Luke 12:32–40 32Do not be afraid, little flock, because your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions and give to the needy. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not become old, a treasure in the heavens that will not fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
35“Be dressed, ready for service, and keep your lamps burning. 36Be like people waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37Blessed are those servants, whom the master will find watching when he comes. Amen I tell you: He will dress himself and have them recline at the table, and he will come and serve them. 38Even if he comes in the second or third watch, they will be blessed if he finds them alert. 39But know this: If the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 40You also be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you are not expecting him.”
Jimi was planning on finishing the last two lessons in our adult confirmation class so he could join the church with the others in the class in July.
But God had other plans.
In May, Jimi suffered a stroke.
Jimi is a young man with a wife and children. The stroke left him incapacitated for several months.
Our Epiphany members helped Jimi and his family with groceries, gift cards and prayers for healing.
Last Sunday, Jimi finished the last lesson in our confirmation class. I’m so proud to have him stand before God’s altar to make his confirmation vows to the Lord of the Church!
But I’m also proud of you!
Because you helped Jimi get to this day.
In two weeks, we are baptizing one of our new WLS students. We have a great group of adults who will be starting in our new adult confirmation classes very soon. We are busy laying the groundwork for Hispanic outreach ministry in Racine.
This happens because you are praying Jesus’ mission prayer: “Your kingdom come.”
In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther asks what the words “Your kingdom come” mean. Then he answers the question:
God’s kingdom certainly comes by itself even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us.
How does God’s kingdom come?
God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives his Holy Spirit, so that by his grace we believe his holy Word and lead a godly life now on earth and forever in heaven.
When we think of a kingdom, we usually picture a castle, a throne, land and armies. But Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. That’s exactly what Jesus told Pontius Pilate when the Pharisees accused Jesus of being a Jewish king who wanted to take over Caesar’s empire, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).
Nor is Jesus’ kingdom in heaven. Jesus tells us, “Do not be afraid, little flock, because your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
Instead of imagining Jesus’ kingdom as a physical place here on earth or a spiritual location in heaven, we should think of the King being present among his people and exercising his divine authority in people’s hearts. That’s how Christ gives you the kingdom.
In his Large Catechism, Martin Luther answers the question of “What is God’s kingdom?”.
Answer, “Nothing other than what we learned in the Creed: God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the devil’s power (1 John 3:8). He sent him to bring us to himself and to govern us as a King of righteousness, life, and salvation against sin, death, and an evil conscience. For this reason he has also given his Holy Spirit, who is to bring these things home to us by his holy Word and to illumine and strengthen us in the faith by his power” (Large Catechism, Part III, The Lord’s Prayer, par. 51).
It sure may not seem like Jesus has complete control of his kingdom with all the enemies who are attacking us each day. There is an awful lot to be afraid of!
The devil is a roaring lion looking to sink his teeth into you and drag you into his cage in hell.
The devil sends out his demons as a pack of ferocious wolves to constantly attack you.
Unbelievers and anti-Christians bully you mercilessly until you give up.
The world entices you with music, binge-worthy TV, vacation destinations, liquid refreshments and the hording of possessions.
Plus, the devil, his demons and the world have a willing ally named “Old Adam.” This Old Adam dwells within each of us. He will gladly follow the ways of the world or give up the faith in the face of opposition.
Here we are facing the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh and Jesus tells us, “Do not be afraid little flock.” What?! Of course, we’re going to be afraid! We are going up against overwhelming enemies. And then Jesus describes us as “little” and a “flock” of defenseless lambs and sheep.
That’s not much comfort.
The comfort comes when Jesus promises, “Do not be afraid, little flock, because your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
To combat the influence of the world and the enticement of our flesh for possessions, Jesus teaches, “Sell your possessions and give to the needy. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not become old, a treasure in the heavens that will not fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:33-34).
When we are busy praying for God’s kingdom to come, we are praying to use all our possessions, talents and financial gifts for the ministry in our church and school and church body. We are praying that Jesus establish his rule in our hearts through Word and Sacrament.
God’s kingdom is Christ’s rule in the heart of his people. Jesus has set up his throne in each of our hearts as Christians. He established his loving dominion over us when the Holy Spirit brought us to faith by the gospel. When we pray, “Your kingdom come,” we are praying that our faith continue to be nourished through the Means of Grace of the gospel in Word and Sacrament.
Under Jesus’ rule, we are relieved of the guilt of our sins. We are freed from the tyranny of the devil. We are released from the dominion of the world. We are rescued from the fear of death. We are at peace with God who is no longer angry at us for our sinfulness. We are not timid at conversing with our God as he speaks to us in his Word and we speak to him in our prayers. We are looking forward to Jesus’ return on Judgment Day.
Jesus teaches us to be ready for his return on Judgment Day when he says, “Be dressed, ready for service, and keep your lamps burning. Be like people waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. Blessed are those servants, whom the master will find watching when he comes” (Luke 12:35-37).
I have three teenage daughters. As far as teenage daughters go, my girls are pretty good about getting ready so we can leave on time. Although, I do have one daughter who is perpetually putzy. We call to her, “It’s time to go!” She always calls back, “I’m coming!” We always say about our youngest, “Always coming … but never here.”
Jesus wants us to be ready for his coming on the Last Day. We are ready when we are faithfully making use of his Means of Grace in Word and Sacrament. But Jesus wants us to make others ready for his return, as well. We pray for this to happen with the words “Your kingdom come.” That’s when these words become a mission prayer.
Luther writes in his Large Catechism:
We pray this his name may be so praised through God’s holy Word and a Christian life that we who have accepted it may abide and daily grow in it, and that it may gain approval and acceptance among other people. We pray that it may go forth with power throughout the world (2 Thessalonians 3:1). We pray that many may find entrance into the kingdom of grace (John 3:5), be made partakers of redemption (Colossians 1:12-14), and be led to it by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14), so that we may all together remain forever in the one kingdom now begun (Large Catechism, Part III, The Lord’s Prayer, par. 52).
It is easy for us and those around us to imagine that there is always more time before Jesus returns. We can put our enjoyment, our pursuits and our personal preferences first. We believe that spiritual matters can wait. The devil is very effective in tempting us to be lazy, indifferent and lackadaisical.
Jesus offers an unusual, but effective image of readiness. “Be dressed and ready for service with lamps burning” implies a specific readiness. It is a readiness which prepares us to welcome our Savior at any time. If Jesus comes quickly, we are ready. If Jesus delays, we are still ready. Regardless of when he comes, we will never assume we have more time. We will never be perpetually putzy. Instead, we will be relentlessly ready.
This readiness only comes through a life where God’s kingdom comes daily into our hearts. We are ready to serve in Christ’s kingdom. It also equips each us to serve. It encourages us to serve daily, willingly and faithfully.
There will be times when you will be tempted by the pleasures of the flesh or the pull of possessions or to cower under the pressures of anti-Christian bullies. This is when you need to look at what your Savior accomplished for you. He has already shut the mouth of the roaring lion. He has chained up the wolves. He has served you with his forgiveness, life and salvation. He has paid for your sin. He has defeated death. He has set up his rule at his Father’s right hand. By focusing on what Jesus, your King, has already done for you, you can fight the temptations to put off serving him. You can be ready to welcome him when he comes.
The second petition of the Lord’s Prayer is not only a prayer for strengthening Christ’s rule in our hearts so we are ready for Christ’s return, but it is also a mission prayer reaching out to others. We are praying that the Holy Spirit work through his gospel and baptism to set up Christ’s throne room in the hearts of others. That the Holy Spirit turn on the light of faith for those who are still groping in the darkness of unbelief. That the Holy Spirit rescue sinners from the dungeon of hell and reserve them as saints for the kingdom of heaven.
You pray for Jesus’ kingdom to come to you so you can share Jesus’ kingdom with others.
As you hear God’s truth, you are ready to stand up for that truth and profess it loudly and proudly in front of your atheist professor and your cowering classmates.
As you sing familiar hymns in worship, you are prepared to sing those hymns after church when you visit your grandmother in the nursing home. It is beautiful to her as you sing off-key together.
As you hear the urgency of Christ’s mission in the sermon, you are motivated to talk to school families – not just about sports or schoolwork – but connecting them to Means of Grace ministries in your church.
As you learn that Christ’s gospel is for all nations, you get up the courage to speak about Jesus to your Muslim neighbor, your African American co-worker, your Anglo waitress and your Hispanic classmate.
When we pray this mission prayer, let’s expect that God will answer by using each of us to spread the saving message of Jesus Christ.
I tell my homebound members who feel that they are too old and infirm to do anything, to pray. Pray for their pastor, their church, their school, their church body, their children and grandchildren. Just keep praying that “God’s kingdom come.” Then we have children being baptized in the font, adults standing before the altar to be confirmed and saints streaming into heaven upon their deathbeds.
God answers our prayer as his kingdom continues to come into our hearts through his gospel. Our Lord commissions us to share this same gospel with the world. In this way, God’s kingdom comes to others – through us. Our words, our offerings, our actions and our prayers – all contained in those three little but powerful words – “your kingdom come.” Amen.