Sermon 8-14-2016; “Thy Kingdom, Come”
Matthew 6:1-13 Cotton Patch Gospels, Armchair Mystic, St. Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati, 1989
Mark Thibodeaux, S.J.,
Psalm 139:7 (God is Everywhere!)
"Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Mark Thibodeaux, a Jesuit Priest, wrote a book, Armchair Mystic, about Contemplative Prayer, and takes a look at The Lord’s Prayer. Studying phrase by phrase as we are this month, Thibodeaux asks us to look at the words carefully… Who is God in this phrase? The king. What kind of king is he? What would it be like if his kingdom came? Or has it already come? If so, how? How has it not? Why has it not?
Who am I in this phrase? I am God’s subject. What does my King expect of me? What do I expect of the King? How far will I go in service to God, my King? How loyal am I? How loyal do I want to be?
Friend Elton Trueblood once wrote: “We are told to pray for the Kingdom, which is defined as that situation in which God’s will is made manifest on earth. Our prayer is that that which is potential may become actual, here and now. We are keenly aware of how far from such a situation we, in fact, are. God’s will is not now perfectly done, perhaps not anywhere. If it were, there would be no point in praying for it!”
But Christ taught his disciples – and us - to pray that God’s kingdom would come, that God’s will would be done, that earth and heaven would be one. Why did he want us to ask for such an incredible thing? I think it’s because Christ knew it could happen – if we put ourselves in the phrase. If we each meant the prayer we prayed. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…” If humankind, if Christ’s followers, if those who counted God as king, would live in a way that invited the kingdom of God into the world, it would come. If we would live in God’s will, we would see it ‘made manifest’. If we would live as those who know God is present in our lives, and the lives of all humankind, God would be made visible – not just in heaven, but on earth. God and God’s kingdom would be made known.
Friends believe that there is no reason to wait for death to be with God… to live in God’s
kingdom. We believe we do, now. That God’s presence is real, and made known in our lives. And that changes the way we see, and live in, the world. We are not meant to abandon the world for the hope of heaven. We are meant to live in the world, experiencing the same Presence of God with us now that heaven holds.
Friends believe, as Jesus taught, that the kingdom of God surrounds us. So many times, Jesus shared stories, explaining God’s kingdom… “The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, like buried treasure in a field, like a farmer sowing seeds, like a leaven for bread, like a fisherman’s net. Jesus showed us how real, how ordinary yet extraordinary, how palpable the kingdom of God is. It is not just a place with pearly gates and streets of gold. On the contrary, it is very much an everyday reality that we must choose to live out. Christ is teaching us to see this in our earthly lives, and make God’s kingdom real for everyone.
Jesus lived a very ordinary life. He got up in the morning, dressed for the day, ate breakfast, and headed to his dad’s shop. He worked sawing and shaping wood. He sanded, he sawed, he fastened, he did all that his dad had showed him how to do. He supported the family business. For thirty years, he lived his life. The sacrament of life. The one incredible, ordinary life he was given – just as you and I are. The astonishing, beautiful thing called life.
He made something out of nothing. A block of wood became a table leg, a vase, a bowl… something useful and beautiful. He saw what others did not see. This is a lesson about the kingdom of God. It is the way we see the world in every person. There is something there – as George Fox said, ‘there is that of God in every person’. We are called, just as Christ was, out of the sweetness of the carpenter’s shop and into the world around us, seeing in others what they do not see.
Christ did it. Christ showed up. Christ showed up to his own life. No matter what, no matter where… Christ showed up. And God asks us – expects us - to do the same. To make the kingdom of God real. This is God’s will… to see God’s kingdom on earth, even as it is in heaven.
I spent all day yesterday at a Leadership Conference at Earlham School of Religion, about holy experiences and risk taking. The plenary speaker was Samir Selmanovic, who grew up a in a culturally Muslim family in Croatia, converted to Christianity as a soldier in the then-Yugoslavian army, and went on to become a Christian pastor in Manhattan and in Southern California.
This is a poem that Samir shared with us yesterday at the Conference:
Self Portrait by — David Whyte
from Fire in the Earth, Many Rivers Press, 1992
It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.
I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.
He told a story about a woman, out in the cold on morning in New York City, forced into Samir’s church by the weather. She would never have come in, except for the cold. She was a practicing witch… a good witch!... but a witch, part of a Wiccan congregation. A church was absolutely the last place she wanted to be. Samir spoke to her, befriended her, and eventually, Sue became a part of the life of his family. He and his wife hired her as their babysitter. Samir reminded us that “we know enough to judge, but not enough to relate to other people. The ‘others’ – the ‘outsiders’. Are we willing to help people see what we see?
Samir invited people to share their stories of failure, to see God in failure. And he asked Sue, by then a regular part of the congregation, if she would pray. They had to agree on a name for God, and finally she chose ‘holy spirit’. Here is Sue’s prayer:
Dear Holy Spirit,
I am not a Christian. My son and I may one day be. But we belong to this community. What would the world be like without them? Without these pastors? Without their love?
Thy kingdom, come. Do we invite God’s kingdom to come? Are we willing to show up, and make God real in the world? It would be easy to stay in the carpenter’s shop, shut the door, focus on the work at hand, and despair about the condition of the world beyond us. Samir challenged us, saying that the kingdom of God is deeper outside the church than in… Too many times we stay in our Meetings, in our churches, doing good work we’ve been trained to do, only to discover Jesus standing at the window, waving his arms, and calling us out into the consequence of God’s love, into struggle, into despair, into loneliness, and into the risk of sure defeat. That’s where Jesus went. And he invites us to come. It would be great if we could remain in our own little heavenly homes, and ‘let the rest of the world go by’. But Christ insists that we ask for God’s kingdom to come into our own lives… into our ordinary work and routines; that we show up to our own lives, that we make God’s kingdom as real on earth as it is in heaven.
Why did you come to Meeting this morning? What did you want? What did you need? What did you hope to find? There are so many people who need and want the same things… who crave silence, who hunger for presence, who need friendship and companionship, who want to know God is real. Rather than thinking of this as a problem, consider it a possibility! Is it possible that they would find those things where you have found them? Is it possible that they have been standing outside churches or meetinghouses, waiting for the weather to change, to push them forward in their lives? Hoping for an invitation into the warmth of God’s embrace?
How can we see what is not there? How can I invite God’s kingdom into my life? How can I show up to my own life, to God in me, and especially, to God in others? Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven…