Thy Kingdom Come
Thy Kingdom Come
(Series on Lord’s Prayer)
Romans 1, Revelation 11
March 11, 2018
Today we are continuing our series on the Lord’s Prayer with the second of the three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. We looked at the first petition, “Hallowed Be Thy Name” last week. e saw that to hallow God’s name has three practical consequences. We hallow God’s name when our beliefs about God are consistent with God’s nature and character. That’s right belief. We hallow God’s name when our lives point others to God. That’s right witness. We hallow God’s name when we are engaged in some form of action to help bruised and bleeding people. That’s right service.
Well today we come to the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come.” Whenever we hear the most majestic piece of church music ever written, Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” we sing part of it in what is called in musical circles “piano,” which means “very softly.” The kingdom of this world. Can you hear it…..the kingdom of this world is become…and then, there is a great explosion, a crescendo, the basses coming in at an octave higher, and the sopranos an octave and a third higher, and everyone sings “Fortissimo” –which means “at the top of your lungs.” “The kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.”
Handel had a profound glimpse into the nature of reality here. He was affirming the vast difference between the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of our Lord; he was affirming the utter superiority of the kingdom of our Lord; and was affirming the fervor with which human beings must sing and pray and work for the coming of the kingdom, because, God knows, it has not taken over yet.
Let me ask a question which is on everyone’s mind. How can we pray Thy Kingdom Come in a world where the kingdom appears to be not coming at all? How can we pray “Thy Kingdom Come” as another school shooting occurs in Florida? How can we pray “Thy Kingdom Come” when two million people have been killed in Syria’s civil war? ? How do we pray “Thy Kingdom Come” when so many people just don’t care. As a CNN journalist says in the movie “Hotel Rwanda” after shooting footage of the genocide. “After they see this people are gonna say ‘my god that’s terrible’ and then go on eating their dinners.”
How in this kind of world can we continue to believe that God’s kingdom is coming?
The only way I can answer this question for myself is to picture in my mind’s eye two intersecting lines. The first line is a descending line, and indicates that human beings are constantly living farther and farther away from God. As Mark Twain said, “Man was created a little lower than the angels, and he has been getting lower ever since.”
Or as Senator Sam Ervin once said, Sam Ervin that irrepressible and distinguished Senator from North Carolina and served in the U.S. Senate from 1954 to 1974. Sam Ervin was debating a bill in the North Carolina legislature, which would have prohibited the teaching of evolution in public schools–teaching that monkeys and human beings were somehow linked together. Sam Ervin said, “I can’t see but one good thing about this bill, and that it would greatly gratify the monkeys to know that they are absolved from responsibility for the conduct of the human race.”
Well, the very first story we read in the Bible is the prototype of the kingdom of God. Adam, the Hebrew word for man, and Eve, the Hebrew word for mother of all living creatures…Adam and Eve (representatives of human kind) begin their lives in paradise, in fellowship with God. But they rebel, assert their own stubborn self-will, and are expelled from Eden. What begins as individual sin continues as collective sin as Cain kills his brother Abel, and the sin snowballs, becoming a tumultuous avalanche of destructive behavior.
This is the descending line I am speaking of–people moving further and further away from God.
In the first chapter of Romans this startling statement occurs three times: “GOD GAVE THEM UP.” The first statement is, “For this reason God gave them up to the lust of their hearts.” The second statement, “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions.” The third statement, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and improper conduct.”
God gave them up. Life is consequential. Life away from God is a downward spiral into darkness. We do not so much break God’s laws as we are broken on them. Life is not only consequential for us as individuals….we reap what we sow…life is even more consequential for the nations of the world, who are still living under the talion law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, thus failing to learn from Gandhi’s prediction that such policies inevitably leads to the whole world becoming blind and toothless. If we do not learn to become meek, will there be any earth left for anyone to inherit. We must learn to be merciful in a world where we live at each other’s mercy.
So the first line the Bible describes is a descending line, a descending line of decay, a line which runs away from God, a line that ends in the terrors of a world which knows no reference beyond itself.
But alongside this line is another line. This line is an ascending line, and it represents the coming of God’s kingdom. Mysteriously and paradoxically, while people turn away from God and wallow in their own misery, God’s dominion on earth continues to take root and grow. The manifestations of God’s will are emerging evermore clearly and conclusively in the very midst of decline and decay.
Way back in 1934 the Baptist preacher Clovis Chappel wrote:
“For what are we asking when we pray for the coming of the kingdom? We are asking, of course, that God take the throne of our individual hearts. But we are asking for far more. A kingdom implies subjects. This is a prayer for others, for a society where the will of God is recognized as supreme. It is a prayer….for a social order in which Jesus would feel at home. In praying this prayer, we are asking for a community into which Jesus would fit. We are asking for homes in which he could be entertained without embarrassment. We are asking for churches upon all whose ministries he could look with approval. We are asking for a city whose streets he could walk without having his heart broken. We are asking for places of business into which he could go without burning indignation. We are asking for schools that measure up to his demands. We are asking for amusements upon which he would smile. We are asking for literature that he could read without having his eyes blurred by tears.”
Well, this quote is very dated, 1934, but the gist of it still holds. God’s kingdom is coming even now, wherever righteousness speaks, wherever justice is accomplished, wherever fair play is upheld, wherever the least and lowliest human being has a chance. God’s kingdom is coming, that’s the ascending line we are speaking of today.
Now I know as we hear the news and read the headlines, the descending line is what gets our attention. Bad news always outdraws the good. It’s sensational and titillating and it sells. It’s more fascinating to read about a baseball player who takes steroids than some young, nameless kid who is trying to break through from AAA to find a spot on the roster of the parent club. It’s the descending line which grabs our attention, the bad news which dominates our consciousness.
But in my despair about how bad things are, God begins to work on me. God says, “Terry, you look out at the world and conclude my kingdom isn’t coming. Has it ever occurred to you that My Kingdom isn’t coming precisely because of you? How can you expect to prepare the way for it when your own life is so full of roadblocks, barriers, and defenses against it, when you keep on putting an “off limits” on areas of your life you will never let me enter?”
And then I realize that the point of this second petition is supremely a personal point. We are praying this prayer personally, individually. The coming of God’s kingdom has to begin with us. We will not be able to solve the problems of Iraq or Afghanistan or orth Korea, but there are problems here in our community we can attack. We will never get to be ambassadors of reconciliation on an international level, but we can be ambassadors of reconciliation in our school, in our business, or in our homes.
When we pray this petition, we are above and beyond everything else asking that God’s kingdom come in us, that God use us for his beachhead in the world. This is not just a prayer that something will happen to the world in which we live. It is a prayer that something will happen in us. For if God’s kingdom doesn’t come in our personal lives, it will never come at all.