Text: John 3:1-21; Romans 8:5-11 X 2nd Lent Midweek
Thy Kingdom Come
In the name him who has poured out
his Spirit upon us, dear friends in Christ:
have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a key participant in
one of the truly great and noble achievements of mankind? Wouldn’t it be neat, say, to have been one of
the engineers at NASA who helped put a man on the moon? Or one of the many thousands who bravely
stormed the beach at
If so, you’ll be glad you came this evening because in teaching us to pray the Lord’s Prayer – and in particular the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer – our Lord Jesus invites us to become partners with him in a cause infinitely more important and of far, far greater benefit to mankind than anything I’ve mentioned so far: and that is the coming of God’s Kingdom. You know, usually our prayers are rather narrow in scope. We normally pray for things that are of immediate concern and that are very small on the grand scale of things like, “Lord, help me resolve this problem I’m having,” or “help me get that promotion at work or better grades in this class I’m taking”, or “please help so and so who is sick get better”. Then there’s the perpetual farmer’s prayer for an inch or two of rain. And there’s nothing wrong with that kind of prayer; but that shouldn’t be the only kind thing we pray for. Luther said that when we approach God with only that kind of request we are very much like a wretched beggar brought before a rich and powerful emperor. The emperor opens his arms and says, “Ask me for anything you want and I shall give it to you”, and the beggar responds “Please, sir, may I have just a bowl of cold gruel?” It is in some ways insulting to God that he has so much to give – such royal treasures to grant – and we ask him for so very little. It’s like we think of him as a stingy miser who would begrudge us what we ask, or as a boastful liar who pretends to be generous but who has nothing to give.
In teaching us to pray the second
petition, Jesus is instructing us to think big and to go boldly before the
throne of God’s grace and ask for the greatest blessings that he has to grant;
for when the Kingdom of God comes people pass from darkness to light, from
bondage to freedom, from sin to righteousness, from death to life, and from an
eternity of suffering in hell to everlasting glory in heaven. I’d say that’s more important than curing
polio or liberating
How does it happen? Well, you may recall that last week we considered the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer which is, “hallowed be thy name”. Through the Small Catechism we learned that God’s name is hallowed (that is, we regard it as holy) when his Word is taught in truth and purity and when we as his children live holy lives according to it. So it all starts with us receiving the Word of God. The trouble is that in our natural state sinners like ourselves are incapable of properly understanding God’s Word. The Scriptures tell us that the man without the Spirit cannot comprehend the things of God for they are spiritually discerned, that the sublime truths of God are foolishness to fallen man in all his imagined wisdom, and that by nature we are the enemies of God and hostile to his will. So even if we could understand him, we wouldn’t want to live according to his Word. The mind and heart of man are so darkened by sin that in a spiritual sense we are completely blind. We need someone to turn the lights on so we can see. That Someone is the Holy Spirit.
This is what Jesus is saying in the passage from
Jesus is referring to Baptism, of course, because it is the gateway, so to speak, to God’s Kingdom. To be more precise, Jesus is talking about what takes place in Baptism, because through it a person is united with Christ in his death for sin, his burial in the grave, and his resurrection to new life. Through Baptism the Holy Spirit comes to a person first to convict of sin so that he sees that he stands condemned before God. Through this revelation the Spirit then brings the person to repentance, and then finally to faith and trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ through which the person is saved. All of this is included in what I mean when I say that the Spirit turns the lights on.
Once it happens, the
We pray this first for ourselves: that we as individuals may be increasingly enlightened to see and understand the things of God revealed in his Word. We’re asking the Lord to ensure our ongoing development in the faith so that more and more we are controlled by his Spirit, and that we walk in his ways by daily crucifying our sinful desires, confessing our sins, and receiving again the washing of his forgiveness. We’re praying that the fruits of the Spirit grow to maturity in us: the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness – for by bearing such fruit we serve others as Christ our Lord served us, and we show ourselves to be citizens of his Kingdom.
We pray “thy Kingdom come” also for the Church of Christ at
large: that it be kept in the true
faith, that error and false teaching be exposed and rejected, that its pastors
and teachers be faithful to their callings and proclaim the Word of God in its whole
truth and purity, that they administer the Sacraments according to Christ’s
institution, and that they lead God’s people in the right worship of him. We pray that the administration of the church
be conducted in wholesome and correct ways, and that God raise up able lay
leaders to manage the affairs of his house and see to the temporal welfare of
all of its members. We pray that the
collective work of the church in the world be advanced: the schools, hospitals, orphanages, relief
agencies, and shelters it operates all be kept in good and efficient order, and
that the church be prepared to respond to natural disasters and other crises so
that together we can bring comfort and safety to those in need. In such ways the
We also pray “thy Kingdom come” for those who are as yet outside
And ultimately, when we pray “thy Kingdom come” we are
asking for the Lord to hasten his coming on the Last Day. Then darkness will give way to light. The reign of sin and death will be ended, and
All of this is encapsulated in this the shortest petition of the prayer our Lord taught us. Though they are but three simple words, they request of our Father in heaven the highest and best gifts we could possibly ask for. And so we pray them with confidence, knowing that for Christ’s sake he will grant to us all these blessings and more when we ask of him “Thy Kingdom come” in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria!