The Currency of the Kingdom

Matthew 6.12

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Matthew 18.21-22

Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

Lord, teach us to pray.

Okay, when you pray, pray this way:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. 

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

We begin this prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, with talk of God and heaven and holiness. We get partisan with politics, calling for the Lord’s will to be done, and for God’s kingdom to come.

Next, we get all down and dirty with a plea for our daily bread.

And then this already strange prayer becomes even stranger: Forgive us Lord, as we forgive others.

Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon claim this line is the most difficult part of the prayer to pray, and I think most of us would agree. It’s all good and fine to talk about hallowing God’s name, it’s not even all that hard to ask for God’s will to be done, and who wouldn’t mind having some daily bread? But then, all of the sudden, the prayer takes a turn and we, ourselves, are caught up in it. 

It’s the place where Jesus asks us not just to pray by saying something, but by actually doing something. And the something we are asked to do might be the hardest thing any of us ever do. 

Forgiveness is absolutely and completely outrageous. It runs counter to everything the world ever teaches us. You can’t just forgive someone. That’s lets them get away. It means you’re soft on sin. Forgiveness doesn’t work.

There’s something in us, some of us, I won’t speak for all of us, but there is something, this idea, that people should get what they deserve. And whenever we read stories in scripture like the parable of the prodigal, the parable of the publican and the pharisee, they sound offensive because they deal with the strange thing we call forgiveness, in which many of us don’t believe even though we pray for it.


Why is forgiveness so hard? Have you ever tried to forgive someone who did something unspeakable to you? Have you ever wronged someone so bad that you cut them out of your life completely rather than ask for their forgiveness?

Forgiveness is one of the most difficult things we can ever do. It comes at a cost, a steep cost. It’s foolish and difficult and painful. Forgiveness hurts.

It also happens to be the currency of God’s kingdom.

In other words: without forgiveness, none of this makes any sense. 

a scrabble type block spelling out the word forgiveness
Photo by Alex Shute on Unsplash

Notice: Before there is any consideration for our forgiving others, we are compelled to ask for forgiveness ourselves. This prayer we pray assumes that we all have need for forgiveness. That all of us have trespassed, sinned, or indebted ourselves to God.

Perhaps you noticed that, as the scriptures were read, Jesus taught us to pray “forgive us our debts” whereas, we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses.” There is a difference, of course, between those words. I don’t know anyone who has taken out a loan from the divine bank, and yet all of us are living on the gracious gift offered to us by God. Similarly, we’ve been handed the keys to this created world, and what do we have to show for it?

Have you watched the news recently?

As the old prayer book says, “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; we have done those things which we ought not to have done; and there is no health in us.”

When it comes to our relationship with God, we’re all in the red. So much so that no amount of pious prayers, or righteous good works, or anything else really, can tip the scales back. In fact, the only thing we can do, is ask for the Lord to forgive us.

However, asking for forgiveness takes control away from us. And if there’s anything we hate, it’s losing control. We don’t like admitting that we have done things, or failed to do things, for which we need to ask forgiveness. We don’t want anyone, not even God, to have power over us. But being out of control is at the heart of discipleship.

Remember, we pray: let thy will be done.

Prayer, therefore, and in particular this prayer, is the essential habit and practice that God has given us to help us rediscover the joy of being creatures, or being out of control, of relying on someone else. Namely, God.

That is what is meant by being graced. Even in our sin, even in our worst choices and decisions, God refuses to abandon us. And not only that, God keeps seeking after us no matter what we do or how far we fall.

“You are forgiven.” It is not easy to receive those words because we all know we don’t deserve it, and those words make it sounds like it’s too easy.

But, again, forgiveness is anything but easy.

Consider, for a moment, what happens when someone unexpectedly gives you a gift. Chances are your first inclination is, oddly, not to enjoy the gift, but to begin scheming how to repay the person for the unexpected gift. We don’t like feeling indebted to someone so we grin and say our thanks but our thoughts move to tipping the scales back and returning the favor.

And when it comes to God, we can’t do it.

The only person who can right the relationship between us and the Lord, is the Lord. But that’s exactly why we call the Gospel, the Gospel, it’s good news.

Have you ever noticed how often Jesus forgives people, even when they don’t ask for it?

Some friends catch word that Jesus is in town, they’ve got a paralyzed friend and they drag him all the way to Jesus. Can’t get close, the crowd has grown too large, they hoist their friend on the roof, dig through the ceiling, and lower him to Jesus.

And what does Jesus say to the paralytic? By their faith your sins are forgiven.

Who said anything about sins? This guy needs to walk! What does forgiveness have to do with anything?

Forgiveness isn’t just anything, it’s everything.

The man does walk eventually, but only after being forgiven.

It’s God’s nature to forgive, and not just through Christ. The whole canon of scripture is ripe with stories of God’s unrelenting forgiveness. Again and again we, the people of God, turn away from God, and God remains steadfast no matter what. 

person raising arms
Photo by Amaury Gutierrez on Unsplash

We know that we can pray to the Lord to forgive because that’s what God does even up to the cross! “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

It’s a joy to know we can pray these words. Truly. And, I think most of us would be happier with the Lord’s prayer if, at this moment, we jumped ahead to “and lead us not into temptation.”

But no. Jesus says pray like this: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

It was like any other afternoon with the Lord when Peter raised his hand in the middle of a lesson. 

“Yes Pete.”

“Well, you’ve been using the F word a lot and I think we would all do well to have some clarity on the matter. Exactly how many times are we supposed to forgive someone?”

“How’s your math Pete? I’d say 70×7 times, but for the sake of clarity, let’s just say there’s no limit.”

“But, if that’s the case, then we’ll go to our graves forgiving!”

“Indeed Pete, you will.”

That’s when the other disciples chime in: “Increase our faith! What your asking it more than we can do!”

Remember – Jesus wasn’t talking about going the extra mile, or turning the other cheek, or feeding the hungry. No, he was talking about forgiveness.

Thankfully, after the “increase our faith” episode, Jesus gave the disciples a story to help bring it all home. 

There was a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. One by one they were called before the throne and the great ledger-keeper read off their debts. Some owed a little, while others owed much more. And there was one slave in particular who owed the king ten thousand talents.

For what it’s worth, one talent equated to 6,000 denarii, a day laborers were paid one denarii per day. So, for those of you keeping score, it would take the slave 60,000,000 days of work to pay back the king. 

Immediately the story screams scandal. I mean, what kind of kingdom was this king running? No leader would ever let a slave run up that kind of debt. 

“Please,” the slave begs, “I promise I’ll pay it all back.”

And there’s no way he can ever do it. The slave knows it. The king knows it. The whole kingdom knows it. And yet, the king, moved by pity, releases the slaves of his debt, and lets him walk away scot free.

He dances around town, light as a feather, having just experienced the impossible. And then he comes upon a friend, one he had loaned some money to recently, probably the king’s money for what it’s worth. But he just tasted grace, so he says to the friend, “Remember that money you owe me. Don’t worry about it!”

That would be a great story, but it wouldn’t be a parable, and certainly not one from Jesus. No, in the story Jesus tells the recently forgiven slave lords it over his fellow friend for a measly loan.

Of course, everyone in the kingdom catches word, including the king, and he calls the unforgiving servant back to the throne, accosts him in front of everyone for being such a nincompoop, places the previously forgiven debt back on his shoulders, and hands him over to be tortured forever and ever. The end. 

It’s one thing to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses,” and another thing entirely to add, “As we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Forgiveness always comes at a cost – it’s not cheap and it isn’t easy. The hurt we experience is consequential. Therefore, when Jesus teaches us to pray this way, he’s not implying that we should shrug things off as if they don’t mean anything. It’s just that Jesus, through his life, death, and resurrection, refuses to let sin be the first and last word in our story.

Instead, the first word is forgiveness.

If you have ever been forgiven by someone you know how it feels like an indescribable freedom, a gift you don’t deserve. Similarly, if you have ever forgiven someone who wronged you greatly, you know the steep cost but also how it breaks a chain that is wrapped around your life.

But forgiveness isn’t natural. We have to be taught to forgive. We share stories of forgiveness such that others might know it is actually possible. A life of discipleship requires training and a community to support us in our willingness to forgive and receive forgiveness. That, after all, is why we pray for it. We need God’s help in this forgiveness business. We can’t do it on our own.

So hear the Good News: Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, and that proves God’s love toward us. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.

And because you are forgiven, you can forgive others.

It won’t be easy, but nothing important ever is. Amen. 

We Are What We Eat

Matthew 6.11

Give us this day our daily bread.

Mark 6.34-42

As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled.

Lord, teach us how to pray.

Okay, when you pray, pray like this:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.

It’s such a peculiar prayer – The Lord’s Prayer. 

And, because we’ve prayed it so many times in so many places with so many people, we often no longer think about what we say when we pray.

We begin with talk of heaven and holiness. Then things get all political with calls for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done. And then this already strange prayer gets even stranger – give us this day our daily bread.

What is Christianity? Why are we here doing all of this?

Worthy questions for our consideration. And, frankly, questions we rarely consider at all. We simply do what we do because that’s what we do. Which is actually good, at times. We are habituated by our habits. You do something long enough it becomes part of who you are.

But Christianity, whatever it may be, is not something relegated to creeds and doctrines. It’s not some otherworldly ephemera floating our there some where that one day we will encounter.

Christianity is materialistic

It is something we can touch and see and hear and smell and taste. If, on the other hand, Christianity is a retreat from the material world, then it’s not a very good retreat. We’re still stuck in a building, in somewhat comfortable pews, listening to old (and sometimes new) music, with the smells of carpet, perfume, and (if we’re lucky) casseroles from the social hall wafting around, and the taste of grape juice and day old bread sticking to the roof of our mouths.

Christianity, therefore, is not about getting away from all of this. Instead, Christianity is all about how God transfigures this.

Give us this day our daily bread. 

Why is this what Jesus teaches us to pray for? Perhaps, the act of asking for our bread is a regular reminder that our lives, like our food, are gifts that come to us from God, gifts without which we would perish.

And, thankfully, we worship the Lord who loves to feed.


Have you ever noticed how much food there is in the strange new world of the Bible? It’s all over the place! At the very beginning our first parents eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Abraham entertains strange guests with curds and milk and a roasted calf, the Israelites prepare lamb as their meal for the Passover, on and on.

Here’s a sampling of the foods in scripture: apples, almonds, dates, figs, grapes, melons, cucumbers, leeks, lentils, onions, barley, corn, millet, wheat, fish, quail, goats, lambs, sheep, butter, cheese, honey, coriander, cinnamon, dill, garlic, mint, mustard, salt, and, of course, bread.

Through this prayer, and this petition in particular, it’s as if God is reminding us about the fragility of life, that we are dependent on creation, and that we are caught up in all of it together. 

In other words, the essentials to life are part of the essentials of our faith. 

Listen – Jesus is doing his Jesus thing, and it garners a crowd. He looks on them with compassion because they are like sheep without a shepherd, so he speaks to them about the kingdom of God. And yet, the sermon goes a little long, and the crowds grow hungry.

“Hey Jesus,” Peter starts, “You might want to wrap it up. It’s getting late. Give them a final ‘Amen’ so they can all swing by Chic Fil A on their way home.”

But Jesus says, “Nah. You should give them something to eat.”

“Lord, we’re done have that kind of cash! Have you seen the size of the crowd today? Not even the Golden Corral could satisfy their hunger!”

“Well,” Jesus says, “What’ve we got to work with? A couple loaves of bread? Some fish? Let’s see what I can do.”  

Jesus takes the bread and the fish, blesses it, and starts sharing it without everyone. 

And no one leaves hungry.

It’s an amazing story, the feeding of the multitudes. Jesus is the one who has compassion for the hungry, the savior for whom hunger runs counter to the kingdom, the Lord who, oddly enough, experiences hunger and thirst.

It’s important that the God we worship knows what it means to be hungry and thirsty. 

The incarnation is the declaration that Jesus is fully God and fully human. There is nothing in the human experience that God is unaware of, which is why the prayer for daily bread is all the more compelling. 

Yes, we hallow God’s name, and we pray for the in-breaking of the kingdom, but when it comes to us, we begin by praying for bread.

Bread is old.

God gave plants for cultivation that we might bring forth bread to strengthen our bodies. In scripture, Melchizedek the king offers bread to Abraham, the Israelites bake unleavened bread for their exodus out of Egypt, Jesus feeds the multitudes with bread, calls himself the bread of life, and is notably born in Bethlehem which means town of bread. 

And, in one of the most wild, and often overlooked, parables, Jesus compares the God to a female baker who puts the yeast of her kingdom into the dough of creation and makes bread of the world. 

Bread is everywhere, and without bread we’re dead.

And yet, the bread at either end of our sandwiches, the bread left haphazardly on our restaurant tables, even the bread many of us learned to bake during the pandemic is different than the bread of the Eucharist.

At the Lord’s Supper we are consumed by that which we consume – we are what we eat.

We are made participants in God’s body so that the story of the Gospel might be made manifest in the ways we live and move and have our being.

The bread and cup at God’s table incorporate us into the adventure of God’s salvation of the world.

I’ve been saying this the last few weeks, in fact I said it just a few minutes ago, we’ve said the Lord’s Prayer so many times in so many places with so many people that we often no longer think about what we say when we pray. And I think a similar sentiment is true of the Lord’s Supper. How many times have we come forward with our hands outstretched? How many times have we received the grace of God through food and drink? 

Enough that we know what we’re doing when we do so?

The truth of the matter is that we do not know what we are doing. Not even the most theologically sophisticated among us knows what we’re doing. And that’s actually fine. The disciples surely had no idea what they were getting into, and what was getting into them, when Jesus said this is my body and this is my blood.

photo of brown church
Photo by Akira Hojo on Unsplash

In the Eucharist we are confronted with a reality that confounds our speech. These things are more real than real. They cannot be contained by our words because they are the grace of God.

Which is another way of saying, our most important business as a church happens at this table. 

If someone were to ask you what you believe about God, or what it means to be a Christian, you need not point anywhere except to this group of strangers called church who eat together at a table that transcends everything.

Bread is a familiar thing, common even. Go to Kroger after church and you have more choices of bread than you can handle. The table is also familiar and common. We eat at our tables daily – alone, or with family, or with friends. 

But the Lord delights in taking our ordinary things and making them extraordinary. The Lord loves to intrude upon the familiar, claiming it and reimagining it. The Lord rejoices in the everyday occurrences that point to the ways in which time is unleashed in the person of Jesus.

You see, when we are beckoned to God’s table, we feast not only with those in our midst, but we are united and even reunited with those from the past, those in the present, and those who will be here when we no longer are. This table cuts through the fabric of time and becomes something more sacred than we can speak. 

As Christians, if we want to meet God, we don’t have to hike to the top of Mill Mountain. We don’t have to fast for forty days in the wilderness. We don’t have to become hermits living in isolated cabins. If we want to meet God, all we have to do is get together and break bread in Jesus’ name.

And, notably, we are commanded to pray for our daily bread. It would’ve been a very different prayer if the Lord called us to pray for my bread. But instead, it’s our bread.

It might not seem like much of a distinction, but words matter. Our words matter. Particularly in a time in which depending on anyone or anything else is considered a failure.

The truth of the matter is that we are all dependent on one another, we either just don’t want to admit it or acknowledge it. 

No bread comes to our table without the work, the sacrifice, and the gift of strangers whom we do not know, and cannot properly thank. And that’s true for more than just bread. To be totally and completely self-sufficient is nearly impossible. We, all of us, are products of other people who, in ways big and small, make our lives possible. 

Just as we are products of the Lord who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 

None of us ever really know what we’re getting into when the Lord shows up in our lives, and we certainly don’t know what will happen when we pray this prayer. And yet, we do know that the Lord calls us to share this meal, this bread, together.

In a time when sharing is all but gone, it’s all the more important for us to be gathered in, the lost and forsaken, that we might awaken to the truth in bread and cup. For, in eating and feasting with Jesus, we are offered this strange and wondrous community we call church.

Jesus is the bread of life, born in the town of bread, who calls us to pray for our daily bread. Which, of course, means whenever we pray, we are also praying for our daily dose of the Lord.

On Easter, a pair of disciples were making their way toward a town called Emmaus…

What Is Jesus Doing In Your Life?

Romans 5.1-2

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 

turned on headlight bulb
Photo by Zach Lucero on Unsplash

“How is it with your soul?”

That’s a Wesleyan question that we Methodists still throw around occasionally. It comes from John Wesley himself and was the central question for historic Methodist class meetings, these small and intimate gatherings of Christians who were concerned with what it actually meant to be Christian. The question confronts us in our faith such that we must reckon with what God’s grace is doing to us.

And yet, we don’t ask that question, or questions like it, anymore. Sure, in the context of a Bible study or a small group ostensibly gathering in the name of Christ, you might hear a question like it but in our day to day discipleship, it’s nowhere to be found.

The relativization of the faith to the private sphere has resulted in a form of discipleship that is largely divorced from Christ’s call to take up our cross and follow. Put another way, if our faith is merely something we do on Sundays then it doesn’t really have anything to do with the One who makes our faith intelligible.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome he confronts the embodied nature of the faith with physical language about “standing in grace” and “boasting in our hope.” Something has been done to us and, as such, we have an assurance that we can live differently because of it. And that something has a name: Jesus.

Frederick Buechner, author/pastor/theologian once said:

“Nice people don’t talk about religion. Or so the thinking goes. That’s why, when I taught at Wheaton College, it was so refreshing. There were people there who talked about it ALL THE TIME. It was almost too much and hard to take. It was as if they had Jesus in their hip pocket, and all they had to do was take him out and he would tell them where to find a parking space. But, on the other hand, they were able to ask, “What is Jesus doing in your life this week?” Marvelous! I believe God is doing something in everyone’s life every moment! But the idea of asking that question in certain places with certain people, it’s like the sky would fall in, the house would catch fire, and I would never be asked out again. In other words, people don’t ask about our experiences of grace, but perhaps they should.”

I wonder, therefore, how differently the church would look were we willing to ask that all too important question, “What is Jesus doing in your life this week?” If the faith we proclaim on Sundays is indeed the faith revealed to us in the person of Christ, then there are manifold implications for how Christ is guiding, shaping, and moving in our midst. Particularly since worship isn’t as much about what we do, but more about what we do in response to all that God has done, is doing, and will do.

Basically, it comes down to a matter of agency: Do we believe that God is active in our lives, or do we consider ourselves the primary movers and shakers?

Perhaps asking the question is the way in which we can open our eyes and ears to Christ’s actions in our lives. And maybe, being able to ask the question at all is what makes faith, faith.

And so, what is Jesus doing in your life this week?

Leaning Into The Future

Matthew 6.10

Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 

Matthew 22.2-10

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Don’t mix politics and religion.

That’s the etiquette maxim for church, dinner parties, and just about every other part of our lives. We’re told, again and again, to keep these seemingly incompatible things as far away from one another as possible. Whatever political proclivities we hold and whatever it is we believe, they are meant to remain in the private sphere and no one has any right to interfere with either.

Except, we confuse them all the time!

We blur the line between church and state with such reckless abandon that we don’t even notice that we’re doing it. We view (and judge) one another through the names on our bumper stickers rather than the name that is above all names, we act as if what happens on a certain Tuesday in November is more important and more determinative than what happen in church every Sunday, and we tend to get all worked up over who sits behind the desk in the oval office rather than rejoicing over the one who rules from the arms of the cross.

Oddly, the so-called Separation of Church and State actually looks more like an extremely tumultuous marriage in which neither partner knows why they are still together.

And, honestly, it’s not even our fault.

We get to blame this on Jesus.

“Listen,” Jesus says, “when you pray, pray like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”

That’s good and fine and tame. No one is going to squirm around in their pews or lose sleep over words like those. But then listen to what Jesus prays next:

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Woah, woah, woah. Politics have crept into the Lord’s Prayer!

Here we are, minding our own business, talking about God and heaven and holiness and then boom – we arrive in the middle of a political argument about a kingdom, transferred from one place to another, that calls into question all the things we think rule the world.

That’s the great wonder, and the great challenge, of the Lord’s Prayer – we’ve said it so many times in so many places with so many people that we no longer think about what it is we are praying for when we pray.

Let your kingdom come Lord, let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

Notice: we don’t pray, “Lord, let my political party finally be in charge for a little bit.” “Lord, watch over this nice little church so that we can knock out the competition across and down the street.” “Lord, please bless this country so that everyone else in the world will start acting like us.”

No, we pray, “Lord, let your kingdom come! Let your will be done!”

brown wooden cross against wall
Photo by Josh Eckstein on Unsplash

We live in a time in which there is a growing industry for all things spiritual. You can book a spiritual retreat at a spa for the weekend, you can download an app on your phone to connect you with the spiritual realm, you can hire a spiritual guru to guide you in the practices of meditation and transcendence. And all of that’s fine, some of it might even be Christian. 

But, this prayer is a ringing reminder that Christianity is inherently materialistic.

In other words, physical and tactile things matter. Jesus will shortly tell us to pray for bread, not spiritual bliss. 

Following the Lord, taking up our crosses, is not simply adhering to a sets of ideas or doctrines. Discipleship is as much about our bellies and our hearts and our politics as it is about our brains. Being Christian is a concrete reality, we might call it an adventure, that has implications for the way we live our lives from what we eat to who we eat with.

But we can save more of the bread talk for next week.

Suffice it to say, this petition in the Lord’s Prayer is what the whole prayer hinges on. Or, as Hauerwas and Willimon put it, calling for God’s kingdom is the reminder that this prayer is not for getting what we want but rather for bending our wants toward what God wants.

It’s about praying for God’s kingdom, rather than our own.

But what does this kingdom we pray for look like? What, exactly, are we praying for?

Jesus, thankfully, talks a lot about the kingdom of God, in fact he talks about it more than anything else. And when he does, he does so with hints and hidden glimpses, parables and puzzles, rather than with definitions and exposition. 

Jesus proclaims the kingdom instead of explaining it.


The Kingdom of God is like… a mustard seed, a fig tree in need of manure, a field of wheat and weeds.

The Kingdom of God is like a wealthy man who gives away all his wealth to his slaves and then abruptly leaves town.

The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who starts throwing seed every which way without caring, at all, whether it lands on soil, among the thorns, or even on the sidewalk.

The Kingdom of God is like a Vacation Bible School volunteer who, when responsible for 15 kids, lost 1 and left behind the 14 in order to go find the one who was lost.

But the Kingdom of God is also more than the stories Jesus told, the kingdom is visible in him and the way he lived. Jesus is forever reaching out to the last, least, lost, little, and dead, bringing hope to the hopeless, offering mercy to the wretched, and grace to those in disgrace.

Photo by drmakete lab on Unsplash

We know about the kingdom we pray for because we know Jesus Christ.

And, of course, Jesus’ kingdom looks nothing like the kingdoms of the world.

For, the kingdoms of the world are run by power and fear, constantly deciding who is in and who is out, and they crumble with the arrival of every new kingdom. 

But God’s kingdom obliterates all of the world’s means of deciding who is in and who is out. When we say something like, the kingdom of God is for all, we mean it. We mean it because the kingdom is the most inclusive thing in the cosmos. It is inclusive because Christ draws all into himself when he mounts the hard wood of the cross, it is inclusive because Christ comes not to condemn the world but to save the world, it is inclusive because Christ brings the Good News to those who need it: namely, everyone.

All the divisions in life that cause us grief – rich and poor, Republican and Democrat, UVA and VA Tech, those divisions are overcome in the kingdom of God. That’s not to say that those distinctions don’t have meaning, they merely lose their power over us in the reckless inclusivity of the Kingdom.

To pray “Your kingdom come” is to be willing to become part of a rather weird gathering of motley, mediocre, and messy people who were once considered outsiders but who have discovered their insiderness in Jesus.

And yet, we pray for God’s kingdom to come because it is not yet here in its fullness. It’s the whole “already but not yet” thing. To be Christian is to be unsatisfied with the status quo, with how things are. 

We are unsatisfied because our faith is eschatological. That is, we are a people who insist on leaning into God’s future.

However, that’s doesn’t mean we’re just standing around on our tiptops hoping to catch a glimpse of the ever arriving day after tomorrow – to pray this prayer means we are already participating in that strange and wondrous future.

We Christians are a people who live outside of time. We gather together to read words from the past that give us an assurance of a future that allows us to live differently now.

We know how the story ends which means we are clued in to how God’s future, what we call the kingdom, is already in-breaking with the present.

That’s why we do such wild and wondrous things like loving our enemies, and befriending the friendless, and feeding the hungry. We live that way because each of those things are foretastes of the kingdom made possible and manifest in Jesus. And, at the same time, we can do the wild and wondrous thing we are doing right now: worship.

Do you see? In a world as broken and backward as ours, we can take the time to have a party, a party we call worship. Part of our faith is the gift of grace to let loose and celebrate each Sunday.

Listen – The Kingdom of God is like a king who gave a banquet for his son. He sent his slaves out to go collect the invited guests with descriptions of all the lavish preparations for the party. But each of the invitees had an excuse for missing out on the party, they were either too busy, too indifferent, or too agitated to take the time to let loose and have fun. 

But this king was no ordinary king. Nothing could stop his party. So he sent his slaves back out again, and this time he ordered them to drag in people off the street, the nobodies and the lowly, bring them all in, the good and the bad, so long as the place was packed to the brim.

Therefore, the kingdom we pray for every time we pray as Jesus taught us, it is both political and it is a party. It has ramifications for how we live and move and have our being. But it’s also fun. 

Last weekend our church was decked out for Winter Vacation Bible School where we were out to solve the mysteries of the kingdom. We had Rec in Memorial Hall, Science upstairs along with Crafts, we had Music with Mr. D, and story time with the Reverend Detective here in the sanctuary. The kids would saunter in with their little magnifying glasses and we would always start with finding a story in the altar bible but, of course, the Bible was missing every time they walked in so the kids would have to run around the sanctuary in search of the scriptures.

After doing it three different times, one of our Preschool age kids said, “Pastor Taylor, you have got to be more careful with that Bible!”

It was a great and riotous weekend with the kids running all over this building. But for me, above all the stations and even the scripture stories, my favorite moment came when, on Saturday, it was all said and done, a set of parents came in to pick up their kids and they asked, “How was it?” And their son shouted, “I HAD SO MUCH FUN!”

That’s the kingdom of God that we pray for. 

And it’s not out there somewhere else waiting for the right moment to finally show up. That raucous kingdom is already here, in ways seen and unseen, and it is worth our celebration.

Or, as Robert Capon so wonderfully put it…

“God is not our mother-in-law, come to see whether her wedding-present china has been chipped. God is a funny Old Uncle who shows up, unannounced, and uninvited, with a salami under one arm and a bottle of wine under the other.”

The Lord comes to start the party we call the Supper of the Lamb, the party we catch glimpses of every week, the party to which we are invited even though we don’t deserve it. 

And so, every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, every time we eat and drink the Lord’s Supper with Jesus, we live into the reality of Jesus’ kingdom we pray for. 

God’s kingdom is a bunch of people like us, good and bad and everything in between, eating and drinking and having fun with Jesus. 

That’s the future we lean into whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer. Amen.