“Behold: A Sower Went Forth” (God’s Work: Our Hands) “Behold, a Sower Went Forth…” What may come as a surprise to some of you what was a surprise…
Sermon: The Prayer of Surrender
The Lord’s Prayer Part II
This morning we continue our sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. Last Sunday we began by looking at the first phrase of the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name.”
If you recall, by addressing God as “our Father” the name he uses for God recorded over 150 times in the gospels, Jesus was attempting to break many of the commonly held beliefs about God as being emotionally distant an angry arbitrator of sin, unapproachable and unknowable.
Instead, Jesus reveals that God is like the father of a prodigal child who loves us unconditionally, who causes the sun to rise on the good and the evil and rain to fall upon the just and the unjust, whose justice is tempered with mercy in order that the lost may be found and the dead may come alive again.
Jesus reveals to us in the “Our Father” that we worship a God who desires to be in relationship with us, like a parent and child to be in relationship with humankind. In addressing God as “Father, Jesus was helping us to connect with God.
This morning we‘re looking at the second phrase of the Lord’s Prayer “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When we pray this phrase of the Lord’s Prayer I wonder what it is that we’re imagining. What kind of kingdom do we have in mind? Do we know what the kingdom of God we are praying for is?
In order to know what the kingdom is that we’re praying for, it’s important to understand what was the kingdom that Jesus and his followers were praying for. What was God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.
To understand the meaning of the Kingdom of God as Jesus and the early church understood it, we have to begin with the Old Testament book of Daniel. Many of you will remember Daniel from the story of Daniel in the Lion’s den when God miraculously delivered him from the Lion’s mouth.
In this Old Testament book Daniel, is a Jew, living in Babylonian exile during the 2nd century BC. Through dreams and visions, Daniel interprets the history of the past which have been filled with tribulation and sorrow for all of Israel. He then envisions a promising future when Israel’s trials and suffering will finally give way to triumph and peace.
Dreaming of the past he recalls four great empires all of whom had invaded and conquered Israel sending many of its inhabitants into exile into distant lands: The Babylonian Empire symbolized by a lion with eagle’s wings, the empire of the Medes and Persians symbolized by a bear and leopard and after them the 4th great empire of Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Greeks whose terrible war machine was said to have swept across “The whole earth.”
In his dreams and visions each empire is ruled by kings and is symbolized by inhuman wild beasts. Then in contrast to these former empires Daniel envisions a coming fifth and everlasting kingdom ushered in by one he describes as “the Son of Man”.
Daniel writes, “As I watched …I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven and he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion shall not pass away and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.”(Daniel 7:13, 14) Unlike the kings and inhuman beastly empires of the past the 5th and everlasting kingdom will be ruled by one who is fully human, benevolent and humane who Daniel calls “The Son of Man.”
Forward two centuries and we find that this is the name which is given for Jesus and which Jesus gives himself over 85 times in the gospels. Jesus is Daniel’s prophesied “Son of Man” and the kingdom he inaugurates is the 5th and everlasting kingdom Daniel had envisioned.
What the early church and we are faced with is how to understand and square with this 5th and everlasting kingdom which Jesus, the Son of Man inaugurates when Israel at the same time is living under the occupation of another Great kingdom, The Roman Empire.
It is in the midst of these two opposing kingdoms that Jesus lives and dies and the church is born. It is between the ways of Rome and the ways or rule of the kingdom of God that a Christian must choose whether or not to pray.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
The ways of the kingdom of Rome are clear: self security, self-comfort and self -peace are obtained through political power, wealth and violence known as the (Pox Romana). On the other hand the ways of the kingdom of God of attaining security, comfort and peace, come through justice and non-violence. The ways of each kingdom are opposed to one another.
What do we know about the kingdom of God? We know that the kingdom cannot be taken by force. Jesus says to enter the kingdom of God “We must be born from above, born of the Spirit.”
When many of us pray the Lord’s Prayer “Your kingdom come Your will be done.”
Many of us may question in our minds is the kingdom of God already a present reality or is the rule of God somewhere still far off in the distance.
In the gospel of Mark, Jesus begins his public ministry by announcing “the time is fulfilled, repent, for the kingdom of God has come near.” The verb phrase “has come near” is in the Greek past perfect tense which means something has happened and its results continue.
“Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is! or ‘There it is!’ for in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17:20, 21)
So, the kingdom of God is a present reality. We’re not always immediately aware of the kingdom’s presence because it often comes in less than dramatic ways. Jesus said that the kingdom of God “is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.
The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once, he goes with his sickle, because the harvest has come (Mark 4:26-29); or the kingdom is like a small mustard seed that grows into a great bush to which all the birds of the air come to roost (verses 30-32) or hidden like yeast which added to three measures of flour eventually leavens the whole loaf (Matthew 13:33).
The kingdom of God is a reality before it comes in powerful and dramatic ways. Jesus teaches us that the kingdom of God is a kingdom of equality where “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” (Matthew 19:30). Where and whenever all sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any have need.” (Acts 2:45)
Where the Apostle Paul writes, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female for all will be one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) In the kingdom of God all are equal.
Jesus teaches us that where the kingdom of God is there is healing and redemption. Good news is preached to the poor, release to the captive, recovery of sight to the blind, the oppressed are set free and debts are forgiven.
Sending his disciples out among the people Jesus tells them that whenever they cast out demons or heal diseases to tell the people that “the kingdom of God has come near.” Where the kingdom of God is there is healing and redemption.
Where the kingdom of God is there is peace. The lamb and the lion will lie down together, “nations shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more, but they shall sit under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.”(Isaiah 2:4)
In his letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul writes “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Roman 14:17) The way of the kingdom of God is peaceful. It is non-violent.
The kingdom of God is to be valued above all else. While it’s difficult for the wealthy “to enter it, it is to be prized above all other possessions. Jesus, the Son of Man says, “The kingdom of God is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” “The kingdom of God is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”
While we would give all to possess the kingdom of God, it requires personal sacrifice and commitment for some, even their life. “No one, Jesus taught who puts a hand to the plow, and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)
Delivered to Pontius Pilate by the religious rulers, Pilate questions Jesus “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answers, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?”
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingdom is not from the world.” Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
In this encounter, two kingdoms meet: the kingdom of Rome and the kingdom of God. One secures victory through violence; the other brings victory through love and justice. That Pilate does not have Jesus’ disciples rounded up and imprisoned makes clear that he understood Jesus’ movement to be non-violent of no apparent threat.
Still, to make a political statement to all who oppose the kingdom of Rome, Pilate has a sign placed above Jesus’ head on the cross saying “This is the king of the Jews.” To possess the kingdom of God requires personal sacrifice and commitment for some, even their life. Where then, we may ask, as did the disciples and early church: Where is God’s transfigured world of which Daniel foretells when Caesar Tiberius is still emperor of Rome, Antipas still tetrarch of Galilee, and Pontius Pilate still the prefect of Judea. How has anything changed?
There are many who pray “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” who have expected God to miraculously intervene into the affairs of men. But is this how God works? Could it be that the kingdom of God is at hand, only in so far as we accept it, enter it, live it and thereby establish it. That ours is a collaboration with God.
Jesus said, “If any want to be my followers, let them deny themselves take up their cross and follow me.” Jesus said, we are the salt of the earth, a light set on a hill. Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do; in fact, will do greater works than these. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
Could it be that the kingdom of God is at hand, only in so far as we accept it, enter it, live it and thereby, by the grace of God establish it.
What is it then that Jesus understood when he taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven?” And what do we mean? And do we mean it when we pray it? And are we willing to accept it, enter into, live it, and by the grace of God, help to establish it and are we too willing, really willing, to count the cost?
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”