Thy Kingdom Come
This line of our Lord’s prayer is also aspirational, a desire: May thy kingdom come! O, that thy kingdom would come!
The whole line goes on: “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” About which, a few points:
1) There is no difference between God’s kingdom coming and God’s will being done. God’s kingdom is that realm where his will is done.
2) God’s kingdom exists already in heaven: God’s will is being done there. “Heaven,” as mentioned earlier in the prayer, is God’s arranging things so that he is available. It is not earth, but it is not at any remove from earth. Wherever we are, God is available to us, at hand; he is one we can call upon at any time.
3) Jesus, when he ascended, took his seat at God’s right hand. This is known as his “session,” and the “right hand” means he shares completely in God’s authority over all things. Thus we speak of “Christ the king,” for instance. Jesus has the authority to rule the universe, and he does so, even now. The citizens of the kingdom of heaven are those who acknowledge Jesus’ rule and thus live by the Spirit. I suppose we might say they are “in heaven.”
4) “On earth,” for now, there remains evil in its myriad forms: injustice, cruelty, infidelity, dishonesty, and on and on. Which is just to say that, in the mystery of God’s providence, the session of Jesus at God’s right hand has not yet been universally effectuated. There is a good deal of the creation, including a good deal of most human hearts (even thine and mine), which does not yet acknowledge his rule. There is no question whether Jesus is the ruler of the universe, no question whether ultimately every being will either acknowledge his rule or fall in rebellious defeat. But this is not the case yet.
5) So “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done” expresses the longing that Jesus’ rule, which is already real, would be effectuated over all things. “On earth” means, then, throughout the creation: not only in God’s presence (his available presence to us, which we call “heaven”) but also in “earth” which includes planets and stars and everything a telescope or a microscope might ever see. This line of the prayer is our desire that every wrong cease and righteousness become the air that everyone breathes.
With this line we conclude the opening of the prayer; all that follows are requests for things we need (bread, forgiveness, perseverance).
Our Father is our delightful acclamation that God has given us grace to be more than mere creatures but people who can share in a sort of equality with him—people who can talk with him—people who are adopted into the family with Jesus as our brother.
Who art in heaven is our affirmation that God, while being nothing in the world (God is no thing), is nonetheless available, at hand. Heaven is a kind-of created place, an arrangement made by God so that he could be near us.
Hallowed be thy name is our deep sigh that everything in the universe would lift up to God. Trees, people, stars, birds, the whole creation (even cats?)—may they all praise their maker!
Thy kingdom come is our further desire that all evil, all rebellion against God, would come to an end, and righteousness prevail in every place and every heart and every city and every school and every anything.
Out & About. It’s coming soon: the “Good Books & Good Talk” seminar on Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie: at Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, 6 to 7:30 p.m., Sunday, May 19, and if you read it, I hope you can join us. The movie is interesting, but differs from the book—there is a theological erasure in the film—we will discuss the book.
What Theologians Read. I’ve been enjoying Blood and Memory by Robert Benson. Benson, now retired, taught for decades at Sewanee (and elsewhere before that). These are understated, masterfully composed remembrances and reflections on boyhood in Louisiana—on family, on blood. (You can find another book by Benson, Wedding the Wild Particular, in the Dallas Public Library—also worth reading.) I will never forget his description of his father’s rattlesnake bite, at the age of 12, from which it took him months to recover and, viscerally, never. Coming to the end of that remembrance: “I have tried to look at snakes as he saw them all his life without trying: still bright with a child’s fear and bewildering pain. Some things are clear now, but much of what I remember puzzles me.” Then a page later, walking with his own boys and some friends who had stepped over a thirty-inch rattlesnake without seeing it: “It neither rattled nor attempted to escape. I shot it once with a small .38 and watched as it knotted and rattled. I told myself that I was protecting the children.” But the reader may well think he was reconciling himself to his father. Of whom, the next paragraph ends: “When he died two months before his seventy-fifth birthday, he smiled like a housebound boy given permission to go and play.” If you read this book, I’d love to hear from you.