Thy Kingdom Come

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In 1967, when FBI agents closed in on James Robert Ringrose, one of America’s 10 Most Wanted criminals, he was ready.

He presented them with a Get Out of Jail Free card from a Monopoly game. 

Nice try.  But that’s not how it works.  Monopoly fans are well-acquainted with the orange card from the Chance pile and the yellow card from the Community Chest pile that automatically spring “prisoners” stuck in the board game’s penitentiary – players who must lose a turn either because they landed on the Go to Jail tile or rolled three consecutive doubles. 

If you have one of those cards, just display it to your competitors and you can leave your troubles behind.

Christianity, unfortunately, has long been marketed as a kind of free pass to Get Out of Earthly Jail.  Do you believe the right doctrines and hang with the right group?  Then you’ve punched your ticket to heaven.  No need to worry about broken families, environmental issues, social justice, and global poverty.  God will make sure, when the time is right, that you’re beamed up from this messy planet.  You can leave your troubles behind.

Nice try.  But that’s not how it works. 

The fourth phrase of the Lord’s Prayer is the antithesis of Get Me Out of Here theology:  May your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Jesus teaches us to pray not that we might safely exit our earthly confines and escape to heaven, but that the realities of heaven might happen more and more often here on earth. 

What kingdom is Jesus talking about?  For most first century Jews, the kingdom was the long-awaited golden age of God’s direct rule on earth.  It was a religious and political arrangement that would come in the future.  It would be visible and dramatic.  No one would miss it.   

But for Jesus, the kingdom has already arrived.  It’s a present reality that is available right here and right now, even though it’s mostly out of sight.   
The kingdom, as Jesus described it, has no physical presence.  Unlike other kingdoms, there are no Parliament buildings, no broad avenues, no mailing addresses, no governmental red tape. 

The only kingdom real estate is the interior of human hearts.  The kingdom “comes” wherever God is allowed to reign – in every family room, board room, and sanctuary where the values of heaven are given top priority.   

If you’ve ever read the Gospels, you’ll recall that this is the focus of Jesus’ ministry from Day One.  “Repent,” he says.  “Change your minds.  Revise your old plans.  The kingdom you’ve been waiting for all your lives is here for the taking.” 

When given the chance to teach at his hometown synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus reads one of the kingdom texts from the book of Isaiah.  Then he says, “The scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day.”  (Luke 4:21)

Today?  What is he talking about?  This would be like saying, “Today, on October 27, spring has arrived in the Midwest.  Break out your swimsuits and sunscreen, because the pools are about to open!”

Kingdom preaching is just that bold.  And just that crazy.  But that’s where we are whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer. 

“Lord, we don’t want a stack of Get Me Off This Planet Free cards.  May your dreams for our broken world begin to come true, right here and right now.”  

That’s a dangerous request, of course.  Since God is fiercely committed to setting things right, he will no doubt whisper, “I couldn’t agree more.  Let’s begin with you.” 

We may not get to collect $200. But he will certainly empower us to soar past Go.