Imagine the following scene. In a hurry, as usual, familiar words rush from your mouth: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on Earth as it is heaven.”
Suddenly, abruptly, almost curtly, a voice responds: “Are you sure?”
Shocked, you reply, “Sure of what?”
The voice continues: “Sure that you want my will to be done, my desires to be made actual.”
You: “Well, yeah, we could always use a little more heaven on Earth!”
The voice: “My will: No more children dying of hunger. No more extreme poverty. No more allowing the greed of a few to trump the need of many. Peace among nations, even religions. People truly loving me and each other. These are my desires. This is my will. Is this what you want?”
You: “Yes, sure. Absolutely. All of that sounds exactly right. It sounds very good, in fact.”
The voice: “Then what are you doing to make these things happen?”
Wondering how to finish this now uncomfortable dialogue, you mumble: “Em. Well. Me? What am I doing, you ask?”
The voice, in a calm yet firm tone: “Yes, you. If not you, who? Who else would do my will?”
The dialogue ends.
Wow. Try to catch your breath. If that dialogue happened to you, what would you think, feel and do? Would you ever dare to pray those words again?
After all, the voice — which we assume to be God’s voice — has called you out. You claimed to want God’s will on earth. And the voice met your claim and raised you one: What are you doing to make that claim become reality?
That’s a tough one. In fact, it is so tough that I think we ought to back up and blame it on Jesus. After all, he’s the one who used this phrase in his model prayer.
It’s true. Jesus was big on kingdom of God talk. Line up 100 New Testament scholars and ask what is most central to the message of Jesus, and I bet nearly 100 will say it is this idea that the kingdom of God can transform earthly kingdoms.
Or if you don’t like scholars, just open the Bible. Kingdom of God talk is all over the place, especially in the first three Gospels.In Mark, which is the oldest Gospel, Jesus uses the phrase in his inaugural address: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe this Gospel.” (Mark 1:15) Matthew and Luke both include kingdom talk in their beatitudes and many parables.
So, what did this phrase mean for Jesus? For Jesus, God’s kingdom had a present and a future meaning at the same time.
In the present, right now, you can claim the presence of God within you and among you within community. The future meaning aspect for the kingdom of God envisions a transformed world where relationships are deeper and the Earth and its fullness are rightly recognized as belonging to God. (Psalm 24)
There is more to say about this, but not today. After all, today I am thinking about your prayer to want things ordered the way they would be if God were king and other rulers were not.
It’s a big claim. Are you sure we want that?