World As It Should Be
May 6, 2018
Rev. Fritz Nelson
Text: Matthew 6:9-13
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”
- the place where all have their daily bread
- the place where sins are forgiven, where the forgiven in turn forgive
- the place where we are free from trials and temptations, where the Way of the Lord is clear
- the place where all creation is rescued from the tyrannical grip of the evil one
God’s kingdom – the world as it should be – the new reality Christ promises to deliver as he begins his ministry quoting from the prophet Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
The world proclaimed in the beginning of Jesus’ great Sermon on the Mount:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit … blessed are those who mourn …. blessed are the meek … blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness … blessed are the merciful … blessed are the pure in heart … blessed are the peacemakers … blessed are those who are persecuted …”
The world as it should be, a world of blessing, of grace, of hope, of healing. A world Jesus outlines over the course of a day of preaching along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. A world Jesus calls us to pray into being – pray into being on this world for it already exists in the next.
Pray a new world into being. It sounds like a tall order – possibly a useless order. Especially in a time when the phrase “thoughts and prayers” has become a political weapon and the chaplain of the House of Representatives can be fired for basing his prayers on scripture instead of party talking points.
The Rev.Pat Conroy’s controversial prayer was short, simple, basic and pulled straight from the pages of the gospels. As the house discussed a bill having immense implications regarding the US economy, he prayed for the poor, the needy, and the struggling. Thoughts do little. But prayer, real prayer, biblical prayer, sincere prayer, connects us with those for whom we pray. Sincere prayer reveals the World As It Should Be. Sincere prayer creates a roadblock to the World As It Is.
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately with my friend Greg Aker. Greg’s a retired art teacher at East Palestine High and part of the leadership team at the Upper Room. Together we’ve been working on a project to radically change how we address poverty in Columbiana County. Greg is also a man of deep, sincere prayer. In fact our project stems in part from a vision received by a member of the Upper Room congregation during one of their Tuesday evening prayer sessions.
On the last Tuesday of the month Greg hosts Pray for Columbiana. All through the month they listen for the concerns and needs of the community – struggles in the schools, among the merchants and factory owners, discord on city council, broader social struggles. As far as I can tell they are non-political – they’re not trying to pray the chickens in or out. They haven’t taken a position on the mayor’s tax plan, the nature of community growth or even the best way to navigate the traffic circle. They simply come together and pray: thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in Columbiana as it is in heaven.
I admit that I’ve never accepted Greg’s invitation to attend these gatherings. Free form, concerts of prayer simply are not my style. But I can see how, in Greg and in others, these times of prayer push back against the World As It Is and bring for the World As It Should Be.
Thoughts, you see, can be easily dismissed. As I skimmed this morning’s headlines my thoughts went to Hawaii and the disaster unfolding. But then they flitted away. If I took time to pray for those in Hawaii, I would be connected to them, I’d begin carrying their burdens with them, I’d see God’s vision of the World As It Should Be and want to walk with them into that vision. Maybe I’d simply pray more. Maybe I’d support a relief agency. Maybe I’d go myself to respond. Closer to home, if I just think about the struggles of my neighbors I may feel sorry for them but do little else. If I pray for them, their burdens become my burdens, their journeys becomes my journeys.
As I pray for my neighbors I begin to see a way – a way through the valleys, a way over the mountains, a way for the glory of the Lord to be experienced, for the World As It Should Be to take root in our lives. To take root in our communities, our nation, our world. We see a way and we begin to walk as Jesus walked, making the World As It Should Be a little more visible, a little more real, with each step.
So this morning, as we come to the communion table, we’re going to take some extra time to pray for Christ’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. In this basket I have news clippings from yesterday’s papers. I invite you to pick one at random, skim the clipping and identify one person from that clipping. Depending on the clipping it may be a person you can invite by name, or it may be a person who is representative of a group discussed in the article. I want you to hold that person in your mind, invite that person to join you at the communion table and, as we come to the table to pray God’s blessing on that person, pray they might experience the World As It Should Be. Depending on the article you pick, you may find this easy. You may find it extremely hard. As you hold your new person, just let go of your preconceived notions and suppositions, let the Spirit guide your prayers, let the Spirit guide your welcome.