“Back to the basics: Thy kingdom come”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.
Just over twenty years ago, on the morning of September 11, 2001, our nation suffered one of the most devastating attacks to have ever happened on American soil. Nineteen terrorists, all part of a militant Islamic group, highjacked four planes, crashing the first into the World Trade Center’s north tower, the second into the south tower, the third into the Pentagon and the fourth into a field just outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. If you were alive that day, as most of you were, you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing the day that it happened.
Four days later, on September 15th of 2001, on a satellite broadcast of America Prays, pastor and author Max Lucado spoke the words of a prayer.
This is what he said: “Dear Lord, we’re still hoping we’ll wake up. We’re still hoping we’ll open a sleepy eye and think, ‘What a horrible dream.’
“But we won’t, will we, Father? What we saw was not a dream. Planes did gouge towers. People did perish.
“There’s a ballet dancer who will no longer dance and a doctor who will no longer heal. A classroom is missing its teacher. Cora ran a food pantry. Paige was a counselor, and Dana, dearest Father, Dana was only three years old.
“We are sad, Father. For as the innocent are buried, our innocence is buried as well. We thought we were safe. Perhaps we should have known better. But we didn’t. And so we come to You.
“And we ask You…do again what You did at Calvary. What we saw here last Tuesday, You saw there that Friday. Innocence slaughtered. Goodness murdered. Mothers weeping. Evil dancing. Just as the smoke eclipsed our morning, so the darkness fell on Your Son. Just as our towers were shattered, the very Tower of Eternity was pierced. And by dusk, heaven’s sweetest song was silent, buried behind a rock.
“But You did not waver, O Lord. You did not waver. After three days in a dark hole, You rolled the rock and rumbled the earth and turned the darkest Friday into the brightest Sunday. Do it again, Lord. Grant us a September Easter.
“Have mercy on the souls who have departed and the wounded who remain. And look kindly upon Your church. For two thousand years You’ve used her to heal a hurting world. Do it again, Lord. Do it again.”
Time after time, the Bible teaches the astonishing power of prayer. Abraham’s servant prayed and God led him to a girl named Rebecca. Jacob prayed and Esau turned twenty years of vengeance into forgiveness. Hannah prayed and had a son. Isaiah and Hezekiah prayed and 185,000 Assyrian soldiers were dead in twelve hours. Daniel prayed and a pride of hungry lions suddenly wasn’t so hungry anymore. Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai prayed and Haman, who had planned to destroy the Jews, was hanged on his own gallows. Elijah prayed and fire fell from heaven. Elisha prayed and a little boy came back to life. Believers prayed and Peter’s chains fell off and his prison doors opened wide.
And one day, as Jesus was praying, His disciples came to Him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” And Jesus said: “When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray then like this: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come’” (Matthew 6:7-10).
So far in our time together, we’ve looked at the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer. When we pray, “Our Father who art in heaven,” we remember that the One to whom we pray is closer to us than any earthly father ever could be. And He’s willing and able to do absolutely anything, for at his disposal is all the power and the glory of heaven.
And when we pray, “Hallowed be Thy name,” we remember that, even though God is so near and dear to us, He’s holy, far more amazing and wonderful than we could even begin to imagine.
“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.”
Now in this second petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Thy kingdom come.”
Luther wrote in the words of his Small Catechism: “Thy kingdom come. What does this mean? The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also. How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”
And he wrote in the words of his Large Catechism: “Therefore we pray…that His name be so praised through the holy Word of God and a Christian life that both we who have accepted it may abide and daily grow therein, that it may proceed with power throughout the world, that many may find entrance into the Kingdom of Grace, and being led by the Holy Ghost, be made partakers of redemption, that we may all together remain forever in the one kingdom now begun.”
And it’s all found here in the words, “Thy kingdom come.”
Now when we hear that word “kingdom,” it strikes us as a little bit strange. After all, the only time we ever use the word is when we’re reading fairy tales like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty or when we think of Walt Disney’s “Magic Kingdom” or England’s United Kingdom.
But it wasn’t that way in Jesus’ day. Back then it wasn’t so much a place as it was a thing--it was the rule or the reign of a king.
And think of it--Jesus often talked about the kingdom. He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field” (Matthew 13:24), “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field” (Matthew 13:31), “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field” (Matthew 13:44), “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls (Matthew 13:45), “The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was cast into the sea” (Matthew 13:47), “The kingdom of heaven is a like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard,” (Matthew 20:1), and “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who prepared a wedding feast for his son” (Matthew 22:1).
When the angel Gabriel first appeared to Mary, he said, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus…and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31, 33).
And later Jesus Himself said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
And as He stood in judgment before Pilate, Pilate said, “So You are a king?” And He replied, “You are right in saying I am a King. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world” (John 18:37).
So what’s God’s kingdom? It’s recognizing the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord over your life, that His program replaces your program, that His agenda replaces your agenda, that His goals replace your goals, and that He is the sovereign ruler of your life.
In effect, it says, “Lord, I’m sick of myself and I’m tired of trying to run my own life. Now in Your mercy, I’m asking You to do whatever it is that You want to do, for You and You alone know what’s best for me.”
“Thy kingdom come.”
Now I don’t know a lot about knitting. After trying it for a few days and pulling out most of what I started, I figured that while I might enjoy quite a lot of things, knitting isn’t necessarily one of them.
And like most anything, knitting can become rather complicated. Phrases like “knit and purl,” “drop a stitch,” “knit two together,” “reverse stockinette,” “blocking,” “felting,” and “cabling” suddenly become part of your household vocabulary.
And that’s nothing to say of all the strange little tools that suddenly appear, like needle gauges, stitch markers, and row counters, not to mention straight needles, circular needles, double-pointed needles, interchangeable needles and cable needles, that are made of anything from carbon fiber to wood to plastic to metal to bamboo. And pardon me if I neglect to mention the bags and balls of yarn that begin to fill every cupboard, chest, drawer, and closet.
If this sounds all too familiar, let me recommend a book called At Knit’s End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much.
Now if you were ever to ask a knitter, “What are you knitting?” they may very likely tell you it’s a scarf or a hat or a sweater. To which you would say, “It sure doesn’t look like a scarf or a hat or a sweater to me!”
“Because it’s not done yet,” they’d say. “It’s still a work in progress.” But sure enough, just a few days later, stitch by stitch, purl by purl, and row by row, it’s just what they said it would be.
And the kingdom of God is just like that. Just as a man sowed good seed in his field or a landowner hired laborers to work in his vineyard or a king prepared a wedding feast for his son, God’s kingdom is like a knitter who started to knit--not quite finished, still a work in progress, but someday, when the time is right, it’ll be done.
“Thy kingdom come.”
The story is told of a wealthy young man who lived in a huge, immaculate house, complete with winding staircases, crystal chandeliers, and rare paintings hanging on the wall. It was truly a house fit for a king.
And one day, he decided to invite Jesus to come to his beautiful home to live there for as long as He wanted. And just as soon as the Lord arrived, he escorted Him up one of his long, winding staircases to a room at the end of the hall.
It was, by far, the very best room in the house, complete with everything anyone could ever want or need. And since it was getting late, the young man thanked Jesus for blessing his house with His presence, said goodnight and quietly closed the door. Then he went downstairs to his own bedroom where he laid down and drifted off to sleep.
Suddenly, in the middle of the night, he was awakened by a loud pounding on the door. Rushing to see who it was, he opened the door, only to find a demon that was desperately trying to get inside. The man fought him for all he was worth, knowing Jesus would soon hear the struggle and come down any minute to save him.
But Jesus never came. Only after the man spent most of the night fighting the demon was he able to push him out and shut the door behind him.
And the following night it was even worse, for there were not one, but two demons that were trying to force their way inside. And again the man struggled all night long until the door was safely closed once more.
And as he lay resting on his living room sofa, trying to catch his breath, he wondered why Jesus hadn’t come to his rescue. After all, he had given Him the very best room in his house!
When he couldn’t stand it any longer, he climbed the stairs to His room and knocked on the door. And as Jesus opened it, he said, “Lord, I thought You loved me. I invited You to stay with me. I gave You the best room in my house. But when I needed You the most, You were never there! Why didn’t You help me?”
And with a loving, gentle voice, the Lord answered, “My dear child, I do love you and care for you more than you could ever know. But when you invited me to stay with you, you brought me up to this lovely room and closed the door. And when you closed that door, you kept Me from entering the rest of your house. I am the Lord of this room--no demons can ever enter here. But you haven’t allowed me to be the Master of your house.”
And that’s exactly what we pray in this petition. “Reign in me, Lord. Rule over me. Not over just one part of me, but all of me, for I am nothing without You.”
“Thy kingdom come.”
May Your kingdom come, dear Father, that we may know Your power, Your grace, and Your glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen