“Your Kingdom Come.”

“Your Kingdom Come.”

A Sermon for Pentecost 7C
July 28, 2019

O God, the creator and preserver of all mankind, we humbly
beseech thee for all sorts and conditions of men; that thou
wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy
saving health unto all nations. More especially we pray for
thy holy Church universal; that it may be so guided and
governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call
themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and
hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in
righteousness of life. Finally, we commend to thy fatherly
goodness all those who are in any ways afflicted or distressed,
in mind, body, or estate; [especially those for whom our prayers
are desired]; that it may please thee to comfort and relieve
them according to their several necessities, giving them patience
under their sufferings, and a happy issue out of all their
afflictions. And this we beg for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

“So be like lights on the rim of the water
Giving hope in a storm sea of night
Be a refuge amidst the slaughter
Of these fugitives in their flight
For you are timeless and part of a puzzle
You are winsome and young as a lad
And there is no disease or no struggle
That can pull you from God, be ye glad”

Be ye Glad by Glad, The Acapella Project

If we are praying the Lord’s Prayer at least once a day—and perhaps more, if we are praying the Divine Office–it seems fair to say that it is the single most important prayer in our lives. That is not to suggest that we are only praying liturgical prayers, but of the liturgical prayers that we pray, there really is nothing else that could compare to this one prayer.

This makes perfect sense to me, because this prayer is the one—and the only one—which Our Lord Jesus Christ taught us and asked us to pray. So, it certainly should have an exalted status in our prayer lives as individuals and community.

There is a serious danger, though. It is so easy to fall into the routine of “rattling off this prayer” without hearing it, or without taking time to think about the words which we are saying. I know that this is very true of me! It seems that it takes something to jar us out of our complacency. In the past few years there has been a good deal of controversy surrounding the translation of this prayer. The problem, it seems, is that many of the translations appear to be derived from secondary languages (like Latin) rather than Greek. There is also somehow a conception that this prayer is “inviolate” or “so sacred” that it cannot be re-translated—or better translated. Pope Francis discovered this when he requested that the formula “and lead us not into temptation” was a poor translation—both linguistically, and theologically. Since I do not think that even the Jesus Seminar would guarantee the exact wording, it seems to me to be a very good idea to look at the language.

I can not help but wonder if that very translation is the cornerstone on which the idea that God is “constantly testing us to make us better and stronger” is derived? If so, then—please change it immediately. As someone involved with pastoral ministry over many years, it would be impossible to describe how painful and destructive that interpretation has been. No, that is not the way that God chooses to interact with us. If anything, God is with us in our trials and difficulties—loving us, supporting us, encouraging us, empowering us. Not testing us! In my own tradition, the newer translation is “Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil.” That makes far more sense to me!

Whole volumes have been written on each of the lines of this prayer. In a short time, not too much can be said. However, there is always something to say, and hopefully it will be of use to someone who may read these words.

I began with a quote from a hymn by a favorite group of mine, Glad. In a very confusing and frustrating world, there lyrics speak of hope and resurrection. They remind us that God is in control. And yet, they also challenge us to remember that as the old Carmelite saying has it, “We are God’s hands and feet.” If we expect anything to change, we must become agents of change and transformation.

In my Lectio today, I reflect on the first three ideas contained in this prayer: “hallowed be your Name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.” After addressing God in the most intimate personal way, “Daddy,” Jesus sanctifies or blesses God, “the name,”; prays for the coming of God’s kingdom; and prays that God’s will may be done here and now. Each of those ideas should be fully developed, but for today, I want to reflect with you on what God’s kingdom is all about.

In the United States, we pride ourselves that we are citizens of a Republic—not subjects of a kingdom. We have elected officials, not a hereditary monarchy based on “the divine right of kings.” And yet, many of us also claim dual citizenship—we are also part of “God’s kingdom.” We may prefer a less patriarchal word like realm, but whatever word or term we use, the reality is the same. More and more, I prefer the term “The Jesus Movement,” which has been proposed to us by our Presiding Bishop and Primate in the Episcopal Church, the Most Reverend Michael B. Curry.

The Jesus Movement has a way of disarming fears and worries—and perhaps even disagreements. It avoids fights over differences in theology, polity, and ecclesiology. It is a lovey invitation to “return to our roots” and to get rid of unnecessary and unhelpful ideas like “The one true Church,” or even more perplexing, “Christendom.” Like the writings of the Hebrew Prophets, it holds up a mirror to us to ask how faithfully our current reality reflects God’s values, priorities, and plans. It challenges us to let go of structures and constructs which limit, compete against, and even struggle against God’s hopes and dreams for us.

Many years ago, I remember hearing a powerful comment from a sermon which a Roman Catholic Religious Sister, “When God’s Kingdom comes, our kingdoms must go.” While I believe she was speaking about us as individuals, the same is true of our concepts of nationality—and of nationalism.

What would God’s reign be like—if it was revealed in its fullness–and what would it be about? The first hint is that it would be a reversal of the wounded world which resulted from the actions of Adam and Eve. The result of sin, they discovered, was three forms of alienation: alienation from God, alienation from other humans, and alienation from creation. In God’s kingdom there would be reconciliation, healing and reconnection of these three primary relationships. Humans would work together in cooperation with God to complete and fulfill the healing of creation.

The second hint is the reversal of Babel. Because humans would be working for the common good and for the glory of God, instead of for personal glory and in competition against each other, they would be united rather than divided. The military industrial complex and prison for profit would be replaced with a banquet table in which all would dine in peace and unity. Everyone would be fed.
The Passover gives another hint. The very concept of slavery and oppression would be unthinkable. So there would be no need for the death of the firstborn, for the slaughter of a paschal lamb, or for fleeing before the bread has time to rise. And the competition between peoples would end.

The Hebrew prophets give a hint. The relationship between God and humans would be so intimate that hearts would be turned from stone to flesh. And everyone would be invited to God’s presence—all the ends of the earth. No one would be excluded or treated as a second class citizen.

Perhaps the most important hint comes from the preaching of Saint Paul. In God’s reign all the binaries collapse: female and male; slave and free; people of a particular faith and people of none; people of any ethnic or cultural background, and those of the “in group.” We could take this farther: LGBTQIA and cis, and native and foreigner. In short the distinctions between “us” and “them” whatever and whenever those terms are used.

The final hint is from the words of Our Lord, “fear is useless, what is needed is trust.” One way to analyze the actions and words of politicians and of people which are incongruous with the Jesus movement is the degree to which those actions and words are motivated by fear. They operate out of a mentality of scarcity (and of greed). If we freely share there will not be enough for everyone. If I share, I will go without. Trust in God reveals that there is an abundance-even a surplus. Five loaves and fishes are enough for everyone to have all that they want and there is still more than enough left over after everyone has eaten their fill.

Borders would cease to exist. Everyone would be provided the opportunity to learn, to grow, to contribute, to love and to dwell in peace and security. Not only would the lamb and the lion cuddle in peace, former enemies would make peace. We would have a vested interest in helping others succeed and be happy, because in so doing we would make the world better. And in serving the needs of others we would find our greatest fulfillment.

Internment camps would be a thing of the past. The stranger would be welcomed as family. The most vulnerable would receive the greatest care and support. The gifts of every language, culture, and faith would be celebrated and shared. “They” would all be “our” mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and “our” children. “We” would look for ways to welcome, receive, and fully integrate “them.”

This is not a fantasy or a dream. God’s reign will come in its fullness—but with our work it will come sooner. Even now, we can choose to live as if though it was fully present. In doing so, we become yeast, light, and salt.

I conclude with those words from Glad:
“So be like lights on the rim of the water
Giving hope in a storm sea of night
Be a refuge amidst the slaughter
Of these fugitives in their flight.”

If we do these things, God’s will shall be done here and now, as in heaven.

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