Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kingdom-come moments

We spent this evening with some good friends.  One of them stood at his dad's bedside a week ago and watched him slowly take his final breaths on this earth.  Tonight we sat in our friends' living room, and listened to a 53-year-old man talk about his dad's dying and his living and the immense privilege it has been to be the son of such a man as his father's.  As Beve asked gentle but probing questions, I thought of what a privilege it is to share in such moments--listening to this friend, listening to his wife (also, of course, deeply involved and moved by the death of this father).  These kinds of conversations, this sitting together with others as they hurt, or when they rejoice--these are "Thy Kingdom come" moments.

"Thy Kingdom come," Jesus tells us to pray.  When we pray this, we are asking to participate in the most important thing Jesus came to earth to bring, according to Matthew, the Kingdom of God.  I might well say, the most important thing Jesus came to BE.  In Mark, Jesus tells us, "The Kingdom of God is near," (1: 15), and what He's talking about is Himself.  Jesus is, in a very real sense, synonymous with the Kingdom.  Wherever Jesus is, there is the Kingdom of God. What that means here and now, is that wherever His is in us, there is the Kingdom.  Are two believers together?  There is the Kingdom.  When we are working together (building houses in Mexico, or cooking for a neighbor here at home) we are working fro the Kingdom. When we teach Sunday School, we are extending the Kingdom, as well as when we extend a helping hand.  This is the great Commission we were given in Matthew 28--to go into all the world, to extend the Kingdom of God to the whole earth.  And if we sit quietly together in front of a fire, listening to a person's giref, this is the best of Kingdom work.

Look around you--wherever the church gathers, there is the Kingdom.  I'm not talking about only Sunday mornings, I'm talking about at the nearest coffee shop, or on street corners, or in the middle of the produce aisle at Safeway. The Kingdom we are called to invite into our lives, comes when every day, in myriad moments.  When you're quietly praying with someone, certainly there is the Kingdom, but when you're washing dishes beside someone who dries them, you are also extending the Kingdom.

Why is this? Because the Kingdom of God resides within us who are filled with the Holy Spirit of the King.  We who have been saved by the Incarnate, are now the Incarnation of that Kingdom.  We are the Kingdom that the world sees. The Kingdom of God is substantially different from the Kingdoms of this world, so if we pray this petition, we must be prepared to live as the Kingdom life He intends.  The Kingdom's goal is redemption of the world, the reconciliation of all people to God and to each other.  Can you hear this behind the words of "May your Kingdom come"?  Can you pray for these things for all people, even those you find difficult (or maybe particularly those you find difficult)?  May His Kingdom come---to me, in me, through me.  That's what I pray when I pray these words.

However, we must also understand that the great celebration of the Kingdom has not yet come.  It will, and all of creation holds its breath for that great and glorious day when the great banquet begins.  We live in the balance of these truths:that the Kingdom came with Jesus, it exists and is extended through us, and will be fulfilled in Glory when God finally chooses.  And as we pray these words, we are also praying in full-throated hope for that Day of all Days.  The King will return, and we will dance.

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