Monday, July 26, 2010

Sermon on Luke 11:1-13, for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost, "Your Kingdom Come!"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Several weeks ago on Father’s Day we learned what a privilege it is to come to our dear Father in prayer, as we pray “Our Father.” Today we consider how praying the words: “Thy Kingdom Come” are life-changing and world-changing. Also, how the Lord’s Prayer really draws us into the daily life of this world so that God may bring His kingdom among us also. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Thy Kingdom Come.” The Small Catechism explains “what does this mean?” by saying: “The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.” So we don’t make the kingdom of God come by our prayers, but we ask to become part of that kingdom. God of course is the one who brings about His kingdom, and Jesus Himself was the coming of that Kingdom. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7). Like a rushing river flowing through this world, God’s kingdom is moving on toward its goal. That goal is the day of the Lord, when Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead. Then the kingdom of God will be fully revealed and fully seen in its glory.

Jesus referred to kingdom of God countless times through the Gospels, and used numerous parables to teach what the kingdom of God is. Yet at the same time the kingdom of God is very simple—that God is King over all things—His rule extends over all the universe, His church, and all spiritual powers. Simply, there’s nothing of which God is not the highest Lord and King. The kingdom of God is full of mysteries or paradoxes, which is why Jesus taught so extensively about it. The kingdom of God is here and now, its something active and moving—yet its something hidden from the world. We participate in that kingdom on different levels. Since God’s kingdom extends over all creation, both the physical and spiritual world, everyone is under His rule, even if they don’t acknowledge or recognize it. But as Christians we participate in a different way in that kingdom. The Catechism further explains “Thy Kingdom Come” with the question: “How does God’s kingdom come?”

The answer is “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.” So Christians participate in God’s kingdom as citizens and children of God. Children who call on their dear heavenly Father. Not as rebels or enemies who stand against His power. God’s kingdom comes to us when God graciously invites us to believe, and gives us His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the faith that He brings, and baptism are all tied hand in hand in bringing us into that kingdom. We worship and acknowledge God as our King, and serve Him by leading godly lives here in time and there in eternity. That little phrase: “here in time and there in eternity” teaches us another mystery: that its present now, but it’s not yet fully here. Now but not yet. The river is moving, and we’ve entered it by baptism, but we’ve not yet reached our destination. The kingdom of God is moving and bringing us toward our heavenly goal.

Not so that we’re so heavenly-minded that we’re no earthly good, as a common saying goes. In fact that’s part of the surprise and the boldness of praying “thy kingdom come.” We’re not praying to be transported out of this world, or to be secluded from it. But as Jesus prayed to His Father: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17:15-18). So far from being no earthly good, praying “your kingdom come” puts us back in the world to be a blessing to the world, and to bring God’s Word and Spirit to others, so that they too can participate in the kingdom as citizens and children of God. But while we’re sent back into the world by Jesus, the Lord’s Prayer also promises us protection and strength. God sends us into the world as servants or agents of His kingdom, sent to advance that kingdom.

Let’s examine how the Lord’s Prayer places us into the world to further God’s kingdom. This by no means exhausts the possibilities. We pray: “Hallowed be Thy Name.” That is we pray for God’s name to be kept Holy. So our lives and our words should give honor and glory to God’s name, since we represent our Lord and King on earth. We keep His name holy on earth by keeping His Word in its truth and purity, and leading godly lives by His Spirit. We keep God’s name holy with our lips. We don’t speak falsely in God’s name, we don’t use His name as a curse word or an exclamation point when we’re surprised, shocked, or angry. We keep His name holy by using it for prayer, for worship, for thanksgiving. We speak His name to proclaim the good things He has done, to acknowledge that He is the King and that all things in the past, present, and future fall under His authority. We take the misuse of His name very seriously as a great offense to God, and strive to put it only to holy and good use.

We pray “give us this day our daily bread.” This teaches us that while we live in God’s kingdom, we should recognize that He is the source of our every physical and spiritual blessing. The fact that we pray the word daily helps us to recognize that we should neither be greedy nor wasteful, that we should not worry about the future, but always trust that God will provide what we need (Gary Zimmerman). There’s an obscure person named Agur who has some prayerful words of wisdom directed to God in Proverbs 30. He prayed: “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” His words are a beautiful commentary on the Lord’s Prayer. The first thing he asks from God is to keep him from falsehood and lying, just as we pray for God’s name to be kept holy among us, and to avoid lying or dishonoring His name.

But the second thing he asks is for God to make him neither rich nor poor. Give me today my daily bread—the food that is needful for me. If he has too much, if he is rich and feels that he needs nothing, he’ll be tempted to think, “Who is the Lord?” What do I need God for? I provide for all my own needs. Jesus warned against this arrogance that puts our trust in the material possessions and things that we have accumulated, and find our security in them. He warns that our life can be taken in a moment, and then what becomes of all our wealth? So daily bread is to keep us satisfied with the things God gives us each day. On the other hand, Agur prays that God would not make him poor, so that he is not tempted to steal and again dishonor the name of God.

We honor the name of God when we give thanks to Him for our daily bread and realize that He’s the source of everything we need to support this body and life. When we pray “give us this day our daily bread” we’re not just praying for our own needs, but that God would continue to “create and sustain every job that brings me my daily bread and provide faithful workers for them, i.e.: farmer, buyer, shipper, processor, baker, trucker, stocker, sales clerk, etc. I am praying that God will have me share my daily bread with those who are unable to work for theirs” (Gary Zimmerman). And this prayer and petition just multiplies exponentially when we consider that daily bread is not just the loaf of bread or the food on your table, but our clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors and the like.

When we consider how broad and inclusive the good things are that God provides us to sustain our daily life, we realize that these simple words describe an incredible degree of God’s care, protection, and involvement in the good of His kingdom in this world. This petition is all about the “earthly good” that God is working through His kingdom, and how we are called to be faithful and thankful workers within it, as we separately perform our jobs to keep a peaceful and ordered society, and to allow goods and services to be fairly exchanged and distributed.

Yet as we live in the kingdom of God, we often do fall under the influence of this world and are drawn away. We neglect our duties to God and our fellow man. We’re irresponsible or dishonest at work. We take advantage of others. We hurt people by our words and deeds. And we dishonor the name of God. We’re called by the name Christian, but our actions and words often fail to show it. We may fall into false belief when we accept dangerous or misleading teachings. The devil is a master at warping the Word of God and the Truth, and turning it into error. We may fall into despair, as life in the kingdom is rarely easy. We may face challenges to our faith, challenges to our walk with Christ, and there may be persistent sins that we struggle to overcome. Failure and constant attack can push us to despair. We feel defeated.

But this is exactly why in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus makes provisions for our weaknesses and our failings. Jesus provides for His servants, His agents in His kingdom. If we’re carried along in the river of His kingdom, we may encounter rapids and swift currents. We may feel frightened or tossed about at times, as that river courses through the uneven terrain of our lives, with its hidden dangers. But although we’re attacked by these things, by the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh—we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory. Jesus provides for our safety and protection as we work in His kingdom by forgiving our sins, by keeping us from temptation, and delivering us from evil.

When we confess that we’ve neglected our duties, that we’ve hurt our friends or neighbors, when we’ve not lived to honor God’s name, when we feel defeated by sin, Christ proclaims His forgiveness for our sins. One of the key marks of God’s kingdom is the pure teaching of His Gospel—the grace and undeserved love that God shows to us. Wherever that river of God’s kingdom flows, it brings with it the refreshing, healing, and life-giving water of Jesus Christ. He is the water of life (John 7:37-39), and we drink, swim, and are refreshed in that water of His kingdom. In the waters of baptism we are dripping wet and clean from our sin. When Jesus died on the cross, water and blood poured from His side in a forgiving stream, taking the guilt, shame, despair, and punishment of our sin away.

By the same token we’re strengthened and guarded from temptation and delivered from evil. Living in this kingdom of God is still a great challenge because we’re still in the “now” of this world and life. We still face the temptations, attacks, and assaults of the evil one, namely the devil. The devil wars to drag us out of that river, to pull us out of the kingdom. To make us stones and obstacles to others and to God’s kingdom. The devil would leave us parched and dying in the desert, far from the life-giving water. So all the more as we daily pray the Lord’s Prayer, we take up and arm ourselves against evil and temptation, we receive the forgiveness of our sins which gives us a clean conscience, and we live by the daily bread of God that feeds and nourishes us as we become God’s servants and agents of godly change and transformation in this world. With His Word on our lips and His Prayer in our mouths we are equipped for a life of service in His kingdom, carried by His rive until our last hour comes and He gives us a blessed end, graciously taking us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven. Amen. Amen means—“Yes, yes, it shall be so!” Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points:
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1. How does praying Lord’s Prayer, and specifically “Your Kingdom Come” send us into the world for His work? How is it a life-changing and world-changing prayer? See the Small Catechism, and the explanations to the Lord’s Prayer.

2. How did Jesus teach about the kingdom of God being “at hand?” What response did He look for? Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 10:7. What is the kingdom of God? Explain how the kingdom of God is now but not yet. Luke 10:9-11; 17:20-21; 22:29-30. How do we recognize the kingdom of God?

3. How are we brought into the kingdom of God? How does each petition of the Lord’s Prayer relate to our life in that kingdom of God, and guide and equip us for the trials, challenges, and responsibilities of life in the kingdom? See Jesus’ Prayer in John 17, esp. verses 15-18.

4. How do we keep God’s name holy in our lives? How have we not? How broad is the prayer/petition “give us this daily bread?” What is included, among all the good gifts of God? What significance is there to praying “daily”? How do the words of Agur teach us to have a daily trust in God? Read Proverbs 30:7-9.

5. Who provides daily bread? Who is involved? How are we involved in bringing about that earthly good?

6. How does the Lord’s Prayer anticipate and provide for our sin and failings? How does God guard and deliver us from evil? John 7:37-39. How does Jesus provide for our forgiveness?

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