Ash Wednesday – 2019 LSB #770
Text – Matthew 6:10
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
god’s will & The kingdom
The year was 1983 & I was home on leave, from the Navy, to visit my family & to celebrate the 25th wedding anniversary of my parents. The party was still about 5 days away when I drove to MSU to visit one of my best friends. Not long after I arrived I got a phone call that my dad was in the hospital. Driving home from work he had ended up in the ditch.
That’s about all they knew at the time. So, I drove back home met my mother & sisters in the ICU. There were the usual large number of hours spent waiting, wondering & speculating on what happened & what the tests might reveal. Back in 1983 that still took several days.
Amidst all the tension, mom, my sisters & I went home one night to eat supper. After everything was ready we sat down at the table & the chair I sat on went straight to the floor. The kitchen table chairs had legs made of metal tubing. The welded joints had broken in such a way that all four legs went horizontal at the same time. I rode that chair right to the floor.
Everyone began to laugh for what seemed like 15 minutes. When all of us finally stopped one would start again, & everyone would follow. We couldn’t help but laugh. All the tension of the past days had been released in a totally unexpected instant. Once we could finally talk again all four of us realized that God was saying, “Everything will be okay.”
Apparently dad had been passing out at work, but he just told them he was really tired & they let it go. On his way home, on a back country road, he passed out & fortunately just coasted to a stop in the ditch. Not even the truck was worse for the wear. Finally, the tests revealed that his heart wasn’t beating often enough. He needed a pacemaker & he would be fine.
Things could have ended very differently that day, & there would have been no laughter
around the table for dinner a few nights later. I was 24 years old then & I think that was the first time it sunk in how suddenly & completely major things in life can change. I experienced the fragile nature of life & I could see God working through those events. When you pray do you remember how God has worked in your past? Do you pray to Him for your future?
The disciples saw Jesus praying & they said, “We want to be like that. We want to trust & believe & pray like you do, Lord. Teach us to pray.” That’s part of what you & I are saying to Jesus this season of Lent as we explore what it means to pray, Thy Will Be Done. Before that was our prayer, it was the prayer of Jesus.
As the Son of God teaches His followers to pray, He invites them to pray like He does. Jesus invites us to address God as OUR Father, not just His Father, & the Lord’s prayer begins by asking that God would let His name be holy, that Yahweh would cause His Kingdom to come & His will to be done, as in heaven so also on earth.
But Jesus did more than ask for God’s reign to become a reality in our lives: Jesus made it happen. Jesus began His ministry by proclaiming that the active reign & rule of heaven was now near at hand. Jesus brought God’s kingdom & did God’s will wherever He went. Whether we see it or not God’s reign is an active & daily reality.
The miracles made it visible: Jesus bringing God’s eternal reign into the real lives of real people in real time. No power of darkness could hold authority over Christ! Demons are ousted, sins are forgiven, the poor in spirit are welcomed home, & the kingdom banquet begins as the worst kind of offenders sit at table with the King Himself.
Jesus’ entire ministry from start to finish was about reestablishing God’s reign on earth as it is in heaven. When you pray do you remember how God has worked in your past? Do you pray to Him for your future? When they nail His death sentence above His head with the same hammer that drove metal spikes through His hands, do not miss the kingdom activity of the God who promised that on the mountain of the Lord it would be provided. “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” the sign read. And we could add, “He makes God’s Kingdom come & makes God’s will be done.”
When we pray for God’s Kingdom & for God’s will, do we remember Jesus & His Kingdom work in the past? If He had not died on that cross, we know things would have been different. We know in His resurrection that people we love were brought from death to life; we know how precious & irreplaceable this salvation gift is.
One way to experience the prayer Jesus taught is to remember Jesus Himself, & His work that brought about God’s reign & God’s will for our lives. Then we pray that Kingdom prayer with a deep sense of gratitude.
Yet, the prayer for God’s Kingdom & God’s will is not only a prayer of thanksgiving for the past. If God proved Himself faithful to fulfill His Kingdom promises in Jesus, you can count on the fact that He will be faithful to bring about the final completion of those promises. God’s will was done at the cross & the open tomb, but God’s Kingdom reign is not finished with us yet.
That connection also affects the way you pray the Lord’s Prayer.
A woman stands at the graveside of her uncle. The words of the pastor rise above the cold wind: “May God the Father, who created this body, may God the Son, who by His blood redeemed this body, may God the Holy Spirit, who by baptism sanctified this body to be His temple, keep these remains to the day of the resurrection of all flesh.”
Then, they all pray, quietly, together: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name...” The words feel so familiar on her tongue, they are a comfort just to say: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” “Yes,” she thinks to herself. “Yes! Let Your will be done, Lord: not just in heaven, but here on earth, too. Dear God, I know Your will for my Uncle is eternal life, & I know he is with you even now, but let Your Kingdom come on earth, as in heaven. Jesus, come quickly! Let that great day of resurrection come soon!”
That prayer at the graveside – “Jesus, come soon, & do what You promised!” – that prayer longs for the future with hope.
In another example, a man kneels before bedtime, just like always, & he thinks of his son as he prays, just like always. He gets stuck at the phrase, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…”
The past shame of angry words & slammed doors still feels fresh. His guilt comes rushing back: how could he have let those insults stand between them as their final farewell? The sense of hurt & betrayal still lies just beneath the surface… So he forgives his son again, for the thousandth time in the last five years.
And he asks his heavenly Father for forgiveness again, for the thousandth time. And he wonders if he will ever see his son again. He wonders if his son prays; if his son forgives. The man sighs & starts the prayer again, from the top. This time he doesn’t get any farther than, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
And he hopes – not an empty wishful thinking, but longing tinged with confidence – he hopes for a broken relationship to be restored. He looks for the reunion & the healing he desires, whether in time or in eternity. In prayer, he longs for the future with hope.
The young couple often hold hands as they walk together. It gives them a time to talk, & sometimes to pray. The walks, & the prayers, have been slower & more difficult lately. She did not get the promotion she was expecting. His job feels overwhelming right now. They thought they had plenty of savings, but a couple of minor car accidents have added financial stress. They wanted desperately to start a family, but that wasn’t happening quickly. All kinds of doubts & fears have crept into their talk about the future. “I don’t know what to pray,” he confesses, & she agrees. It seems difficult even to come up with the right prayer request when so much of their life is up in the air.
But they keep walking. And they keep talking. And eventually they recall the promise: the promise that the Spirit helps us in our weakness, the promise that even when we do not know how to pray as we ought, the Spirit intercedes. They remember the words of Paul, “Now we know in part, but then we will know fully, even as we are fully known.”
Those words are comfort for right now, but they also stir in them a longing for something more, for a time when it won’t be so confusing to pray, for the day when faith will be sight. Since they don’t have other words right now, they simply pray the words that Jesus taught. Without a clear idea of what they are even asking for, they pray as they walk hand in hand:
“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” They find, as they pray, they don’t only mean, help this not be so confusing right now. They also find themselves praying for The Day; The Day when they will know fully, even as they are fully known.
In the midst of their confusion, they long for the future Jesus brings & they pray with hope. That’s how prayer works. Praying for God’s will & God’s kingdom, we remember with thanksgiving the promises Jesus has fulfilled already. Because God has been faithful in the past, we have a confident hope as we long for Jesus to fulfill all of God’s promises in the future.
And since we remember with thanksgiving, & long for God’s future with hope, we can entrust our now with expectation that God will make His Kingdom come, & His will be done, among us also. Our prayers are marked by present expectation in light of past thanksgiving & future hope. That’s an experience of prayer I would like us to practice together tonight. You received a blank card as you came in (we have extras if you need one). On one side please write down a current prayer need or burden. It could be a relational or financial challenge. It could be a burden of grief or sin. Maybe it’s a question mark that stands for so much more than you could fit on a card that size. Don’t worry we will not ask you to turn them in or show them to anyone.
Just focus on one prayer that seems to come to mind right now, & in a word or a phrase, write it down. PAUSE
That may be a pretty heavy card right now. You will bring that need to God’s attention in the name of Jesus, but 1st, flip the card over. On that side, you will write down two things. One, write something that Jesus has done in the past, something that makes you grateful. It can be from your personal story, or something from the story of Jesus.
Perhaps you’re especially thankful for the raising of Lazarus, because of what that means for someone you love. The calming of the storm might give you comfort & a sense of awe. Maybe you cling to the words of Jesus about the poor in spirit. Put something down that lets you remember Jesus & His past action with thanksgiving. PAUSE
Now, one more thing for this side of the card; put down a word or phrase, something about the future promise that gives you hope. It might be a moment of reunion. It could be life in a resurrection body, or the music of angels & archangels around the throne. Try to put down a detail about our future hope that makes you long for Jesus to restore all things. PAUSE
Thankful for God’s kingdom activity in the past, longing for God’s ultimate New Creation will to be done in the future, now you can flip the card over & spend some time entrusting your present concerns to God’s will & God’s kingdom. Turn the card back over as many times as needed while you pray.
I’d like you to try & see your current prayer request (side 1) through the lens of Jesus &
His reign in the past & in the future (side 2). In other words, if you are thankful that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead & have a friend who is dying, connect the dots between the two. How does what you know about Lazarus impact your anxiety about your friend?
After we have had time to pray, we will continue our service with the Lord’s Prayer. Please take your card with you as you leave this evening & see if praying for God’s will & God’s kingdom in the present is affected by God’s will & God’s reign in your past & in your future.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet