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. No more drawing lines between people based on worldly standards. 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 that sounds exactly right. It sounds very good, in fact.”
The voice: “Then what are you doing to make these things happen?”
If that dialogue happened, what would you think and feel; what would you 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, those words, 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 realm of God, or kingdom of God, talk. Line up 100 New Testament scholars and ask what is most central to the message of Jesus, and I bet a bunch and then some will say it is this idea that God’s realm can transform earthly realms.
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, Jesus uses the phrase in his inaugural address: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe” (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 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).
One of my favorite people to quote – that being me – is fond of saying that the future can be better than the present and those of us with opportunities to make it so have responsibilities to make it so. It’s one of my core beliefs and it is rooted in texts such as this one.
God’s will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. It’s a big claim. What are we doing to make it real?
Wilson is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Follow him on Twitter: @nathandaywilson