And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
If you visit London, you can see this world’s kingdom, all set out before you in stone and glass: the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, the National Gallery, the Shard, and so on. As in the capital of any nation, the principalities and the powers are given sculptural and architectural embodiment. Everything is bigger than it needs to be, made to appear eternal. The Lord’s Prayer has a problem with all that. We were warned, right at the first, that Jesus was the one who set up a new kingdom. We were warned by Mary in her ”Magnificat" that things were going to get rough.
When you read the Magnificat, you can’t avoid the fact that it’s deeply political, economic, and social. When the poor are lifted up and the rich are sent away empty, God’s kingdom is breaking out. When the hungry get food, God’s kingdom is erupting among us. When a poor, unmarried, pregnant, peasant woman clenches her fist and sings about the victory of God, it says something to Washington, Moscow, and Westminster. When a baby cries out in the ghetto, and the stars start acting strangely, Herod beware. When a congregation prays "yours is the kingdom” the local Council ought to get nervous. The Church exists to sign, to signal, to sing about that tension whereby those who are at the bottom are being lifted up and those who are on top are being sent down.
Kingdom is a risky, dangerous, word, but it’s a word that so much of the world loves. Kings build their kingdoms and defend them with murderous intensity. Nowadays, of course, the people are "King"; we live in a democracy. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that because democracy has made us kings over ourselves everything is alright: modern history has demonstrated that democracies are every bit as murderous as dictatorships in defending themselves. Remember that we pray “Kingdom” immediately after we have spoken of temptation and evil.
The kingdom is yours, eternal Christ. Kingdom’ is not a ruling autocrat upon the throne, scattering orders like cheap confetti and destined to lie discarded on the ground A kingdom is a relationship of love, and joyful obedience; responsibility shared, each subject truly valued. The kingdom is yours, eternal Christ. Amen.
The Rev’d Michael Hopkins is Minister of the Spire Church, Farnham, Elstead URC, and serves as Clerk of the General Assembly.
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