Last Sunday in Christian gatherings all over this country folk prayed: “ … Thy kingdom [literally] be coming, Thy will be being done on earth as it is in heaven.” Then on Monday the nation celebrated two national events: one honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the other the inauguration of the president of the United States. Then, next Sunday Christian folk will be praying again: “ … Thy kingdom be coming, Thy will be being done on earth …”

Question: In our own time and space, in this civitas, in this body politic, in these United States, what would it look like for God’s kingdom, God’s New Creation in Christ, to be made visible, to take on flesh and blood reality?

When Jesus initiated his public ministry in Palestine (and the Roman Empire), he quoted from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Then, he announced: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

What would such a manifestation actually look like?

With that introduction he began to go about preaching the good news of the kingdom of God.


At the end of his life he made another public statement to the effect that when he, the Son of Man, returns at the end of the age, he will gather all peoples before him … and judge them on the basis of whether or not they fed the hungry, clothed the naked, took the homeless poor into their homes, and visited the debtor-prisoners. “Inasmuch as you have done/not done this unto the least of these my brethren, you have/have not done it unto me.”

The dimensions of kingdom priorities and manifestations become clearer, don’t they?

What would that look like in present day incarnation?

At the heart of Jesus teaching is his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew) or Sermon on the Plain (Luke), which spells out in some detail the visible manifestations and the ethical dimensions of the kingdom Jesus was inaugurating. It began with a list of visible manifestations of kingdom presence in the lives of God’s kingdom people that make them to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world—visible kingdom presence. The blessings are upon those who are poor (Luke), or identify with the poor (Matthew), the merciful, the peacemakers, those eager to do what is right, those who mourn over the victims of the tragic, and those who are willing to be persecuted for righteousness, those of pure intent, and those willing to take the verbal abuse that so often assails God’s folk.

So, then, in this civitas, which we call the United States of America, when we pray for the dynamic coming of God’s kingdom … what so we anticipate that it would look like?

What is the agenda of the kingdom of God here and now?

Unless you really do a radical spin job on these New Testament teachings, or are really dense, the coming of God’s kingdom into this scene would have (in the presence of those of us who are primarily citizens of the kingdom of God but incarnate in this present body politic) all of the flavor of these kingdom descriptions.

When you pray the Lord’s prayer on next Sunday, be aware that you are praying a prayer with radical political implications.


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About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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