May 13, 2018
Message “His Will Be Done Here as There” 1 Thessalonians 5:13b-25
What a privilege it is to experience an intimate relationship with a Holy Father in Heaven who we honor and revere with -- awe. One means of honoring His name is found in the next phrase of the prayer that
L: Jesus taught us to pray.
P: Thy kingdom come,
God’s name is most honored when the Kingdom of God, the leadership of God is established on the earth as completely as it is now in heaven. (Pause)
I’ve read that in the chicken pen there is never any peace until it is clear who is the greatest and who is the least and who is at every rung in-between. We tend to think this hierarchy thing is reserved for kingdoms with kings and princes and peasants and serfs, rich and poor, powerful and oppressed. But while it takes on a different form, it is alive and well even in this independent, individualistic democracy. We’ve adopted the chicken lifestyle to such a degree that we have adopted the phrase “pecking order” for our own interactions. Richard Foster writes that the world has [developed elaborate] games of promotion and authority… We can see it so easily is such things as where people sit, how they walk in relationship to each other, who always gives way when two people talk at the same time, who stands back when a job needs to be done and who steps forward... (adapted from Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline) This is nothing new….
Bible Reading Luke 22:25-30a
Jesus said to them, “The kings of the world rule over their people, and those who have authority over others want to be called ‘the great providers for the people.’ But you must not be like that. The one with the most authority among you should act as if he is the least important. The one who leads should be like one who serves. Who is more important: the one serving or the one sitting at the table being served? Everyone thinks it’s the one being served, right? But I have been with you as the one who serves. “You men have stayed with me through many struggles. So I give you authority to rule with me in the kingdom the Father has given me. You will eat and drink at my table in that kingdom. (ERV)
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36a (NIV))
It would be easy for us to get hung up on the word “kingdom”. Jesus uses the word simply because that is the common word of the day to describe societal structures. But he also says his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36) it is not a typical earth-like kingdom with human kingdom characteristics. When we pray that God’s kingdom come, we are not asking for yet another sinfully flawed social system be set up. Jesus clearly rejects the pecking order value system. He redefines leadership and rearranges the lines of power...
“the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.” (John 18:37b (NIV))
While Jesus allows that he is indeed a ruling king, but he also says that he came to explain what the intended true nature of God and human relations are supposed to be like, and it is for this true nature that we are praying when we ask his kingdom to come – for now, not in overwhelming coercive power, but in a simple proclamation of truth which people will want to follow. This is the first difference between Rome’s empire and Christ’s kingdom. Rome often created “peace” through the powerful force of its legions of soldiers; Christ’s kingdom creates peace through reconciled relationships.
Rome had a word for this type of leadership. Augustus claimed he ruled the Roman empire by means of his great auctoritas (authority). The word meant that a person possessed an innate quality that made his or her values and opinions worthy of belief and obedience. An obedience not based on force, but on seeing the wisdom of the truth being proclaimed. Authority is not commanded, or for that matter, nor is service rendered to another – out of a spirit of legality. Moms at their best are great at teaching children not only what they should do, they do it in a way that makes the child realize that it is in their own best interest to want to live by true wisdom. Of course, that doesn’t happen easily or automatically, children, even adults, often don’t “get it” for many years, and outside Jesus, no human has ever completely gotten it.
Let’s be honest, peace through truth and enduring committed loving relationships is a lot more difficult, takes a lot more time. (This is why moms (along with dads) have more opportunities than anyone else to take on this role and style of authority) But it can be very frustrating when others (such as children) don’t see the wisdom of the truth we believe, much less act on it.
A frog fell into a pothole – since it was a Michigan pothole, it was too deep and wide and difficult to easily get out of on his own. Other frogs saw. They offered him much truthful advice. They were willing, even eager, to offer to take any action to help him. They even offered to get him “toad”.
For some of them, this helpful service was not a matter of obedience or required drudgery. Their love for God and fellow frogs helps them feel the great privilege that it is to serve the Creator and sustainer of the Universe. It is a service a joy. For others, who may well have offered the same words and actions -- their agenda was more about the rule of life and what was right rather than compassionate care for the frog who fell in the hole. These frogs said what they did was in the name of love, but it was not love for the fallen frog as it was secretly loving the great satisfaction in themselves and their principles of their rightness as they pronounced to the hurting frog what he had done wrong and what he had to do to fix his life.
To the frog in the hole, he heard them say they loved, but maybe all he felt was condemning judgment and holier-than-thou attitudes along with a bunch of rules being thrown at and forced upon him. Or maybe he was just too proud to accept any help or advice. Or maybe he was too stubborn to admit that his foolish fall to failure had put him in a miserable place. He may even insist he enjoys the pit he is in and encourage others to join him in this fun hole in the ground – shaded from the heat of the sun, a bit of a water pool from a recent rain – what’s not to enjoy?
All the frogs, unable to help, went away sad – some perhaps secretly feeling good about themselves that they were smarter, superior, in a better place than him; others truly grieving because they had sincerely spoken and freely offered unconditional help and service with true love; but were rejected.
Time passed. The frog in the hole was now out of the hole, jumping along. The frogs who realized who it was hopped over, “What happened!?! We thought you couldn’t get out!” The frog replied, “I couldn’t, but a truck came along, and I had to.”
The power to rule over the world belongs now to our Lord and [his Christ,] his Messiah, and he will rule forever and ever!” Revelation 11:15 (GNT)
We pray for the coming of the kingdom because we recognize that, ultimately, God’s authority rules. Christ’s kingdom is God's design. People's disorder prevents its full realization for now. Suffering and social evils are a persistent warning to us that God’s authority is not yet universally accepted or evident as he, or we, would like. Pits and pot holes still fill our ways in this world.
And because, in the short term, it sometimes works; it is very tempting to get behind the wheel of the truck and seek to force people out of their chosen and/or unknown pot holes. And because we still live in a fallen world – we must sometimes resort to that. That is why we have a police force and a military, or on more personal level – to take our frog metaphor almost literally -- we’d never let our child play in a road’s pothole hoping that someday they will begin to accept our words and offered actions and learn that it isn’t a wise choice to play there. No, we’ll force the issue and yank them out of the road.
But in the long term, whenever it is possible, we will want to push peace enforced by the legions of rule less, and the acceptance of gracious, loving authority more. God’s kingdom is meant to be -- not forced, but offered as an understanding, graceful, joyful act of gratitude from one pot hole dweller to another.
The wait for people, like in the story of the prodigal son, to wait for them (at least from our perspective) to “come to their senses” about their potholes can sometimes be an unbearably long process. We get impatient in a week – but God patiently oversees generation after generation after generation.
But our confidence is that this process, in whatever form God directs, it will take place as John predicts – with heaven proclaiming that the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of his Christ and he will reign.
But given the stubbornness of evil and the sinful nature within each of us, it makes us wonder how and when this will all happen. The Bible is clear. The opportunity to be a part of the kingdom has begun, for Jesus said when he began his ministry, “At last the fulfillment of the age has come! It is time for the realm of God’s kingdom to be experienced in its fullness! Turn your lives back to God and put your trust in the hope-filled gospel! … [for] God’s kingdom has already come to you.” (Mark 1:14 (TPT) Matthew 12:28b (CEV)) and this coming and participation is fleshed out by the next phrase that
L: Jesus taught us to pray.
P: “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
His kingdom comes wherever his authority is recognized, and his will is done. We have the opportunity serve, not by obligation, but with the same joy filled service God receives in heaven. In every heart in which Christ leads by the Spirit, the Psalmist’s words can be echoed "I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart." (Psalm 40:8 (NRSV)). and are eager to follow Paul’s advice where he says:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping,
eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing
what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your
culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed
from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you [his will], and quickly respond to it
[so it is done on earth]. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of
immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:1-2 (MSG))
To pray “Thy will be done here as there” is to desire -- and strive -- to successfully live out his will, and to the extent we do, his kingdom is come – here -- in each of us, and among all of us who share in his salvation. But the work of safely evacuating people from and then filling in the pot holes of life seemingly never ends. Pause to think about what motivates our faith. For the potholes that we are in, does it take the vibrating threat of a truck tire bearing down on us to get us out? And if we are out, do we feel obligated only by that same truck bearing down on us to seek to reach out to others? Or do we desire to be transformed, grow, and encourage others to do the same by a passionate love for God and compassion for others? What might that look like on a practical level? Read responsively just one example that Paul gives to the church of Thessalonica, and to us on how to live out his will on earth.
L: Live in peace with each other. Speak to those who do not want to work. Comfort those who feel
they cannot keep going on.
P: Help the weak.
L: Understand and be willing to wait for all men. Do not let anyone pay back for the bad he received.
But look for ways to do good to each other and to all people.
P: Be full of joy all the time. Never stop praying. In everything give thanks.
L: This is [God’s will. This is] what God wants you to do because of Christ Jesus. Do not try to stop
the work of the Holy Spirit.
P: Do not laugh at those who speak for God.
L: Test everything and do not let good things get away from you. Keep away from everything that
even looks like sin. May the God of peace set you apart for Himself.
P: May every part of you be set apart for God.
L: May your spirit and your soul and your body be kept complete. May you be without blame when
our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. The One Who called you is faithful and will do what He promised.
P: Christian brothers [and sisters], pray for us. (1 Thessalonians 5:13b-25 (NLV))
A soap manufacturer was walking down a street in a large city alongside a faithful mother. The soap manufacturer casually said, "That gospel you teach hasn't done much good has it. Just observe. There is still a lot of wickedness in the world, and a lot of wicked people too." They walked on in silence. They passed some children in a filthy street gutter making mud pies. The kids did as kids do and were covered from head to toe in the mud. The mother gestured to them and said, "I see that soap hasn't done much good in the world, for there is much dirt, and many dirty people around." The soap manufacturer replied, "Well yes, but, soap is only useful when it is applied." And the faithful mother replied, “Exactly. And so it is with the gospel."
Closing Prayer Let’s pray. Dear Lord, the Lord’s prayer - it is not just words we say – it is not just filled with sentiments we feel and hope for. It is a call to action, a guide for what those actions are, and a request for your Spirit to enliven us and empower us to apply those actions, allowing your kingdom, your will, his rule to come to your earth, and to our lives.
Almighty, yet intimate Father, we desire that your name be honored in all the earth. We are convinced that as we seek you with our whole hearts, you will not fail to guide and direct us with your wisdom when we ask what you would have us do. Save us from errant choices, keep us from stumbling into the pot holes of life, and lift us to experience, and to offer – to channel -- the kind of peace that can be found only by participating in your kingdom. We ask this in the name of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Closing Blessing Now go in the name of the God who does not withhold his love, but faithfully listens to the prayers of those who reverently worship him in awe and call out to him in praise. Go in the name of the one who channels his work on earth through us.
Closing Hymn TFWS # 2171 Make Me a Channel