Lent 2 Midweek (Luke 11:14-23)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Lent 2 Midweek – March 15, 2017
Text: Luke 11:14-23

The Second Petition
“Thy Kingdom come”
Martin Luther wrote about this petition: “Just as God’s name is holy in itself and yet we pray that it may be holy among us, so also his kingdom comes of itself without our prayer and yet we pray that it may come to us. That is, we ask that it may prevail among us and with us, so that we may be a part of those among whom his name is hallowed and his kingdom flourishes.”[1]
This is a prayer for there to be a Christian Church, for us to be a part of it, and for the reign of God to extend to every place.
A common question to ask is, Where is the Kingdom of God?  The Israelites knew where to look—the tabernacle and, later, the Temple.  God dwelt upon the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant.  If you were part of Israel, you were in the Kingdom.  After Israel’s unfaithfulness and subsequent exile, the Temple was destroyed.  They had a terrible quandary—where is the Kingdom of God to be found if there is no temple?  So, they built a second temple (the Book of Ezra details this).
Then several hundred years went by without a prophet, and John the Baptist came preaching, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”[2]  Suddenly, God’s dwelling place was different, because it was now in the flesh of His Son.  The Kingdom of God was no longer located in a place or a nation on earth, but found those who believe that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh.[3]  This Jesus said, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”[4]
The Church, the Kingdom of God, is found where the faithful are gathered around God and His living Word.  It’s not a denomination, not a building, not the pope.  All of those are of human origin, but the Church is solely the work of the Holy Spirit—“The wind blows where it wishes, you hear its voice but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”[5]
The Kingdom of God is the only place where God is known as Father.  Outside the Christian Church—outside this faith, you’re on your own.  There is no certainty of grace, no forgiveness, no sure and certain hope of the resurrection, and not even true love for God.
But we pray that this Kingdom of God would come to us, that just as God has made a place where gathers His children, we would be counted among them!  “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”[6]  So we pray that God would make us like little children.  In this, we pray against our “wise” adult ways which would set bounds on His Kingdom and say it only comes to people we approve of.  Whenever this happens, it spirals into a convoluted partisan mess.
God has made us Christians by His power, not our decision.  His Holy Spirit has called us into this Church by the Gospel.[7]  Therefore what makes us genuine Christians is God’s gift of faith.  So we pray for ourselves that our minds and hearts would be conformed and submit to God’s holy Word, like little children
And it would be a sad thing is the Church were only us who are alive today.  Thankfully, God doesn’t think as narrowly as we do.  When we pray for God’s Kingdom to come, it’s also that it many more in the world would be brought in.  We pray that people who have never heard of Christ would believe in Him, that those who have forsaken the faith would return, and that each successive generation would proclaim the excellences of God to the next.
All of this would be a dreadfully impossible task if it were left up to human strength and wit.  But this is what drives us to fear that the Church is shrinking in the world or becoming obsolete.  Human wisdom would say that we need to freshen up the faith and make it “speak” to the new generation.  We need to meet the flighty felt needs of those who are presently church members so they decide to keep on coming.
God says to stop right there.  Pray for His Kingdom to come, and He will do all this.  It may seem impossible, unlikely, and perhaps even unpopular.  But we pray in this petition that God would make it so because it’s not too much for Him.  His Holy Spirit has the power to convert the erring, confirm the strong, and to build up those who are weak.  It all happens through His Word preached in and through His Church.
So this petition is a prayer for the Holy Spirit to work.  He has made the Church out of you and me and all who are called from far off.  He keeps us in that true faith, and He gathers people of every nation to repent and believe that the Kingdom of God has come near to them.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
[1] Large Catechism, III, 50
[2] Matthew 3:2
[3] 1 John 4:2-3
[4] John 4:23
[5] John 3:8
[6] Mark 10:15
[7] Romans 10:14-17

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