Thy Kingdom come

One of several amazing things I heard, when I first came into a certain group of Christians a dozen years ago, was a teaching on the Lord’s Prayer that made tons of sense. I had known the prayer all my life (it’s the Our Father of Catholic and Orthodox traditions). As most people are aware, it was given to the first disciples of Christ by Jesus himself. I’m thinking I recall pretty well what I learned regarding the prayer, and it was all helpful, but mainly I’m remembering how one particular line in the prayer was interpreted, because the interpretation was new to me. It was new in that it took careful time to consider what might be going on with the line, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

As we look around in life, my wise teacher said, we don’t see God’s kingdom evidenced here and now. Certainly things “on earth” don’t look as they do “in heaven.” And so we are praying for this thing we don’t yet see to be evident here with us. What we’re actually asking God, the teacher went on, is something more like, “May your Kingdom come, and may your will be done, in the future, here with us as it is with you, now, ‘in the heavens.’” I was struck by that thought, and I still am. Only today there’s a difference for me. Some of the Orthodox teaching I’ve heard and read is practically identical with my previous teacher’s interpretation of this passage, except that it’s given in the context of what’s called the sacramental life.

As I pray this Lord’s Prayer often these days, I’m understanding that the sacramental life is completely based around, encircling, if you will, the Throne of heaven. The light of Christ is actually shining from heaven into this world, onto earth, while yet doing so in a way that was particularly given by the same Lord who taught the first disciples how to pray.

So, for me, the experience has been this: I didn’t at all see the Kingdom of God here on earth. Now, in a certain sense and context, I do see it. This view, in me, is still extremely new and ignorant, but it’s real, evidential, not spooky or coming from a recent “revelation.” It’s been around a very long time. I believe very much in the “mustard seed” concept, as Christ used mustard seed when describing how the Kingdom would begin. The thing is, Christ continually said it would begin; it was near; it was “among you.”

There’s been, until now, no way for me to interpret that insistence of Christ’s, except to maybe believe he meant “May the Kingdom come among you at some point we don’t yet see.” But then, why did he say it was with those he spoke to, right then?

I’m thinking, from what I now see, Jesus meant, “You truly see the Kingdom, it is present though still only beginning to be apprehended in your beginning-to-be-sanctified mind (beginning to be redeemed, transformed mind). The reality of the Kingdom is present when you see me.”

I know. The natural response to this is “I don’t see Jesus. The disciples were with him then; I’m not. To say Jesus is with us right now is to make up something, to behave and think artificially, and that’s what goes on in the churches we see all around us.”

I still agree with you who respond this way. It makes sense to me that you do. I never knew, either, what could be behind the rather vague statements people made about Jesus while I was growing up. They spoke as if he were in the room. Yet, what was with that? How could he be here, while also seated at the right hand of the Father at the same time? Didn’t the disciples see Jesus ascend into the clouds?

Not that I even necessarily asked those questions, but my instincts were confirmed those dozen years ago when I came into the group of believers whose assumption is, forthrightly, no, Jesus isn’t here; he’s coming back again someday, but that will be a big event we haven’t yet experienced.

We are, in this view, basically cut off from Christ until his physical return. His teachings in the New Testament and the promises in the Protestant Old Testament are the only possibility we have to know him. If that is the truth, then it must be enough.

What if, however, there is a fuller understanding that has been with Christians from the beginning? I hope to write more about this possibility next time.