Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done

Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done

February 25, 2024 • Rev. Rob Fuquay

St. Luke’s UMC

February 25, 2024

Lent 2

The Lord’s Prayer

“The Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done”

Matthew 6:10; Luke 17: 21-21 (GNT); Luke 22:41-42 


I once heard John Cassis, former chaplain to the Chicago Bears, tell a story about the Bears team that won the 1986 Super Bowl. Jim McMahon was the quarterback, and they had a player named William “the Fridge” Perry. At the end of one team meeting the head coach, Mike Ditka, called on Perry to lead the team in saying the Lord’s Prayer. McMahon whispered to Cassis, “Look, he doesn’t know the Lord’s Prayer.” John Cassis said, “Of course he knows it.” McMahon watching Perry fidget and begin to sweat said, “I’m telling you dude, he doesn’t know it. I’ll bet you $20.” Cassis, said, “You’re on.”


Perry invited everyone to pray and after a really long silence said, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Amen.” McMahon reached in his wallet and handed Cassis a twenty-dollar bill and said, “I can’t believe he knew it.”


Is it possible to know the Lord’s Prayer and be unfamiliar with it at the same time? Most Christians are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer. Many can recite it easily. But most probably say these words with little understanding of what they mean, or at least what Jesus meant in giving us this prayer. When we do learn these insights, we are sometimes surprised. Sometimes amazed. And sometimes challenged. The part of the Lord’s Prayer we consider today may fall into that last category: Thy Kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven.


Every now and then we hear people say, “Politics do not belong in the church.” The sentiment is understandable. Politics, especially today, equals division and separation. But politics also means the determining of how things work in the world. God certainly cares about how the world works. God desires for our world to reflect the values and ways of God. As N.T. Wright said about this part of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come rules out any idea that the Kingdom of God is a purely heavenly reality.” We are asking God’s kingdom and will to be done on earth as in heaven! This means Jesus didn’t come just to get us into heaven. He came to get heaven into us.


So let us think about the depth and meaning of these petitions in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus used the expression Kingdom of God, or its corollary Kingdom of Heaven, over 100 times in the gospels. As I pointed out in the first message, the term heaven is not a spatial reference as if heaven is a location. Rather, it’s a spiritual reference. Heaven isn’t so much a place as a condition. The kingdom of God is simply the way Jesus spoke about the reign of God, the way life looks when God’s ways are in effect.


When we pray “Thy kingdom come” we are asking for God’s ways to be fully realized in our world. Clearly that is not the case. In the last year wars in the world have claimed over a quarter million lives. Over 170,000 people died from wars in the world in 2023. It is estimated that two billion people in the world lack safe drinking water. More people in the US died from gun violence in 2021 than any other year on record. Schools with 90% or higher students of color spend over $700 less per student per year than schools with 90% or higher white students. Clearly our world does not reflect the ways of God.


In Luke 17 Jesus made an interesting distinction about the Kingdom of God. He said, “The Kingdom of God does not come in such a way as to be seen…because the Kingdom of God is within you.” Notice the odd contradiction. The kingdom of God is not visible, yet the kingdom of God is within you. How are we to understand that? One possibility is that Jesus recognized that when we talk about the kingdom of God we are talking about the presence of God at work in the world, which is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, of course, is invisible. As Jesus told Nicodemus, the Spirit is like the wind. You can hear the wind blow, but you can’t see it.


So, the Kingdom of God is invisible, and it is within us. What this means is that the way the Kingdom of God becomes visible is through us. People are how the Kingdom of God becomes visible. No wonder Jesus combines praying for the Kingdom of God to come with praying for the will of God to be done. The will of God is the enactment of God’s ways. But the will of God is also something we do. Jesus said, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35)


Clearly for Jesus the ways of God are meant to show up in the lives of his followers. What does this look like?


Social Dimension

For one, this idea very much has a social dimension to it. We live in a world of social structures and political systems. We are called to be as faithful to God in this realm as any other. Showing compassion to people in need is a way of living the Kingdom of God but so is working to change systems that create need. The Brazilian archbishop, Dom Helda Camera, said, “When I feed the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor are hungry they call me a Communist.”


To pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” is to say God tear down the veil between my faith life and my social life. Let my voting be as much a witness of my faith as feeding the poor.


The Rev. Brian Konkol is Dean of the Chapel at Syracuse University. In reflecting on the importance of merging the divide between social and spiritual witness he writes:
“The ballot box is sacred space and voting is a spiritual act. When we elect representatives or discern referendums, we proclaim our personal beliefs and shape our public surroundings, all which shapes communities far after the polls close. To be a voting citizen is itself an act of faith, for we all depend on each other, and together we trust that our actions can indeed make a difference.”


Basically, to pray ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done’ is to recognize that everything is spiritual to God. There is no divide. We are called to be faithful in all our ways.


Personal Dimension

But to pray this part of the Lord’s Prayer certainly has personal dimension as well. We are called to live what it means to pray for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will be to be done. This is how God’s brings the reality of heaven to earth.


As Professor Eugene Boring said in his commentary on Matthew, “God’s will is carried out all the time by the actions of his people, even those who serve God without knowing it.” (NIDB, Matthew, p152). I found that last statement intriguing, “even those who serve God without knowing it.” I heard a great example of this on the news this week. A Louisville City Schools bus driver named Larry Farrish took great interest in the children on his bus. One day he noticed a boy, Levi, looking sad and discouraged. Usually, Levi is smiling and happy. Because Mr. Larry, as the kids call him, made it a point to get to pay attention to the kids and get to know them, he took notice of Levi’s demeanor. So when he pulled up to his stop, he got off the bus with Levi and asked if something was wrong. The boy said it was pajama day at school and he didn’t have any pajamas.


Mr Larry did something about that. He went to the store and bought

Levi new pajamas. The boy was overjoyed as you can tell by this picture (picture of Mr. Larry and Levi).


Mr Larry could have said, “My job is just to get kids to school and home safely, nothing more. I’m not paid enough to worry about whether they are happy.” But he didn’t. He cares for the kids. I believe that is what it looks like to do the will of God and allow the Kingdom of God to become visible through us. It means being humble. Taking the focus off ourselves and placing God’s will above our own.


Jesus demonstrated such an attitude in an ultimate way in the Garden of Gethsemane. Knowing he would be crucified the next day he went to place to be alone and praying to God he said, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me, yet not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)


We miss the point if we make doing the will of God so extreme as to mean being literally crucified on the cross. If that were the case hardly any of us would be called to do the will of God. But we are all called “to take up a cross daily.” We are called to die to self. Everyday, in some way, usually simple, ordinary ways like paying attention to someone we see regularly, and step aside from our own concerns and agendas we are called to see what we can do for another. This is what it looks like to give our lives away.


What might that look like for you? How can you pay attention to the needs of others around you? Is God troubling your spirit about some cause or need in the world saying, “I want you to be an answer to this problem.” What does it look like for God to make his kingdom visible in your life?




Eternal Dimension

Finally, let’s consider one final aspect of the Kingdom of God and that is the eternal dimension. The Kingdom of God bridges two time dimensions: Chronos and Kairos. Chronos is the word from which we get chronology. This is our time dimension. It can be measured in hours, days, years, etc. But Kairos is beyond time. It is eternal and can’t be measured. It is the time zone of God’s dimension. The Kingdom of God is in this eternal realm, but the Kingdom is also in us, which means it comes into chronos-time as well.


The point is that Kingdom activity doesn’t always work according to our time. We do kingdom work now. We make visible the Kingdom of God in what we do, but the Kingdom is also beyond us. It is at the same time the dimension of God’s realm. That means God works through what we do and so our activity is always part of Kairos time.


This past week I gathered with senior pastors from our largest United Methodist churches in the country. We haven’t gathered since before Covid. With so many disaffiliations from churches that left the denomination because the United Methodist Church is going to inclusive and welcoming of LGBTQ people, this group has a lot of new people. It was great to be together.


The first morning, my friend Davis Chapel, senior pastor of Brentwood UMC in Nashville, TN, led our devotion. He shared about a book called Refugia Faith.    I’ve been reading a book called Refugia Faith (picture of book cover), by Debra Rienstra. Refugia is an ecological term. It has to do with habitats that remain vital and resilient in spite of negative effects and disturbances. An example is the eruption of Mount Saint Helens in 1980. (pic) The debris from the volcanic blast devastated the mountain and its surroundings for miles, crushing, burning, killing, and coating everything in hot ash. Everyone assumed life could not return to this apocalyptic death zone for a century or two. (pic) But just 40 years later, the landscape is covered with lush prairie lupins, alders. Critters scamper, streams flow. How did life come back with such vigor, and so quickly?


    What the scientists know now, but didn’t understand then, is that when that mountain blasted ash and rock across the landscape, the devastation passed over some small places hidden in the lee of rocks and trees. Moss and deer fern were protected under a rotting log. Boulders covered other plant life and nests of critters. These pockets of safety are called refugia. Tiny coverts where plants and creatures hide from destruction; hidden shelters where life persists & out of which new life emerges.


I believe kingdom work is like practicing refugia faith. It is doing the little things, the sometimes unnoticed, hidden things, that appear at the time so insignificant, so small and we can’t see the benefit. But in God’s time, life comes forth.


My wife Susan has a friend she grew up with named Martha Flavell. She married a Methodist pastor from England and that is where they live. She tells the story of a group of Methodists from England who got inspired to go to Russia in the 1800’s and start a church. They anticipated many people coming to faith and communities being transformed. When they arrived in Russia, they registered their Methodist Church with the authorities and got to work. But after a few years almost nothing happened. No great revival. No outpouring of God’s Spirit. The group of missionaries returned home dejected feeling like failures. They struggled to understand how they got it so wrong. They felt clearly called and wondered if they misunderstood God’s leading.


Fast forward now to the late 1980’s and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Churches began meeting again in Russia and Christian groups started pouring into the country. The government felt they needed to impose some restrictions to prevent fanatical groups from entering. So the only churches allowed in Russia were those that had been registered with the government for at least 100 years.


That little group of missionaries had no idea the impact of what they did. They felt they had been failures. They looked for evidence of God’s kingdom in chronos time, but instead God’s Kairos time would use their faithfulness to allow the Methodist Church to emerge 100 years later.


The Kingdom of God is made visible in us, but it belongs to God and works in the eternal dimension. The Kingdom requires not only our faithful witness in the social and personal realms of our world, but trust that God uses the little seeds we plant, the refugia faith we show, and in God’s time brings forth life.