Thy Kingdom Come Thy Will Be Done

God’s Kingdom, God’s Will – 04.09.2017
[Matthew 13:31-33 and Matthew 19:13-15]
          There’s an old story, from Walter Knight, about an old Scottish woman who went from home to home across the countryside selling thread, buttons and shoestrings. Everyone across the countryside knew of this woman and looked for her to come down the road, but she had an unusual method of choosing which direction to go. When she came to an unmarked crossroad, she would find a stick and toss it into the air, and go in the direction that the stick pointed when it landed. Unusual, but it had always been her way. However, one day she was seen tossing the stick up several times. A little boy approached and asked, “Why do you toss the stick more than once?” The woman replied, “Because it keeps pointing to the left and I want to take the road on the right.” She then continued to toss the stick until it pointed the way she wanted to go all along.

          Today is the start of a brand new sermon series called Foundations: The Lord’s Prayer. What I have found in my few years as a Pastor is that there are a lot of good people out there, good – but forgetful. Life is a constant process of getting comfortable, settling into a rut, and then shaking ourselves off and hopefully getting ourselves out of that rut. You see it with diet and exercise, doing daily devotions, tithing or being generous, serving others, in our relationships. We have this moment of clarity and conviction – like a new year’s resolution – I’m going to do better. But then time goes on and we settle in nice and comfortable. It seems to me that vigilance is often a simple matter of occasionally shaking ourselves and getting back on track. And one of the greatest examples of this is ritual in the church. We come into this place and we say the same words, again and again – and we stop thinking about what they mean. In scripture, Jesus laid down some wonderful traditions for us to follow – including the Lord’s prayer. But after a while we know it so well, we stop thinking about what we are saying and we start to just go through the motions. We start good, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy…” and then our mind starts to wander as our lips use muscle memory to say what we’re supposed to say. Now in the fall we did a series just like this one on the Apostle’s Creed – where we took a closer look at those words. This time, we’re going to take some time and walk through the Lord’s Prayer – to remember why we do what we do, why we say those words and what they actually mean. Today we’re going to look at the sentence, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” We say it every single week, but what does that actually mean?

So if we’re going to talk about God’s kingdom and God’s will – we really should be looking at the scriptures that talk about the kingdom of God. So we start in chapter 13. Now these are very short verses, but there’s lots in them. [read verse 31-32]. The first thing I want to point out is that there are layers of meaning. This is a verse about the kingdom of heaven broadly, but also for our personal walk with God as well. It applies on multiple levels. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. Now that could mean a lot of things, but he actually walks us through the process. First he points out – someone took and sowed it in a field. Our faith personally, but also the entire kingdom of God has to be planted out there in the world. It has to be taken from here in the pews of a church into every corner of this broken world we live in. The seed must be sown. So let me ask you, what seeds of God’s kingdom have you planted in the world around you?  Then it continues and says that it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest. Faith starts small. With a spark, with an inkling, with a shred of an idea of a belief. But once that idea takes root, if it is nurtured – it will grow. Like with all living things faith needs to be protected from the elements, it will go through phases of weakness and vulnerability, and it needs time to bloom. We are gardeners of the soul – both our own, but also the seeds we have planted out there in the world.  The last thing I wanted to point out is the goal. [read 32 again]. The end goal of our faith is the create a place to live; one of the primary goals of the kingdom of heaven is hospitality. To grow into something strong enough and hospitable enough that they will come and make a home in the presence of God. With proper cultivation, the nourishment you need – you can turn your faith into a home for others to enjoy.

          So then we move to the next parable, [read verse 33]. Now think about this visual for a second – of bread rising in the oven. I was always surprised how little yeast you need to make bread rise. It’s just like a sprinkling, with three measures of flour. And I realized that this is a metaphor for our community. If yeast is the people of God, we can realize that there is a lot more flour than yeast in the world. And yet that little bit of yeast makes all the difference. Raises the entire loaf of bread. In the same way, the church, the people of God, though we be few – we raise the entire community. We can never fully capture or measure the influence and ripples of the light we shine, but we can take hope is these words – we are the yeast of the world. Truly this is a message of hope for all the oppressed and overwhelmed minorities. It only takes a little bit of yeast to make all the difference in the world. So that’s the parables on the kingdom of God – but notice the theme, of something small, growing and rising to change the world. One thing I’ve really enjoyed in my connection with God is the realization that God is a subtle and unexpected God. He finds great joy in working through the underdog, raising up a roaring fire from a humble spark.

       We switch over to our second scripture lesson, which comes a few chapters later in Matthew, and Jesus has a little bit more to teach us about the kingdom of God. [Read v13-15]. Again, it’s a very short story, with loads to unpack. Three key points. First, Jesus says, “Let the Children come to me.” This is one of the most important functions of the church. We do not keep the children away from God. To train and educate the children – to the give all the information and lay it out at clearly as possible so when they are old enough, they can make an informed decision. So they can come to know Jesus as their lord and savior – this is the most important thing we do! A mustard seed is just a spark, but if we protect it, nurture it, raise it in the light of God – it will grow and flourish into a mighty tree. The things we do today will be our legacy tomorrow. Jesus says, let the little children come to me, and do not stop them. Do not stop the children. But what if they are sticky? Let’s consult our scriptures, “do not stop them” Huh, well what if they are messy, or sloppy or poorly dressed… it still says, “do not stop them.” What if they are loud and disruptive and crazy? It still says, do not stop them from coming to Jesus. If you notice, [read 13]. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought the children. Who’s bringing children? Parents. The disciples were rude to the parents. Does this sound familiar? I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve talked to, they don’t come on Sunday – or they don’t bring the kids, because they don’t want to deal with judgmental glances when their child acts like a child. I literally spoke to a mother who had a rambunctious young boy, and she said, “maybe I’ll be back in a few years, when he has calmed down a little bit.” We have to stop expecting people to be perfect before they come through those doors. Let me tell you why this is so important to me. I was that kid. My brothers and I were little terrors. In my life I have personally destroyed more church equipment than the entire Sunday school program of this church. And I got in trouble for it, please don’t think I could just do whatever I wanted. I got scolded, grounded, and all the rest. But every time, they did it with love. It was parents and my Sunday school teachers working together to raise me. It’s why I am who I am. It’s why I’m in front of you this morning. We want to partner with parents – to raise kids in the house of God.


   Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done. Every time we pray this prayer we are inviting God’s kingdom into our world, we are asking for God’s will to be done. And when we search the scriptures to learn more about this kingdom that we are inviting every single time we say this prayer – we find all these parables about seeds and yeast and children – all things that grow and develop and multiply. And we realize that the kingdom of God is all about growth, all about God’s guidance. God guides us as we grow, like a loving Father who knows what is best for his children, God leads us down the path of righteousness, if we have the courage and trust to follow. God has a plan for this world, God will lead you – the question is will you follow? Will you have the faith required to follow God every step of the way. Will you have the trust of a child, confident that your Father knows what he is doing?
      Now, of course the major objection to this is the evil we find in this world. We look around us, and we hesitate. Does God really know what he is doing? How can we say that God knows what he is doing and then look around at the pain we find in the world? How can we trust God and follow him? How can we truly desire his kingdom and his will – if this is the world we live in? Now we probably don’t have time for the whole argument of free will and the existence of evil – but the Christian response is the hope of redemption. God has a plan of redemption for every single thing on this earth. The end of this story is the full and complete perfection of every single part of creation. As Christians, we don’t have to ignore the evil of the world. We can look at it and see it for what it truly is – a potential for redemption. Death and pain and evil do not get the last word in the will of God, in the kingdom of heaven. No matter how much pain we feel, no matter how much evil we are confronted with – we can turn to the promises of God with confidence that evil is never the end of the story. God has a plan of redemption for EVERYTHING. 
    A long time ago, there was an old sailor who used to get lost at sea all the time. So one day his friends gave him a compass and said, “use the compass, stop getting lost out there.” He followed their advice and took the compass with him, but as usual he became hopelessly confused and was unable to find the land. When his friends went out and rescued him again, they were very frustrated and impatient. They asked “Why didn’t you use that compass we gave you? You could have saved us a lot of trouble!” But the old sailor responded, “I tried! I wanted to go north, but as hard as I tried to make the needle aim in that direction, it just kept on pointing southeast.” The old sailor was so certain that he knew best, that he tried to force his own opinion on the compass. When that failed, he tossed it aside as worthless and failed to benefit from the guidance that was there. In our lives, it’s easy to trust God when things are going well, when we don’t have too many problems, when things seem clear – we have no problem trusting God. But when we disagree with the compass, with the direction God is pointing us, usually the moment pain shows up – we pull back, we try to force God’s plan to line up with our plan. We try to replace God’s plan with our plan.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done is actually a radical statement of trust in the providence of God. It’s that moment when we let go of our picture and trust that God is God.


   The application for this week is simply to actually trust God. Now I put the word “actually” in there on purpose. Because it is so easy to say, “yeah, sure I trust God.” But it’s harder than you think to live it out. Our actions show our true beliefs. It’s easy to say that we trust God, but do you live it? Do you live thy kingdom come and thy will be done? Two parts to this and then we’re done. First, we have to realize our place in the picture. We are one piece of a puzzle that contains billions, and the truth is our plan is not good enough. It might seem better for us personally, in the short term. But God is a long-term thinker. God has the whole picture. First, we need some humility and we need to let go of our picture of how the world is supposed to look. To put our trust in action, we turn to God every week and we say, “your kingdom, your will – not mine.” Second, following the example of scripture and the things we learned today – we realize that God’s kingdom is about godly hospitality. About growth and guidance. No matter what age you are, we all come to God as children, learning and growing into mature Christians. So if we are going to pursue God’s will and God’s kingdom – we have to open our doors! Whether it’s accurate or not, whether it’s fair or not – there is a perception of perfection surrounding church people. They do not know that they are welcome. They think they need to be a good person first, and then they are allowed to come to church. So we need to go and get them. We have to invite into this place those who need our hospitality. Those who need to grow. We need to work hard to make this a place where you can come as a seed, with just a tiny shred of faith, and we will nurture you into a mighty tree, a warrior for the kingdom of God. We are not perfect people in this place. We do not have all the answers. But together, with God’s help, we might just be able to find them.

          I think in our hearts, Christians know a lot of this stuff. I’m not sharing new information with you today. I’m simply here to remind you of something you may have forgotten. Every week we come into this place and we affirm our commitment to let go and trust God. Not my kingdom, not my will – Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done. And so I’ll leave you with this. May you let go of your picture. May you trust God, even in the hard times. And may that trust create a place of radical hospitality for the people in your life to grow closer to God. Amen.                        

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