Each time we recite the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew chapter 6:9-13 we pray these words, “your kingdom come, you will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
We thoughtlessly recite this prayer without paying a whole lot of attention to just how astounding these words really are. That’s what I want us to dive into today in this blog post.
In the beginning God created a beautiful world where he would dwell with his people. Then he created human beings and put them in the world that he created. The Biblical authors called this world a garden because garden best describes what life is like in the presence of God. It is a flourishing world within which God’s people partner with God in doing the will of God. God’s people partner with him as image bearers—tending the garden, reigning in union with God and bringing life and filling the earth with people.
It was a place and a people who were fully in union with God—a Temple so to speak that was filled with God’s presence.
When the snake appeared in the garden he was spouting the “wisdom” of the world offering a temptation to be one’s own master apart of God. And this union between God and the people he created was broken. They sought to establish a world without God and without the wisdom of God. And there were drastic effects. The people God had created were exiled and left the flourishing space filled with the presence of God. And as the people created their own world apart of God, heaven (God’s space) and earth (human space) separated. The result was war, injustice, greed, exploitation, murder and a world that no longer flourished.
A Plan to Reunite
God set about implementing a plan to reunite his people with himself and create a space within which heaven (God’s space) and earth (human space) could once again be joined. He began with a people birthed through a man and woman named Abraham and Sarah who were promised a new land—a new garden that would flourish once again under the reign of God. Their descendants were enslaved in Egypt but God delivered them and brought them to this new promised land that would be flowing with milk and honey. (another image of flourishing)
God gave his people a Tabernacle which would be the space where heaven (God’s space) and earth (human space) met. God gave them a law, the Torah, so that his people would begin to seek justice and live together in peace. A law that would help them flourish in the promised land. And when the people gathered in the Temple, they experienced the presence of God. They were present when God’s Spirit filled the Temple.
When Jesus came, he came through a woman, a human. Mary’s conception perfectly images the joining of heaven and earth in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus as fully human and fully God is the new Temple, tabernacling (dwelling) with God’s people. The Apostle John tells us that the Word became flesh and tabernacled (dwelt) with us. God put on human flesh and moved into the neighborhood as some translations say.
Jesus said he was the Temple when he said,
“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body.” (John 2:19-21)
Jesus lived fully a life of union with God, going about bringing a bit of heaven to earth wherever he went. Those he touched experienced the flourishing life of God and were healed, delivered, restored and renewed. And the shalom of God–the kingdom of God broke into the present through Jesus Christ.
In Acts one and two, we read about how after Christ’s death and resurrection, he ascended into heaven and poured out the Holy Spirit on all flesh. As they received the Spirit, flames rested on them just as the Spirit had filled the Tabernacle in the days of old. Instead of a Temple made of bricks and stones, this new Temple made up of people who contained the Holy Spirit were the living stones that the Letter of 1Peter speaks about. Jesus as the Capstone brings this people together like a new building that contains God’s presence.
It is now God’s people who are bearing the presence and power of God wherever they go in the world. And just as Jesus offered life and was a minister of life, so God’s people are doing the same things that Jesus did while on the earth. As the “body” of Christ, Jesus continues his work through the hands and feet of those who have been united with Christ by the Holy Spirit.
We live in a day and a time within which many in this world are not flourishing. We have disease, poverty, war, violence, exploitation and injustice. At times even the church has unknowingly joined that injustice. I feel that because we don’t have this understanding, we only think about heaven as a place we go when we die. But as God’s people, we are a people who in union with Christ by the Holy Spirit have the capacity to bring heaven to earth when we too become healers, life givers, people of justice—those who lift the lame and set them on their feet–physically and metaphorically. As image bearers and containers of the life of God, we have the opportunity to bring little pockets of the kingdom in our own communities and neighborhoods.
We individually and corporately contain the power and presence of God.
I long for the body of Christ to grasp this and instead of waiting for the end of the world and a journey to heaven, we would realize that we carry heaven through our union with Christ by the filling of the Holy Spirit. And wherever there is justice, wherever there is life, wherever there is wholeness, wherever there is shalom—there is the kingdom of heaven. I wonder if our emphasis on going to heaven when we die but ignoring the injustices and sufferings of this sin-sick world are preventing others from receiving Christ as their own savior. We currently seem so much more like people of the Empire than we do people of the kingdom of God. I believe that if the world would see the body of Christ as she is called, they would embrace Christ for themselves.
This is my prayer: that we as God’s people will grasp this truth once again. Let us pray…
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen
Some of the above ideas are from The Bible Project