What a mind-blowing thing it was when I realized that the Kingdom of God wasn’t about the sweet heavenly hereafter at all: it was something already here and still coming. Jesus said “The Kingdom of God is among you” or “within you.”
Once I wrapped my head around the present nature of the Kingdom, I needed to free the word “Kingdom” from its imperialist, androcentric, colonializing baggage. Boy, that was exhausting. I haven’t settled on any one substitute, but borrow freely from folks like MLK (Beloved Community) or Brian McLaren (Dream of God, Inescapable Network of Mutuality, Dance of God). I don’t feel a need to nail it down. After all, Jesus was pretty free with the metaphors, similes and parables about the Kingdom of God. Apparently it isn’t that easy to define.
I do have some ideas about the values of the Dream of God. I think I recognize it when I glimpse it peeking though the clouds of Seattle. I see the Dance of God when it is clearly absent, and feel it to my toes when it shows up. I believe that the Beloved Community is marked by peace, justice, kindness and love.
I don’t know how to separate “Your Kingdom come” from “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Seems to me that this is poetic repetition of the same idea. Prayer for God’s Kingdom to come is praying for God’s will to be done.
But what are we praying for when we say “Your Kingdom Come?”
This is where it gets WAY too personal for me. Because if Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is within you,” then I’m pretty sure that this working out of the Kingdom has something to do with… me.
I would much prefer that Jesus and the Kingdom start with you. But no, it appears that the Kingdom of God is here, now, and already begun within me. God have mercy.
This doesn’t seem like a brilliant plan to me, but I’m not the Almighty One.
Part of praying for God’s Kingdom to come means I agree to open myself anew to the working of God’s Spirit within me. It means I am willing to not only be transformed on a daily basis, but also to do the sometimes extremely inconvenient work of walking in the Way of Jesus.
If God’s Dream is world peace, I get to be a peacemaker. I get to do this even when I am right and the other person is a jerk. (You can see why this doesn’t seem like such a good plan to me.) Moment by moment, I die to my right to respond with anger and open myself up to discovering what it might mean in that moment for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
If the Beloved Community is marked by justice, then I will speak up on behalf of those who have no power or voice. I will vote for policies that promote equality, opportunity, and fairness. I will acknowledge that I live with “white privilege” every single day and that countless daily social interactions favor me. I will work for justice because love demands it, not because it is easy.
I feel pretty certain that when “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,” people won’t be hungry or homeless. I can’t end hunger and homelessness everywhere, but I can help feed and house people in my own city. I can invite the Spirit of God to enlarge my own heart for those in need.
I have often heard people say, “Be careful what you pray for.” We would do well to remember that when saying “Your Kingdom come” in the Lord’s Prayer. This is not just a vague request for God to change the world–this is a prayer for God to change us. It is a bold request for God to birth the Dream of God again and again in our own hearts and then to empower us to live that Dream in the world.
It is crazy (and very beautiful) that we dare to pray it at all.