Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sermon for 3/19/14--Midweek of Lent II (midweek series)



The Coming Kingdom
John 18:36-37/First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Don’t be alarmed if you have not understood everything you were praying for when you prayed, “Thy kingdom come.” Whole books have been written on the subject. Some authors have viewed the kingdom of God as the central theme of the Bible, tying everything together from Genesis to Revelation. This is a big prayer; our Lord tells us to ask for the kingdom of God! In fact, that has been true with much of what Scripture has taught us. A bit after Jesus gave the Lord’s Prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, He told His disciples: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” There is much He would grant us in prayer, if we would but ask—even His kingdom! What is more, Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God has come, but then He tells us to continue praying, “Thy kingdom come…” It is enough to make us scratch our heads and ask, “What is the kingdom of God?” And the answer that comes back to us from God’s Word is an answer with three parts.

The first is this; the kingdom of God is the kingdom of His power. This is the kingdom of His entire creation. It is the rule of God, the Creator, over the infinity of His creation. We do not have to pray that we might enter this kingdom or remain part of it. When we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we ask God to help us acknowledge this kingdom and His rule over it. Not everyone does so. Pilate did not realize he was judging his divine King as Jesus stood before him. Most modern rulers are no better, as they have been known to rule and to manipulate as though they were gods of their own making. And yet, the Lord has told us, even as He said through St. Paul: “There is no authority except from God.” And, certainly, Satan does not acknowledge this absolute power and authority of God. To this day, the devil refuses to acknowledge the power and authority of God as he confronts and seeks to overcome the children of God.

Quite frankly, we are not much better. We scurry about, building our own little kingdoms of power and empires of influence. We try to order and arrange our lives, providing for the future so expertly that we pat ourselves on the back for having played god so cleverly. What ugly, presumptuous sins! How we need to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” Jesus did not hesitate to acknowledge His Father’s dominion. “All that the Father has is Mine,” He said. Before Pontius Pilate, He bore witness: “You would have no power over Me unless it had been given you from above.” There it is again: The Lord’s Prayer in the Lord’s Passion. Our Savior did not just tell us to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” He prayed it perfectly for us, and makes our praying of it a blessing to smash our trust in ourselves.

The second thing is this: we seek that kingdom of grace our Savior came to establish. The people of Israel began looking for the Deliverer who was promised, but in ways, sadly, that caused them to miss Him when He did come. This deliverance became fixed in their minds as a political delivery,  the supremacy of the nation of Israel. In similar ways, lots of modern day people expect the rule of God to be just a matter of making material lives better, or the security of providing peace and good will. However, Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate and said: “My kingdom is not of this world.” The kingdom of grace is not one of might and material, but of righteousness and peace with God— not established by force, but by love. He offered Himself to God in our place, as a sacrifice to remove sin, death, and the power of the devil, to hit at the heart of every human need. In Christ, God’s kingdom of grace is established among us, right where we are. He has come to save us, to hold that place of supremacy in our lives. Through faith in Jesus Christ, God gives us the very righteousness of Christ Himself, who lived and died for us that we might live at peace both with God and with our neighbor.

Still, our Lord bids us pray, “Thy kingdom come.” There is yet another sense in which we are to pray for His kingdom. God’s kingdom of power and glory is all around us. His kingdom of grace comes to us and blesses us wherever His Gospel is preached and His blessed Sacraments are offered and used according to His institution. We are now to pray, “Father, bring us to the final consummation of Your kingdom!” We look beyond the steeples of our churches to the towering heights of the kingdom of glory that awaits us, where His rule of love will forever be established unopposed; where we will be able to serve Him in His kingdom forever, together with all the saints and angels. We are to pray that He will make us ever ready for the coming of that kingdom, when our glorious Redeemer will reappear to gather us, body and soul, to Himself, to take us to our heavenly home. On that day His coming kingdom of glory will have come once and for all. Eternity will not be long enough to praise Him for having established His kingdom, and for leading us pray, “Our Father…Thy kingdom come.” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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