On earth as in heaven

Nancy and I were asked to preach at the local Lenten series on the second phrase of the Lord’s prayer… Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” Here is text of that sermon…

“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven…”

 

D: One of my grandmother’s favorite expressions was “til kingdom come…” As in you can pout ’til kingdom come and I still won’t let you take take the boat out alone at your age…” The idea was kingdom come was a long time and almost forever away

Yet one of the recurrent themes in Jesus preaching & teaching was the nearness of God’s kingdom. The Gospels record his saying the Kingdom is near.

But that translation into English may not be the most accurate. If one uses the Greek word translated as NEAR, the implication is that the Kingdom of God is sometime in the future, and not yet here. .”   In Hebrew and Aramaic the word translated “to come near” means: “TO BE AT”.  So the Hebrew/Aramaic sense actually means the exact opposite of the English.  In Aramaic and Hebrew It means: “IT IS HERE! IT HAS ARRIVED!” The Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God is always — present tense — it is NOW. Perhaps we best understand it in paradox – the kingdom Jesus speaks of is already among us but not yet fully seen and lived.

N: Jesus would have been formed by the Torah and the prophets of Hebrew scriptures. From the Levitical command to love our neighbors as you love yourself” to the more striking and almost contemporary sounding admonition “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34)

The Prophets were vociferous advocates of justice and radical hospitality. Amos, for instance, complained that poor people are being oppressed and the needy crushed, warning that the God of justice will avenge such injustice (Amos 2:4-9; 4:1).  An historical as well as thematic link probably existed between Amos and the prophets Micah and Isaiah.

D: Think of Abraham receiving the three angels (strangers) in Gen18, the Midian priest taking in Moses in Ex. 2, Rahab allowing Joshua’s spies to stay with her in Josh. 2, or even Nehemiah extending hospitality to a random trumpet player.  The Old Testament is full of examples of hospitality being extended to strangers who become valued guests. These were the soil in which Jesus ideas and values too shape and grew.

N. The kingdom Jesus proclaimed was not a political structure though it had and has political implications. Jesus was suggesting in this moidel of prayer that we create in the here and NOW God’s kingdom on earth consistent with God’s purpose and God’s values as symbolized by heaven. The coming of reign of God is progressive. It begins and is in the midst of us before all see its existence – and it grows within and around us.  In the Gospel of Luke Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.

D: But what might this kingdom, this reign of God look like?  I believe we see it the values Jesus conveys in his teaching. One major value is compassion.  Consider the parable of the workers hired in the vineyard.  The master goes out several times during the day to hire workers for the harvest. those who were hired last were also paid a denarius – a full day’s wage. Why the owner did this is not explained, but the hearer might surmise that it was because these men had families to feed who would go hungry otherwise. In other words, it was out of his compassion that the landowner did what he did. It is at this point in the parable that the hearer experiences an unexpected departure from ordinary experience. Those who were hired first began to murmur because they received the same wage as those hired last. Since this was the amount for which they agreed to work, each man would have been content with his denarius and gone home happy, had it not been for the fact that the other workers received the same wage. They bristle at the fact that those who worked for only one hour are treated the same as they are.

N:  In Matthew and Luke are accounts of John the baptizer sending disciples to ask Jesus if he is the one. Jesus points to his activities and in so doing connects his healing ministry with Old Testament prophecies: “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”

D: In the reign of the Kingdom – there is renewed vision, and wholeness is restored, there is new life, and there is Good News for those who are marginalized. These are works to which we, who have been baptized in Christ, have been called.

We may not be able to cure physical blindness but we can help people catch a new vision of compassion, a new vision of what might be possible in our life or the lives of  others if we live the kingdom now.

We may be able to work to promote healing and wholeness for people helping them secure the resources that will help to strengthen them, to bring them from the margins into the status of a valued brother or sister.

N: Living into the kingdom now means that the church and its members are to assist people to find new life beyond the death of dreams or ideas, the death of betrayal and loss; the death of being marginalized or defamed.  And we are to share the Good News by BEING the Good News to people whose whole experience of the faith has been the judgementalism of others.

D. IN Jeffersonville in 2013 what might this kingdom of Christ on earth as in heaven look like?

Its seeds are seen in the cooperative nature and rapport of the clergy and congregations of the Downtown Churches. It is seen in the work of the Center for Lay Ministries, Bliss House, Haven House and Exit 0 ministries.

The kingdom would ask that we have more of that and that we become advocates for the those whom God protected in the Hebrew scriptures and which the Gospels tells us are of special concern of Jesus’ ministry – the poor, the dispossessed, the marginalized – who are sometimes referred to as the least and lost. But even that phrase itself betrays a sense of judgement rather than radical hospitality.

N: The kingdom coming on earth as in heaven would require that we not only treat the symptoms of poverty, homelessness and hopelessness but that we also become advocates to change the systemic problems from which they arise. It is not enough to feed the hungry we need to find sustainable ways to make sure all are fed.

It is not just giving clothes to the naked – but to help individuals attain the productivity which clothes them and their families in dignity as well as garments.

It is not just visiting the sick – but advocating for finding the causes and cures of illness and disease. Of rooting out the causes of violence in our society and being willing to give up some of our privilege so that others may thrive. Of living simply so others may simply live.

D: It is not easy or simple – this making God’s kingdom present and living it into existence here on earth. It is far easier to dream of it as pie in the sky by and by.

This seemingly simple prayer that we share with all other Christians is not simple in its requirements. This model of prayer given to us by our Lord gives us a radical vision of what it is God wants for us to be, and wants for us to do to make God’s reign present and real for all of God’s people.

“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven…”

 

D: One of my grandmother’s favorite expressions was “til kingdom come…” As in you can pout ’til kingdom come and I still won’t let you take take the boat out alone at your age…” The idea was kingdom come was a long time and almost forever away

Yet one of the recurrent themes in Jesus preaching & teaching was the nearness of God’s kingdom. The Gospels record his saying the Kingdom is near.

But that translation into English may not be the most accurate. If one uses the Greek word translated as NEAR, the implication is that the Kingdom of God is sometime in the future, and not yet here. .”   In Hebrew and Aramaic the word translated “to come near” means: “TO BE AT”.  So the Hebrew/Aramaic sense actually means the exact opposite of the English.  In Aramaic and Hebrew It means: “IT IS HERE! IT HAS ARRIVED!” The Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God is always — present tense — it is NOW. Perhaps we best understand it in paradox – the kingdom Jesus speaks of is already among us but not yet fully seen and lived.

 

N: Jesus would have been formed by the Torah and the prophets of Hebrew scriptures. From the Levitical command to love our neighbors as you love yourself” to the more striking and almost contemporary sounding admonition “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34)

 

The Prophets were vociferous advocates of justice and radical hospitality. Amos, for instance, complained that poor people are being oppressed and the needy crushed, warning that the God of justice will avenge such injustice (Amos 2:4-9; 4:1).  An historical as well as thematic link probably existed between Amos and the prophets Micah and Isaiah.

 

D: Think of Abraham receiving the three angels (strangers) in Gen18, the Midian priest taking in Moses in Ex. 2, Rahab allowing Joshua’s spies to stay with her in Josh. 2, or even Nehemiah extending hospitality to a random trumpet player.  The Old Testament is full of examples of hospitality being extended to strangers who become valued guests. These were the soil in which Jesus ideas and values too shape and grew.

 

N. The kingdom Jesus proclaimed was not a political structure though it had and has political implications. Jesus was suggesting in this moidel of prayer that we create in the here and NOW God’s kingdom on earth consistent with God’s purpose and God’s values as symbolized by heaven. The coming of reign of God is progressive. It begins and is in the midst of us before all see its existence – and it grows within and around us.  In the Gospel of Luke Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.

 

D: But what might this kingdom, this reign of God look like?  I believe we see it the values Jesus conveys in his teaching. One major value is compassion.  Consider the parable of the workers hired in the vineyard.  The master goes out several times during the day to hire workers for the harvest. those who were hired last were also paid a denarius – a full day’s wage. Why the owner did this is not explained, but the hearer might surmise that it was because these men had families to feed who would go hungry otherwise. In other words, it was out of his compassion that the landowner did what he did. It is at this point in the parable that the hearer experiences an unexpected departure from ordinary experience. Those who were hired first began to murmur because they received the same wage as those hired last. Since this was the amount for which they agreed to work, each man would have been content with his denarius and gone home happy, had it not been for the fact that the other workers received the same wage. They bristle at the fact that those who worked for only one hour are treated the same as they are.

 

N:  In Matthew and Luke are accounts of John the baptizer sending disciples to ask Jesus if he is the one. Jesus points to his activities and in so doing connects his healing ministry with Old Testament prophecies: “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”

 

D: In the reign of the Kingdom – there is renewed vision, and wholeness is restored, there is new life, and there is Good News for those who are marginalized. These are works to which we, who have been baptized in Christ, have been called.

We may not be able to cure physical blindness but we can help people catch a new vision of compassion, a new vision of what might be possible in our life or the lives of  others if we live the kingdom now.

We may be able to work to promote healing and wholeness for people helping them secure the resources that will help to strengthen them, to bring them from the margins into the status of a valued brother or sister.

 

N: Living into the kingdom now means that the church and its members are to assist people to find new life beyond the death of dreams or ideas, the death of betrayal and loss; the death of being marginalized or defamed.  And we are to share the Good News by BEING the Good News to people whose whole experience of the faith has been the judgementalism of others.

 

D. IN Jeffersonville in 2013 what might this kingdom of Christ on earth as in heaven look like?

Its seeds are seen in the cooperative nature and rapport of the clergy and congregations of the Downtown Churches. It is seen in the work of the Center for Lay Ministries, Bliss House, Haven House and Exit 0 ministries.

The kingdom would ask that we have more of that and that we become advocates for the those whom God protected in the Hebrew scriptures and which the Gospels tells us are of special concern of Jesus’ ministry – the poor, the dispossessed, the marginalized – who are sometimes referred to as the least and lost. But even that phrase itself betrays a sense of judgement rather than radical hospitality.

N: The kingdom coming on earth as in heaven would require that we not only treat the symptoms of poverty, homelessness and hopelessness but that we also become advocates to change the systemic problems from which they arise. It is not enough to feed the hungry we need to find sustainable ways to make sure all are fed.

It is not just giving clothes to the naked – but to help individuals attain the productivity which clothes them and their families in dignity as well as garments.

It is not just visiting the sick – but advocating for finding the causes and cures of illness and disease. Of rooting out the causes of violence in our society and being willing to give up some of our privilege so that others may thrive. Of living simply so others may simply live.

D: It is not easy or simple – this making God’s kingdom present and living it into existence here on earth. It is far easier to dream of it as pie in the sky by and by.

This seemingly simple prayer that we share with all other Christians is not simple in its requirements. This model of prayer given to us by our Lord gives us a radical vision of what it is God wants for us to be, and wants for us to do to make God’s reign present and real for all of God’s people.

 Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Nancy & Don

 

About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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