Jesus’ purpose is to proclaim and demonstrate the reign or kingdom of God as near as it is like breath on our lips. We get the first glimpse of what the kingdom of God, the reign of the Messiah will look like in Mary’s prayer known as the Magnificat.
At the outset of the gospel of Luke, there is the foretelling of the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus. When Elizabeth, the mother of John, is about six months pregnant, the angel Gabriel goes to Mary to pronounce the coming birth of Jesus. Soon after, Mary makes her way to Elizabeth’s home and there is greeted with exuberance by Elizabeth. Mary gives praise to God for the fulfillment of God’s promises: With all my heart I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
We are most accustomed to hearing this text in Advent as we prepare for the coming of the Christ child. For the musicians in the room, this hymn of praise of Mary is best known by Johann Sebastian Bach’s Magnificat or a more recent arrangement by John Rutter. But this morning, we hear the Magnificat as a pronouncement of the reign of God and the marks of it coming among us: he shows mercy to everyone, he has scattered the arrogant, pulled the powerful down from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry, and sent away the rich. This is a great reversal and depending on who you are, an unwanted reversal of power and blessing.
Mary’s Magnificat is just a foretaste of the coming reign of God in Jesus Christ. When Jesus sits down in the synagogue in Nazareth to teach, he finds the prophet Isaiah, and claims the prophecy as a description for his coming ministry. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about the nature of the kingdom of God when Jesus invokes the Spirit of the Lord to enliven and lead his ministry. At every step of his ministry, the kingdom of God is release for those held captive by economic, social, political, and relational bonds. The synagogue proclamation is the thread that runs through the entirety of Jesus’ ministry. If we want to know what the kingdom of God will look like, the fourth chapter of Luke is a great starting point to begin to see glimpses of it.
Followers of Jesus for two millennia now have sought the coming kingdom of God, the full reign of God when creation will be restored to wholeness, and when sin, death, and evil no longer hold any power. The church in every age has had to ask difficult questions about the kingdom of God. Is the reign of God as pronounced in the New Testament already a reality for the world or is it confined to the future? Is the sphere of God only concerned about my individual transformation or is it more attuned to social, economic, and political liberation? Will the kingdom of God come on its own as a gift from God or do we have some part in co5laboring with God for its fulfillment and manifestation? At the heart of each of these questions is the expectant hope that followers of Jesus have believing that death never has the final word and God is yearning for us to have present and everlasting abundant life.
Along the way there have been some interesting steps and missteps by the church universal in praying the petition for God’s reign to come into our midst. We have heard that when the early
Christ followers were granted status among the Roman Empire that the reign of God became too closely tied to the reign of the Emperor. The Crusaders went to war for the extermination of Muslims in the ancient East and the triumph of political Christianity. More recently, the church operationalized this petition of the Lord’s Prayer in the social gospel movement of the early 20th century. It was thought that the fulfillment of God’s reign on heaven and earth would not be complete until humanity rid itself of all social ills and evil. Abolition of slavery, the temperance movement, the abolition of child labor, and the 1908 Social Creed of the Methodist Episcopal Church are some fruit of the social gospel’s movement to make God’s kingdom come forth by human action.
Church, those who have walked this journey before us have earnestly sought God’s kingdom, they have waited for the day when hope, love, generosity, and peace were more powerful than motivations of revenge and retribution. They have co-labored with God to create conditions of life, to help their communities experience the freedom that was pronounced and demonstrated in the ministry of Jesus. They have helped us see glimpses of God’s kingdom in our own lives and taught us to hope for its fullness that is yet to come.
Like those who have gone before us, we too hold a tension between the already and the not yet. We still wait and pray, and we also act. We have witnessed lives transformed by the grace of God and the promises of Jesus but there are so many still bound by addiction and senseless suffering. We see the church and people of goodwill pour themselves out for the sake of others, setting aside their own self5interest and preservation in the posture of Christ so that entire communities can experience the newness of life. And on the other hand, we see regimes of terror and greed leave utter destruction in their wake. We live in an in between time, an already but not yet in experiencing the fullness of God’s vision for all of creation.
It is in enacting the ancient and life5giving rituals of the church that we remember God’s covenantal promises, give thanks for the ministry of Jesus Christ, yearn for the full realization of God’s justice, and find space at God’s everlasting banquet. We hold this eternal hope as we live.
A great teacher of the church, Daniel Migliore, paints a picture of how our life together teaches us the hope in Christ that accompanies our prayer of ‘Lord, bring your kingdom.’ “Christians learn the meaning of hope in the grace of God only in the practices of discipleship. These practices include proclaiming and hearing the gospel, gathering around the Lord’s Table, and sharing with others the forgiveness, peace, reconciliation, liberation, and hope that are the gifts of God. They include gestures of friendship and peace, passing on to others the apostolic benediction of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit. They include hospitality to strangers and the service of the needy. As the church waits and prays, it also acts.”
By the grace of God in the person of Jesus the Christ, we are people of hope, praying, waiting, and acting as God brings God’s kingdom. We, as a community of faith will share life together in solidarity as we follow the call and model of Jesus Christ to feed the hungry, house the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned, and care for those who believe themselves unworthy of love. We will labor alongside God until the bonds of injustice are broken and all of creation experiences the fulfillment of God’s vision that is far more magnificent than we can begin to imagine.
Jesus, bring your kingdom. Amen.