Everyday His Kingdom Comes
Today is somber day in the Church. The liturgy is not chanted in joy but spoken in sorrow. Ashes are on our foreheads as a reminder that we are dust heading for dust. The alleluias and the song of the angels are gone from the Church. So if "everyday His kingdom comes" does it come today?
Sure it does. We confess, "The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer." This is all grace. The kingdom of God comes every day no matter what sort of day it is. And it comes without our prayers let alone without our efforts, emotions, or goodness. Judaism that a righteous man could bring the kingdom, so Jews worked and prayed to be righteous, but the kingdom didn't come. In fact, they got farther away from the kingdom of God by all their efforts to bring it. Then John the Baptist and Jesus came preaching, "The kingdom of God is here."
The kingdom of God came in the person of Jesus even when no one believed Jesus was the King. The kingdom of God came even when the Pharisees and Sadducees fought against it and persecuted it. The kingdom of God came in the upper room even after Judas went out to betray the king and a petty argument erupted about whom the king considered to be the greatest disciple. Before they had uttered one word of repentance, one word of sorrow, one word of regret, one word of promise to do better, what does Jesus say, "I confer on you a kingdom."
And so the kingdom of God comes today. Though unbelief, misbelief, and sin walk boldly about the earth, the kingdom of God comes today. Though demons and the Devil himself fight against it, the kingdom of God comes today. Though men ignore it and even ridicule it, the kingdom of God comes today, and our sin is that we live as if it doesn't come and there is no point to pray for its coming.
We say in this petition that "God's kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity." Our ungodly lives are proof positive that we are living as if God's kingdom hasn't come. And though you sit there with ashes on your forehead, though you've just been told, "Dust you are to dust you shall return," you think describing your life as "ungodly" is a bit harsh. The ungodly are those outside the church, not inside. I can't be ungodly because I come to church.
Well, do you think Judas was ungodly? Sure, he was. He betrayed his Lord for 30 pieces of silver. Haven't you betrayed Him for less -for a few moments of pleasure, for more esteem in the eyes of your sophisticated friend, for more time for yourself? Isn't it true that you have chosen your pleasure, your esteem, and time for yourself over the Lord Jesus who has done not so much but everything for you? That's ungodly!
It was ungodly for the disciples to bicker about whom Jesus thought the greatest. They bickered right in the presence of His Body that would be given and His Blood that would be poured out for their forgiveness. So our ungodliness shows up here at this altar when we dare to appear with unconfessed bits and pieces of anger and bitterness between us. Spouse mad at spouse, teen upset with parent, member offended by member. We profane the Body and Blood of Christ when we receive it in mouths that carp, complain, or criticize brothers and sisters in Christ. That's ungodly.
Our ungodly lives testify that we don't believe the kingdom of God comes among us. But not only our ungodly lives convict us, so does our unbelief of His holy Word. "God's kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity."
If we really believed His Word we would be afraid to go on living ungodly lives. I don't stick my hand in the box that says, "Danger High Voltage" because I believe those words. I'm afraid of the shock that will surely follow if I disobey them. God promises severe punishment both now and forever for betraying Him for pleasure, esteem, or time, yet we don't believe that so we continue to indulge our flesh, garner praise, and put a priority on time pursuing earthly things. If we really believed we will answer for every idle, mean, bitter word we ever said, we would be afraid to speak as we do.
The proof that we don't believe the kingdom comes everyday is that not only do we live ungodly lives, not only do we not believe His holy Word, but we deny the Holy Spirit we've been given. In the text, do you see how Jesus tries to call Judas back? He brings Judas' sin out in the open, but he hides among the disciples, "Surely Lord I couldn't betray you!" Then Jesus preaches the harshest Law saying, "It would be better for the betrayer to never have been born," but Judas keeps on going. Even when Jesus warns him that unless you do it quickly, you won't be able, Judas goes to do it quickly. Not only does Jesus call Judas back, He calls the disciples back from bickering about greatness to the glories of the kingdom they share.
The Holy Spirit the Father has given you does the same for you. Each time you're about to betray Jesus for pleasure, praise, or time, the Holy Spirit is there calling you back. Each time you're tempted to bicker, gossip, or fight with each other, the Holy Spirit empowers you to stop, repent, turn, but you don't because you deny you have the Holy Spirit because you deny the kingdom has come to you.
So we deserve ashes, not just on our foreheads, but stuffed into our ears, nose, and mouth. We deserve nothing but ashes, but what do we sinners get? We get the kingdom. Follow closely. Judas is the betrayer, yet who goes to the cross? Jesus. The disciples are the ones who bicker, yet next week Jesus lets them go and He alone goes to the judgment hall. And while we betray Him for pleasure, praise, and time, we don't go to the cross. Though we don't believe as we should and we deny as we shouldn't, who heads off to suffer, to bleed, to die for those sins? Not you, not you, not him, not her, not me, but Jesus. Jesus' Body is given over to torture, not yours. Jesus' Blood is poured out to win forgiveness, not yours.
Now who in that upper room had been given the Spirit without measure? Only Jesus, only upon the Man Jesus did the Holy Spirit ever land in the form of a dove. The Man Jesus has the Holy Spirit, yet He is treated, as if He denied having the Holy Spirit like we do. The Man Jesus is the Word made flesh, yet He was treated as if didn't believe one letter of God's Holy Word. Jesus never resisted the Holy Spirit, never betrayed His God for pleasure, praise or for more time for Himself, yet He was abandoned by God, sent to hell, and tortured as if He had done all those things.
God the Son appeared in flesh and blood to win the Holy Spirit for fallen flesh and blood, and so bring the kingdom to them. Jesus announces that the kingdom is here, but men without the Spirit can't see that. Jesus builds and maintains His kingdom in this fallen world through weak things like Water, Words, Bread and Wine. People looking for powerful, amazing things from God can't see it. The glory of King Jesus is not to defeat His enemies with bursts of power but to rule in the midst of them. Those looking for a mighty kingdom on earth miss it. King Jesus doesn't prepare a royal table for His people safe in His courts but He feeds them in the presence of their enemies. Those looking for a meal where all sickness, sorrow, and affliction are banished don't see the kingdom here at all.
The truth is without the Spirit, we all look for a kingdom of health, wealth, and power, a kingdom we can feel good about being a part of. Apart from God the Father giving us His Spirit we'll never see the true kingdom, won't be a part of it, and aren't able to pray for it to come. Thanks be to God in Christ then, that Jesus won the Holy Spirit for us by living our lives and dying our deaths, and then what did He do?
He ascended into heaven and poured out the Holy Spirit upon all mankind, so that as Joel prophesied men, women, boys, girls could and would dare to dream impossible dreams: That sins can be forgiven freely for Jesus' sake; that water can wash away sins and give birth to new creations; that Words in the mouth of a man can forgive sins; they would dare to dream that there is a place on earth where the king comes today, a place where Bread is His Body and Wine is His Blood, so Christians can eat, drink and live forever.
The same Spirit that enabled Samson to kill a lion, martyrs to die for the faith, the dead to be raised, and empowered the living to see and be in the kingdom is ours. So now we believe His Holy Word when it says our sins though they be black as ashes are white as snow. We believe His Holy Word when it promises the Waters of our Baptism save us. We believe His Holy Word when it says our Lord reigns and rules among us under the visible forms of Bread and Wine.
And not only do we believe His holy Word, we lead godly lives here in time. A godly life is not one where you never sin, but a life of constant repentance, a life with the waters of Baptism ever running over it, a life in Communion with the Body and Blood of Christ. A godly life is not one where you never sin, but where sin is always confessed, never defended, and constantly fought against. A godly life is not one where we seek to establish the kingdom, build the kingdom, or maintain the kingdom. A godly life is one where the Spirit moves us to pray for the kingdom to come to us. A godly life is one where we believe God answers this prayer. He has given us His Holy Spirit, trust in His Holy Word, and holy lives here and in eternity. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Ash Wednesday (20060301); 3rd Petition of The Lord's Prayer