Thy kingdom come…
(Understanding God’s Will)
With the second line of The Lord’s Prayer, we arrive at the heart of the matter: God’s kingdom. To understand how Jesus views his Father’s kingdom, we first need to do some–thing that will seem strange. We must take all discussion of “Heaven” off the table. There will be no talk about heaven with a capital “H,” the place we think we’ll go to (if lucky) when we die. We’re just not going to go there.
Why? Because as soon as we see heaven and hell as proper names, as specific places where rewards and punishments are meted out, the acceptance of Christ and all associated good works become petty acts of bribery. The afterlife must remain unknown, because the quality and strength of our faith, as well as the morality of our actions, depends on the mystery. For this reason, Jesus calls us to attend not to the dead1 (who are beyond our reach) but to those who are living and can feel our touch.
It is by nurturing the living God in ourselves and others that we make the Father’s kingdom come.2 But what exactly is this kingdom if it is not what we normally take for heaven? The Gospels provide us with plenty of clues. But also many false leads. We need to be careful when applying our winnowing fans.
We should remember that the tribes who handed down the story of Jesus believed that a final day of judgment would occur during their own generation.3 That is why the apostles are so despondent after Jesus’s death. They thought he was going to physically deliver Jerusalem from Roman authority, and then rule over an earthly kingdom.4 But Jesus had something different in mind. He wanted his disciples to view the Lord not as a King on High but as a secret spirit living in us all,5 with the power to reveal a kingdom already here.6
Therefore, we must sidestep any reference to the end–time theologies7 that were prevalent during Jesus’s day, and which today have made best–selling authors of those who exploit fears of being left behind. After all, how is it that we will find ourselves raptured into the sky or see Jesus surfing down from the clouds,8 when God’s kingdom, we are told, cannot be witnessed by the eye because it lives within us?9 The answer is, we can’t, and won’t. The gates of heaven are unlocked when our hearts and minds work in unison to discover God’s Word,10 which is alive all around us.
That is why Jesus insists on talking in parables when describing the kingdom: because parables make us think. They don’t dictate hard and fast answers. Jesus, like the river guide, leads us upstream to where the fish are, but insists that we make our own catch. The problem though is that we often feel stranded upriver without a pole!
But Jesus doesn’t actually leave us…
The Lord’s Prayer. To continue reading, click on page 2 at the bottom.
- “Leave the dead to bury their dead; but go yourself and carry far and wide the gospel of the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:60 [↩]
- By that in the good ground are meant those who, with a good and honest heart, keep the message and patiently bring forth its fruit. – Luke 8:15 [↩]
- I tell you that even the present generation will not pass away, until all these things have taken place. – Mark 13:30 [↩]
- But we were hoping that he was the destined deliverer of Israel. – Luke 24:21 [↩]
- I tell you, as often as you did it to one these my brothers and sisters, however lowly, you did it to me. – Matthew 25:40 [↩]
- If it is by the help of the spirit of God that I drive out devils, then the kingdom of God must already be upon you. – Matthew 12:28 [↩]
- Tell us when this will be, and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the close of the age. – Matthew 24:3 [↩]
- Then will be seen the ‘Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. – Mark 13:26 [↩]
- The kingdom of God does not come in a way that admits of observation, 21 Nor will people say ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ for the kingdom of God is within you! – Luke 17:20-21 [↩]
- In the Beginning the Word was; and the Word was with God; and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God; 3 Through him all things came into being, and nothing came into being apart from him. – John 1:1-4 [↩]
The 14th century German vicar Meister Eckhart was in many ways a 21st century Progressive Christian. Although highly educated and an admirer of Thomas Aquinus, Eckhart also realized the limits of formal education, once telling the Paris elite that not one person among them could conceive with all their learning what God was in the meanest creature, not even in a fly.
An indomitable spirit, with seemingly limitless energy and passion, Meister Eckhart’s entire life can be seen as a personification of his realization of the living God. Eckhart wrote:
Life is a boiling up and pouring out of itself, scalding and melting and bubbling within itself, light penetrating light. For life is as it were a gushing up, a thing welling up in itself, pouring a part of itself into another part, as it runs forth and bubbles over beyond itself.
Today our lives, all too often, run contrary to the boiling life. We’ve set the heat down low and covered the pot to gentle simmer, so that nothing escapes, nothing gushes forth and bubbles beyond itself. The living God finds no home there, but in those uncovered souls that joyfully turn up the heat.1
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- From everyone to whom much has been given much will be expected, and to those whom much has been entrusted the more will be demanded. I came to cast fire upon the earth; and what more can I wish, if it is already kindled? – Luke 12:48-49 [↩]
Gospel of Matthew 26
When Jesus had finished all this teaching, he said to his disciples: 2 “You know that in two days time, the festival of the Passover will be here; and that the Son of Man is to be given up to be crucified.” 3 Then the chief priests and the councilors of the nation met in the house of the high priest, named Caiaphas, 4 And plotted together to arrest Jesus by stealth and put him to death; 5 But they said: “Not during the festival, for fear of causing a riot.”
6 After Jesus had reached Bethany, and while he was in the house of Simon the leper, 7 A woman came up to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and poured the ointment upon his head as he was at a table. 8 The disciples were indignant at seeing this. “What is this waste for?” they exclaimed. 9 “It could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to poor people.” 10 “Why are you troubling the woman?” Jesus said, when he noticed it, “For this is a beautiful deed that she has done to me.”
11 “You always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this perfume on my body, she has done it for my burial. 13 I tell you, wherever in the whole world this gospel is proclaimed, what this woman has done will be told in memory of her.” 14 It was then that one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, made his way to the chief priests, 15 And said “What are you willing to give me, if I betray Jesus to you?” The priests ‘weighed him out thirty pieces of silver‘ as payment. 16 So from that time Judas looked for an opportunity to betray Jesus.
17 On the first day of the festival of the unleavened bread, the disciples came up to Jesus, and said: “Where do you wish us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 18 “Go into the city to a certain man,” he answered, “and say to him: ‘The Teacher says: My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 The disciples did as Jesus directed them, and prepared the Passover.
20 In the evening Jesus took his place with the twelve disciples, 21 And, while they were eating, he said: “I tell you that one of you will betray me.” 22 In great grief they began to say to him, one by one: “Can it be I, Master?” 23 “The one who dipped his bread beside me in the dish,” replied Jesus, “is the one who will betray me. 24 True, the Son of Man must go, as scripture says of him, yet woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is being betrayed! For that man ‘it would be better never to have been born!’” 25 And Judas, who was betraying him, turned to him and said: “Can it be I, Rabbi?” “You have said it,” answered Jesus.
26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and, after saying the blessing, broke it and, as he gave it to his disciples, said: “Take it and eat it; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and, after saying the thanksgiving, gave it to them, with the words: “Drink from it, all of you; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 And I tell you that I shall never, after this, drink of this juice of the grape, until that day when I shall drink it new with you in the kingdom of my Father.” 30 They then sang a hymn, and went out to the Mount of Olives.
31 Then Jesus said to them: “Even you will fall away from me tonight. Scripture says: ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But, after I have risen, I shall go before you into Galilee.” 33 “If everyone else falls away from you,” Peter answered, “I shall never fall away!” 34 “I tell you,” replied Jesus, “that this very night, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times!” 35 “Even if I must die with you,” Peter exclaimed, “I shall never disown you!” All the disciples spoke in the same way.
36 Then Jesus came with them to a garden called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples: “Sit down here while I go and pray yonder.” 37 Taking with him Peter, and the two sons of Zebediah, he began to show signs of sadness and deep distress of mind. 38 “I am sad at heart,” he said, “sad even to death; wait here and watch with me.” 39 Going on a little further, he threw himself on his face in prayer. “My Father,” he said, “if it is possible, let me be spared this cup; only, not as I will, but as thou willest.”
40 Then he came to his disciples, and found them asleep. “What!” he said to Peter, “could none of you watch with me for one hour? 41 Watch and pray, that you may not fall into temptation. True, the spirit is eager, but human nature is weak.” 42 Again, a second time, he went away, and prayed. “My Father,” he said, “if I cannot be spared this cup, but must drink it, thy will be done!”
To continue reading Chapter 26 of the Gospel of Matthew, please click on page 2 below.