Ep. to Romans Ch. 8 verses 26-39. St. Matthew’s Gospel Ch. 13 verses 31-3,44-52.
Many of us will have grown up with the Lord’s Prayer – we likely know it off by heart, but I wonder whether we ask ourselves what we are praying for when we pray ‘thy kingdom come’, and follow it almost immediately with ‘on earth as it is in heaven’? We know that Jesus gave this prayer to his followers as a model, or guide, not only for their own prayers, but for their lives.
For centuries the Jews had prayed for God to be their king instead of the foreign tyrants under whose rule they had suffered. Old Testament prophets had promised that God would act on their behalf, be their king, ruling through a messianic figure, ensuring peace and justice. This hope had sustained his chosen people, so we should not be surprised that Jesus often talked about it to his chosen band and those ordinary folk who came to hear his stories.
Matthew records several of these stories in chapter 13, the important central chapter of his gospel, using parables to penetrate the mystery of the kingdom. The first doublet parables -the mustard seed and the leaven-tells of the amazing growth of these very tiny things -in the same way, Jesus implies, God’s kingdom would grow-beyond the expectations of those who heard him. In the second doublet, the treasure in the field and the wonderful pearl, Jesus speaks of a farm labourer finding a huge hoard of treasure in the field in which he was working, who, in his delight, decides to sell whatever he owns to buy the field. The pearl merchant in his search, finds one pearl which outshone the rest, so, in his delight he sells all he has to buy that pearl. In both Jesus tells of the joy when someone enters God’s kingdom, but emphasises the cost of giving up all else to enter it.
So it was to be for many of Jesus’ disciples who left homes, jobs, loved ones, to take up the cross and follow Jesus, just as others felt called, but could not pay the costs. It is hard to imagine the shock and despair of Jesus’ disciples when their Master was arrested, imprisoned, tried and crucified, but with the resurrection came new hope, followed by the gift of the Holy Spirit which brought new confidence and power.
In his wonderful letter to the Christians in Rome Paul, who had suffered greatly on his journeyings, writes with amazing confidence of God’s love for his creation, from which nothing can separate those who trust in Him, and who not only say the prayer of Jesus, but are seeking to live the prayer.
If we pray, as Jesus did in the Lord’s Prayer, for the redemption of the world, the defeat of evil, for heaven and earth to be joined, we, too, have to be prepared to live in this way, and it is our job to teach the world to pray in this way. Amen.
Revd Jean Hughes