The Lord’s Prayer is a fascination, deeply complex, and surprisingly simple prayer. This new series of articles pairs a stained glass window from a small church with each petition of the Lord’s Prayer. In each post, we will see how the symbols in the window help us to understand what Jesus says to us when he commands us to pray this chief prayer. Check out the previous posts in this series, Part 1 and Part 2
The kingdom of God is an important piece of Jesus’ teaching in the gospels of Mark, Luke, and Matthew. In these gospels, Jesus’ teaching frequently began with the words, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is near,” or at least some variation of it. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus’ comes to rescue people from the kingdom of Satan and bring them into the kingdom of God. How Jesus does this will help us understand what we pray when we ask for God’s kingdom to come to us.
When Jesus begins his ministry in the gospel of Mark, he goes from town to town. In each village he enters, he does the same things. He casts out demons, heals the sick, and he preaches the good news of the kingdom of God. By the power of the Spirit, Jesus delivers people from oppression by Satan by delivering the kingdom of God.
We, typically, get excited about two actions that Jesus does, healings and exorcisms. We want our religion to be showy and exciting. We want God to be all about the miracles, since that’s exciting. But that’s not the point of Jesus’ travelling ministry. Shortly after Jesus entered Capernaum, he went off by himself. When the people came to look for him to do more healing, Jesus said, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons” (Mark 1:38-39).
Jesus came to preach, and the rest of his miracles supported that preaching. The same pattern holds in the book of Acts. When the apostles do a miracle, they always use it as an opportunity to preach about Jesus, because they want people to believe in Jesus.
So, when we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we are praying that God work his salvation in our lives. We are praying that God come to us to deliver us from the kingdom of Satan and bring us into his own kingdom. We pray that it happens the same way that Jesus did it.
The image for this petition of the Lord’s Prayer is a ship, a classic Christian symbol. Christians use the metaphor of a ship to describe the church. The symbol tells us that the church provides safety and shelter in a sea of doubt, hostility, and unbelief. Inside the ship of the church, all believers are saved from death by the power of God.
This image helps us to recognize that the kingdom of God comes to us only through the church. For many Christians, that’s a controversial statement. They might say, “But I have Jesus in my heart! I don’t need a church for that.”
But we do. How did you first hear about Jesus? Was it in a field with a voice whispering to you? Was there a bright light from heaven on your way to work? Unless you’re like the Apostle Paul, probably not. I’m sure that you first heard about Jesus from a parent, grandparent, or a friend. Even Paul didn’t become a Christian through the vision he had on the road to Damascus. God sent him Ananias, and he spent time learning about the faith from the Christians in that town.
The same goes for us. We hear God’s word through the church. We hear the message of salvation through the church. Even when we read the Bible, it comes to us through the church, because it was written by men like Mark, Luke, Paul, and John. God’s kingdom comes to us when we hear his word.
This can be very comforting, because you don't need to go looking for God's kingdom to come to you. Some Christians look for God to speak to them in signs. They're always searching for leaves that blow a specific way or flowers that bloom. There was a pastor who was offered a position at a church in Berwyn, IL. At the time, the city of Berwyn was running a billboard campaign touting all the great things about the suburb of Chicago. Shortly after receiving the offer, he passed one of those signs, and it read, "Come Home to Berwyn." Yeah. It was a literal sign.
Finding God's kingdom doesn't mean waiting for the supernatural. God's kingdom is where it has always been, in churches. There, God gives his Holy Spirit through the word (and the sacraments, for sacramental christians). You don't have to hunt for it. You don't have to pray a certain way or be extra faithful. It comes every time, because God promised that it would.
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