The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. ‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’ When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.
Here the Lord’s Prayer moves from God towards us and the world. When we pray “your Kingdom come” it can be very easy to assume that we know all about the Kingdom of God just because we’re reasonably intelligent. We all know people who’ve gone to church all their lives, and are still shocked when the penny drops about what Jesus and his Kingdom are all about. When you look at Jesus’ hints, analogies, parables, and images, you see glimpses of the Kingdom, but you don’t get definitions and explanations. Jesus said the Kingdom is like a little seed that silently grows, eventually yielding great harvest; like a rich man who gave all of his property to his servants and then left town. Jesus also says that the Kingdom of God is both here, and not yet.
When we pray “your Kingdom come”, we’re pledging our allegiance to a Jesus, relinquishing our allegiance to the kingdoms of this world. This Kingdom for which we pray is not just a set of ideals, which might be very good in themselves but things for which people can work and strive just as well without God, it’s to believe that God rules in Jesus.
When we pray “your Kingdom come”, we’ve seen the fullness of God in Jesus Christ, but we also know that all the world is not yet fulfilled as God’s world, and we’re living, breathing evidence that God has not abandoned the world. We can be honest about all the ways in which this world is not the Kingdom of God in its fullness, and also hope for more because we know that God’s Kingdom has yet to come. We need not despair in the world’s present situation because, even in us, God has wrestled something from the forces of evil and death. That reclaimed, renovated, territory is us, and when we pray “your Kingdom come”, we help that Kingdom to grow in us.
Great God, in the midst of hunger and war, we celebrate your promise of plenty and peace. In the midst of oppression and tyranny, we celebrate your promise of service and freedom. In the midst of fear and betrayal, we celebrate your promise of joy and loyalty. In the midst of hatred and death, we celebrate your promise of love and life. In the midst of death on every side, we celebrate your promise of the living Christ. Amen.
The Rev’d Michael Hopkins is Minister of the Spire Church, Farnham, Elstead URC, and serves as Clerk of the General Assembly.