As we continue to plumb the riches of the model prayer that Jesus gave his disciples we read:
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
His words give us pause, because there is so much in our world that is wrong and we are tempted to doubt the power of a God who is truly kind and compassionate.
As a side note, it is worth considering the question of doubt. In recent weeks the Archbishop of Canterbury has been taken to task because he says there are times when he has doubts about his faith. But when we think about it, doubt is not the opposite of faith. It is something we may well experience because we have faith.
YOUR KINGDOM COME
To return to Jesus’ prayer,
Father… Your kingdom come, your will be done,
Anyone of us with an ounce of intelligence can see there is much in life that appears to contradict an unquestioning confidence in God. Famines and earthquakes, terrorism and conflict, sickness and suffering, all prompt us to ask the same silent question: ‘How can a good God allow it?’
Surely the only sort of faith that is immune to this question is a blind faith, a faith that closes its mind to reality. This kind of faith is irrational, even cowardly. It is the kind of faith that deserves the contempt of the skeptic, for it only confirms the suspicion that believers are pathetic weaklings who need the crutch of faith to limp through life. Real faith has to confront the evil and suffering of the world.
The apostle Paul sought to address these kinds of questions in his Letter to the Colossians. His readers were under pressure from their neighbors. They were also under pressure from teachers who were attempting to turn Christianity from a faith that was grounded in a person who lived and died and rose again, into a system of works and mystical experiences.
To counter these problematic teachings Paul wrote one of the great statements found in the New Testament concerning the majesty of Christ and the supremacy of his rule over all things. Undergirding this are his opening words in 1: 15:
He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation;…
With these words Paul is telling us that Jesus is the projection into our world of the God who exists beyond space and time.
So, how has God in Christ used his position of power? In Colossians 1:20, Paul continues:
through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him,…
What we see happening on that cross is God, finding a way whereby he can absorb within himself the pain, the injury and the anger, that is rightly within him, when he looks at people like us who have hurt him and sinned against him. We see there a passionate collision of pain and fury, of love and mercy. He reconciled to himself all things, through the blood Jesus shed on the cross.
And, says Paul, the church is the evidence that God succeeded. The church is the nucleus of that reconciled community of men and women who have made peace with God and who now stand in his sight holy, without blemish, and free from accusation.
This is how our majestic, all holy God has used his vast power – to serve us in our greatest need. What’s more he plans to make a new heaven and a new earth where goodness and truth reign for ever. Let’s remember this when we pray,
Your kingdom come…