Devotion for Thursday, April 30, 2020
2 Timothy 4:18
Collect: Merciful Father, heavenly King, ruler of all things in heaven and on earth, we acknowledge that Your kingdom comes and that good and gracious will is done without our prayers. We pray that you would defeat all that opposes Your will: the devil, the world and our own sinful nature, and in Your mercy, we ask You to strengthen and keep us firm in Your Word and faith all the days of our lives and bring us at last the inheritance You have prepared for us in Christ Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Hymn of Reflection: Your Kingdom, O God, Is My Glorious Treasure (LSB 654)
I’ve decided I like what I did last week, so I’m going to try to continue it going forward. On Tuesdays, I’ll talk about something from one of the lessons from the previous Sunday’s readings, and on Thursday I’ll have a catechetical theme. I don’t think I’ll go in order though; it’ll be whatever tickles my fancy that day more likely than not.
Today, though, I will go in order. Today, the confirmands will be going over the Second and Third petitions of the Lord’s Prayer: Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done. The two petitions really go hand in hand, and so are often taught together…at least by me.
God is king. Nothing new there, we’ve heard that as long as we’ve been going to church, but King of what? Well…everything! But what do we mean by everything? Our catechism breaks it down into three different kingdoms in order to help us better understand this concept of everything: the kingdoms of Power, Grace, and Glory. Now, for those of you who don’t remember the exact wording of the questions in the back of your catechisms I’ll summarize:
-God’s kingdom of power is the whole universe – all of creation both seen and unseen as we confess in the Nicene Creed. It is the beautiful sunset, the powerful nuclear powerplant, it is the electricity you use in your home, the majestic mountains and glorious oceans that we love to look at. All created things are in His Kingdom of Power. So, what’s left? Two more whole kingdoms actually!
-God’s kingdom of grace is the church on earth – more specifically, the gathering of God’s people to celebrate the receive the grace that was won for us in His Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This would include reading and hearing His Word of love, receiving the forgiveness of sins from the pastor in private confession and absolution, the reception of the Lord’s supper in worship, and even the baptism of a baby as they’re washed clean in that precious flood. It boils down to Word and Sacrament. Now, it’s not part of the kingdom of power because it wasn’t there form the beginning, it is a new promise, a new kingdom, established through Christ when He came and bought us back from sin, hell and the power of the devil, as we heard about in our epistle lesson for this past Sunday in 1 Peter. This leaves the third kingdom – the one to come.
-God’s kingdom of Glory is the church and angels in heaven. Singing praises to our Father for all eternity around His throne, Jesus standing at the Fathers’ right hand in heaven, the heavenly banquet awaiting the faithful in heaven, these are all examples of this kingdom of glory.
Now, since God’s Kingdom of Power is already here and all around us as we see every day, what are we really praying for this in petition? We know that His Kingdoms are going to come with or without our prayers, since we don’t make God work, but we are praying that we would desire it, welcome it, and not try to hinder it. We’re pray that God would give us His Holy Spirit so that that we would believe and trust His Word of promise, and through that, live lives which reflects this as member of His Kingdom of Grace – the church here on earth. We’re also asking for Him to bring others into His Kingdom of grace so that they too would know His love for them, and even to use us to accomplish this. And finally, we’re asking that He would return to bring us that Kingdom of Glory were we sill no longer hunger nor thirst, and be in His presence forever.
Tied into that is God’s ‘will being done’. We’re praying in the petition before that we would be a help in bringing His kingdom, and now we are reinforcing that and asking that He would help us in doing His will. Again, we know that its’ going to be done with or without our prayers, we can’t limit or stop God, we are asking, once again, for that will to be done in and through us – specifically when it comes to living our lives as His redeemed children.
How is this done? I’m actually going to quote the Small Catechism here because I don’t think I could word it any better:
“God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which don’t want to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will.”
This isn’t something that some smart guy made up either, it comes from Scripture:
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40)
The devil desires that no one would go to heaven as he wants to rule over them himself and have them worship him, as he tempts Jesus to do in the desert, and as Jesus warns us when teaching us about how His Word works in the hearts of people:
“The [seeds] along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.”
Jesus also warns us in that same parable how the cares of the world tempt us and choke out the Word in our hearts for the same purpose. But He doesn’t just warn us about the dangers, He also gives us the solution. Since our own sinful nature doesn’t want to hallow God’s name or have His kingdom come either, He gives us the gift of faith freely so that we can fight against those urges and instead share His love in the world around us:
“8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10
Why does He do this? Because, as St Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2:4, “[God] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
What we’re praying for in this petition is that God would continue to work His will in our lives, helping us to fight those temptations, and share His love with everyone we meet – and He does. Through His means of Grace – Word and Sacrament – God is regularly coming to you, forgiving you your sins, and strengthening your faith. His Means of Grace, are the means by which He has promised to deliver His grace to you, as I mentioned above when explaining the Kingdom of Grace, those means are His Word or forgiveness and love, and the sacraments: the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, and Absolution.
Through these Means of Grace, God equips us and trains us to share His love with others. He empowers us to rejoice in the gifts He gives us through His Kingdoms of Power and Grace, and look forward to the Kingdom of Glory which is to come. Even in this time of quarantine, He continues to work towards this goal. He continues to feed you through His Word and comes to you in your devotions and through worship. Whether that worship is electronically over the internet or around a table reading the one we email out, you are joining together will all believers at that time in your proclamation of God’s grace, and receiving His forgiveness just as we do when we gather together in His house on Sunday mornings. No, it’s not ideal, no we can’t partake of the Sacrament of the Altar this way and so we are limited in the tools we currently have at our disposal to accomplish that which God has called us to, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t working! God’s kingdom comes even without our prayers – the good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayers – God works in us, and though us, is done even though we have only limited resources, but we pray in these petitions that we would recognize His good and gracious gifts, and long for them, rejoice in them when we can receive them, and in times like these, sustain us until we can once again come together and partake of them once more.
My fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, rejoice in your citizenship. You are children of God, and He is with you in times of plenty and times of scarcity, in times of freedom and times of quarantine, and He will continue to look out for you and look after you until He calls you home to be with Him in the third kingdom, where your citizenship will be eternal, and your home in the presence of God Himself.
I pray that God would keep you firmly rooted in His kingdom and in His will all the days of your life, so that when His third Kingdom comes, and we join together with all the faithful in the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom which has no end, we can celebrate together His faithfulness to us. Amen.
In Christ and His service,