3rd Sunday in Lent March 4, 2018
155, 143:1-5, 158, 143
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
#3) The Second Petition
“Thy kingdom come.”
What does this mean?
God’s kingdom certainly comes all by itself, even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it also come to us.
How does the kingdom of God come?
God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and live a godly life here in time and hereafter in eternity.
It’s the kind of chaos that results in hundreds of middle school and high school students leaving the class room to march for miles and confront their governor, senators, and president with their demand: “Do something!” In the wake of such tragedies as Sandy Hook and now Parkland, the collective cry goes out: “Do something!” What is it they are really searching for? Why is it that they call for action? As young people look to the future, what is it they are afraid of?
It is the fear of chaos. Our children grow up seeing a world that appears out of control. So they come in droves, marching together to the foot of capital hill and right to the doors of the White House, demanding that something be done.
What they are really looking for is order. They witness mass shootings and they look for proof that such chaos can be slowed down, brought under control, and ultimately defeated. Whether by more guns, or no guns—what they are really looking for is this: a kingdom that is ordered by peace, security, and justice.
What so many don’t realize is that the ultimate answer is not going to be found in Washington. True peace is not going to be found in signing a bill into law. True security is not going to be found in the well armed presence of a officer. True justice is not going to be found in the gavel of a judge. Rather it will be found right here, in the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. In this petition, we pray that God’s kingdom would come. We are praying for a kingdom ordered by peace, security, and justice.
So then, in such a time of trouble, turmoil, and tragedy, we turn to the King for answers. In the courtroom of Pilate in John 18, the true King is on trial as the powers of chaos and darkness are swirling about Him. The people and Pilate are searching for answers, demanding something be done—but they are looking for it in all the wrong places. They want to prove that this world in which they live is a world they can still control. They want to preserve a place in which they can maintain their power. They want action to prove that they can solve their own problems. And so they cry “crucify Him!"
Chaos is the devil’s domain. It is the soil in which his seeds are sown. It is the canvas on which he paints. It is the music to which he dances. And it swirls about us wherever sin or suffering or death seem to be getting the upper hand. It swirls about Jesus on Good Friday, constantly threatening to bring an end to everything.
On the one hand you have the crowds. The crowds that surround Jesus on Good Friday morning do not represent a well ordered system of government. This is no planned protest. They are not petitioning the governor for justice or seeking a fair trial. This is a mob. They are easily swayed; they go with whatever feels right, whatever sounds best. They are stirred by anger or suspicion or greed. And Jesus is a threat to their impulsive desires and must go.
Then you have the religious leaders. The chief priests and elders are behind this chaos and turmoil. They have taken Jesus captive by nightfall. They have plotted false allegations and false witnesses against Him. They have brought Him to Pilate without any real evidence of wrong doing. They are shouting and demanding that He be put to death. They are more willing to bow to Caesar than to acknowledge that Jesus is their King.
Then you have Pilate. He represents the well ordered Roman government, a system of justice placed into this world by God. As Pilate himself says, “Do You not know that I have power to crucify You and power to release You?” Yet, here we see that Pilate really is not representing justice. Rather, he is representing power. There is no accountability, no objective law or truth. “What is truth?” he says. He can do as he sees fit. Such power in the hands of men without the fear of God is a recipe for chaos and corruption.
We are used to the workings of such kingdoms, and in many ways can see the same sort of thing happening in our own nation. When we lose a sense of objective law or no longer submit to an all powerful God, we are left with nothing more than the shouts of the mob. We are left to the plotting and scheming of the religious leaders. We are left to the final decision of the governor.
That is why kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall. And the devil waits patiently for those moments in lives and history where he can exploit the chaos that we are inhibiting. When we look for truth, he stirs up falsehoods and fake news. When we look for answers, he stirs up anger and arguments. When we look for action, he stirs up discord and distractions.
And that is what leads crowds of young people before cameras and politicians demanding action. In this latests shooting in Florida, we see a breakdown in the system on multiple levels. We see negligence in the FBI; we hear of accusations of failures in the police force; we read about the insufficiency of background checks. In other words, to the eyes of 14, 15, and 16 year olds there is chaos, a world where they are not being protected. So they shout: “Do something!"
While there is always more that could be done to ensure the safety of our schools, we first need to realize what lies beneath the questions and demands that those students are looking for. They are looking for a kingdom which can truly bring order to all this chaos.
Underlying all the demands knocking at the doors of politicians, there is a more heartfelt cry, a more deeply distressed demand, a more troubled thought. You see glimpses of it here and there, in interviews and on Facebook posts. Posts like, “please pray for us,” or statements like, “You are in our prayers,” brings out a deeper longing for something no policy can satisfy. Under all that pain, suffering, and confusion, is the need to call upon God.
While many may not even realize why they should pray, or what they should be praying for, or to whom they should be praying, the longing is there. The need and longing exists deep within, “Thy kingdom come.” It is a prayer that God would come as King to make things right again, restoring peace, security, and justice. Yet, in the eyes of the world, God is not really in charge. What we see is a kingdom where violence, discord, greed, and power struggles rule the day.
The truth escapes so many, including the crowds, and even the religious leaders. They do not see what they really need in a time of confusion or how God will bring it to them. So Jesus tells Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” Again Pilate asks, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answers, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
The truth is shocking. The coming of God’s kingdom is not in the power of human policy or the safety of our circumstance. It is not by having the order that brings more guns into our schools or the laws of keeps them out. If it were, God would have ordered twelve legions of angels to come to Jesus’ aid. If it were, Jesus would have order His disciples to fight. If it were, Pilate would have been forced to relinquish his authority, the leaders would have been forced to give up their power, and the crowds would have been forced to bow.
But Jesus’ kingdom is not from here. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. It is beyond what we see with our eyes. It is a spiritual kingdom and the battle He wages is waged against the true enemy—the devil and evil at its most primal level. So the victory is not going to be found in Jerusalem. Rather it is going to be found in the ears and hearts of those who listen to Jesus.
The kingdom is hidden. Had Jesus not revealed it and taught us to pray, we would never see it. Jesus’ own power was not found in escaping death, but in facing it. Jesus’ victory was accomplished in the face of seeming defeat. God’s peace, security, and justice were brought to us in the violence, abuse, and injustice of the cross. For there God was loving and rescuing the world from sin. As Paul writes, “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
God’s kingdom comes when the devil is defeated. God’s righteous rule is demonstrated as Jesus rises from the dead and we are set free from the sin that lies within each of us. God’s kingdom comes when God’s forgiveness reigns and when the hope of the gospel leads crowds of Christians to the doors of heaven, pounding, crying, demanding God’s help. For He has promised to help us and He does help us; He does bring us peace; He does bring us safety; He does bring us justice.
In the Second Petition, Jesus welcomes us to be part of the royal administration of God’s kingdom. We are ordained as His royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). We are members of His royal cabinet. Because Jesus is God’s Son, the Great High Priest, the Advocate and Mediator—because He sits at the right hand of God, so do we (Ephesians 2:6). We share His status as sons of God by faith (Galatians 3:26).
This means the invitation to pray, “Thy kingdom come,” is not just an invitation to ask for God’s help against evil, but to actually participate in His power and reign over evil. His kingdom brings us the victory of the resurrection, so that no matter what chaos this world stirs around us and no matter what tragedy the future threatens to bring upon us, we remain at peace, safe, because things remain just as they ought to be in God’s heavenly kingdom.
Now that doesn’t mean life will become easy for us. In fact, it means life may be more difficult. It requires faith and constant renewal by God’s word and promise. To face such an evil and such tragedy as we witnessed in Florida, calls for Christ and the power of the gospel to rescue us. It calls for the cross of Jesus to be held up before us. It calls us all to humility and repentance. It calls us to bow, to cry, to ask that God would have mercy and help us.
Only with the Holy Spirit at our side can we face such pain or rightly try to help others who face the same. Whether we march on Washington, stand in front of a microphone, or actually debate these issues in Congress—we first acknowledge the power that reigns over all of our lives and the only one who can save us from the evil that lurks in this fallen world. Then the order of God’s kingdom can trickle down into our lives and begin to show itself in the godly example we set, the laws and action we promote, the people we love and are concerned with. Then we can rightly address the safety of our schools and future of our children.
It is just such a witness that actually does make a difference. It is like the faded remains of a cross which marks a woman’s forehead. In a collision of kingdoms, the tragic shooting in Florida took place on Ash Wednesday. In a Time Magazine article, I came across a picture of a woman in tears, embracing a friend tightly. On her forehead were the faded remains of ashes spread in the shape of a cross.
The reason some Christians put ashes on their forehead is both to remember the curse of Adam: “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” and to remember the humility of the cross in which our Lord submits to our death and becomes a curse for us.
While we might not have those ashes on our forehead today, what they represent is a prayer that we all pray. We are all witnesses to the cross and in such times of sorrow, we are reminded that our Lord Jesus Christ joins us in our sorrows, even as He joins us in our prayers. With Jesus we pray “Thy Kingdom Come,” and we ask that God’s Spirit would come to us and bring us the victory of Christ’s resurrection.
So then, when ever tragedy should strike or evil should stir up chaos and trouble, let us draw near to the embrace of Christ. Let us stand with Him, tears on our face, and the fading image of ashes marked on our minds. And with that cross of Christ, we are welcomed boldly to God’s throne of grace, to pray: “Thy kingdom come.” Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
“The Second Petition” and Explanation are from “Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, A Handbook of Christian Doctrine,” by Michael A. Sydow; Published by the CLC Board of Education and Publications, 2006.