“Thy kingdom come; thy will be
done on earth as it is in heaven”
– Matthew 6:10
Recently, I delivered a sermon titled “Thy Kingdom Come.” It was part of our Name that Sermon series in which worshippers submitted sermon ideas. The request was for a sermon on the kingdom of God. [Click here for sermon audio.]
The synonymous phrases “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven” appear about 100 times in the New Testament, including 68 times in the Gospel of Matthew. The concept of the kingdom of God is a central aspect of Jesus’ ministry and teachings. Jesus exhorts, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In his most famous of sermons, the Sermon on the Mount, he promises “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus even teaches his disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
The kingdom of God refers to God’s reign in the world as the power behind all that was, is, and is to be.
In the New Testament, however, it becomes clear that Jesus is a different kind of king and God’s kingdom is a different kind of kingdom. This king does not lead with military might, but in meekness, gentleness, and humility. This is a king who comes in, not on a war horse, but on a donkey. Moreover, in the kingdom of God, the smallest seed grows to be the greatest of shrubs. In this kingdom, the stone that the builders rejected becomes the cornerstone. In this kingdom, those who want to be great must be willing to serve.
The kingdom of God is both present and future; it is at hand and it is to come. There is the impression that in the kingdom, God takes what is wrong with the world and makes it right. In the kingdom, the last will become first and the first will become last. In the kingdom, “let the weak say ‘I am strong;’ let the poor say ‘I am rich.’” The Kingdom of God points to a future in which God’s justice and peace will ultimately prevail. But what do we do until then?
Until then, as followers of Christ, we must live as dual citizens in this world and in the Kingdom of God. We live in various nations subject to their regulatory requirements and societal norms. But we have another king and we are subject to the ethical mandates of another kingdom. Paul says that we are ambassadors for Christ. Our task is to speak, act, and live in ways that cause God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. When we give food to the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, promote equality for the marginalized, and pursue justice for the oppressed, we live in ways that allow God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Then “thy kingdom come” becomes more than a prayer; indeed, it becomes a calling and a way of life.