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[Sermon] Embracing the Kingdom: From Words to Action

Pastor Hector Garfias-Toledo + June 16, 2024 + Unfolding the Prayer: The Kingdom



In his sermon for the third week of our Unfolding the Prayer worship series, Pastor Hector challenges us to move beyond reciting the Lord's Prayer to actively living out its message. By exploring the profound implications of "Let your Kingdom come," he encourages us to embody God's transformative love, justice, and compassion in tangible ways. Drawing on personal stories and global perspectives, Pastor Hector illustrates how embracing God's Kingdom involves a commitment to fostering peace and healing in our communities. This sermon inspires a deeper understanding of prayer as a call to action, inviting everyone to participate in bringing God's Kingdom to life here and now.

Sermon Transcript

Automatically generated captions from YouTube, lightly edited for readability by ChatGPT.


Grace to you and peace from God, our Abba, our Mother, our Father, our Creator, and the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom and through whom Abba Father brings the Kingdom to us, and we said, Amen.


As I was listening to our brother Job in the brief introduction of how the Gospel came to India, I was thinking of how this prayer and, in general, the message of the Gospel has come to different corners in the world and how this has had very deep implications in the life, development, growth, challenges, and conflicts of the church around the world. Yet, as I was listening to the Lord's Prayer in another language, this made me think of what we normally say here at church: let us join our voices in the prayer that the Lord Jesus has taught us, in whichever language, version, translation, or even in the words that the Spirit has placed in your heart. To me, that is a clear example of the meaning of the part of the prayer that we are going to reflect on today. We began two weeks ago with the words "Abba," and do you remember that Abba is a word that Jesus used in Aramaic that conveys an intimate relationship of God with God's people, with God's creation.


Last Sunday, and I hope you remember last Sunday, what did we reflect on? This is a question. All right, well, let's start again. It begins with "Abba, Father, hallowed be your name," or as I said last Sunday, a direct translation would be "Let your name be hallowed." Today we are going to reflect on "Let your Kingdom come," or in another translation, "Your Kingdom come."


When I look at the prayer, I invite you to start thinking and opening your minds because, in a few moments, you are going to use the bulletin that I mentioned earlier. When we start praying, I believe that Jesus is inviting us to think not only in how we recite a prayer that we memorize or that we learn by heart. Jesus is inviting us, and maybe challenging us, to expand our understanding that the prayer and the words of the prayer that He is leading us into is a prayer that connects us with the very beginning of all things. "Our Father, let your name be hallowed." Jesus connects us with the goodness of Abba, Father, Mother, and Creator, with the holiness of Abba, Father, Mother, and Creator, the same Abba that, on the first day, with Abba's voice, things came to be. When God saw that things started to flourish, to become material or real, God said every time that God created something, a few words, two words or three: "It is good. It is good."


I believe that this is what Jesus is inviting us to think, that when we pray "Abba Father, Father, Mother, Creator, let your Kingdom come," Jesus is saying that initial intent of God to bring all creation to God's self and to live in a right relationship of love and care—it is the Kingdom, it is the Reign that Jesus is inviting us to come. Do you think that Jesus is telling us to pray for the Kingdom of God because the Kingdom is not here or because if we don't pray, God wouldn't come with His, with God's Kingdom here? Why may Jesus be inviting us to pray "Let your Kingdom come?" The truth is that when we pray these words, "Let your Kingdom come," this plea evokes in us certain emotions and certain reactions. So the question may be, why is Jesus inviting us to pray with His words? Why? What is the urgency of Jesus inviting or calling or telling God to bring that Reign, that Kingdom? Why do you think that Jesus is inviting us to pray and to ask God, "Let your Kingdom come?" It’s a real question.


Acceptance? Say again, Heidi, so that we can be closer to Him, to God? Yeah, that will blossom and open up.


It is strange, I believe, for some societies in the world, maybe including ours in this country, to plead for a Kingdom to come because that would imply that our control, power, and status may be threatened by another Kingdom. We are seeing that right now with what is happening in the world. Every time that a nation rises, developing and growing, those who are in power find a way to push down those that are growing because it's very difficult for us to accept or to believe that we can or will live under the authority or power of those who are bigger or more powerful than us. This country, for example, was founded because we were reacting to the monarchy of Europe, of England. When we talk about kingdoms, reigns, authority, and subordination, it's hard for us to believe and to pray, "Let your Kingdom come." Then we try to bring God or to make God less of a powerful figure because we don’t want to think that we are under the authority of somebody else.


However, coming from countries, and this probably reflects more my situation, coming from countries that have been oppressed and submitted by others, this prayer is also a prayer of hope because it is only the Reign of God that will be able to change the suffering, the oppression, and the submission to which countries, peoples, and societies are suffering from.


So, I would like to take a moment for you to take your bulletin now. You have a section on page, I think it’s six if I'm not wrong. What page is that? Page five. I would like you to divide that white space that you have into two. You can do it vertically or horizontally, whatever you prefer, but use half of that section, and just take a moment and write a few words or a word or draw something that will represent what, at this point in your life, you believe you understand that the Reign of God, the Kingdom of God, is about. When you have written that or drawn something, look for a couple of people around you, and I invite you to share what you drew or wrote. If you do not have anything to write or draw, it’s fine, but I invite you to be open to listen to those who were able to write or draw something. So take a moment, open, let your spirit guide you, and think about what it means when we pray, "Let your Kingdom come."


[music while congregation writes/draws]


If you have already written something, you can start looking for others who have probably ended and maybe have a brief conversation about what you have written or drawn on your bulletin. For those of you participating online, I invite you to do the same thing, and you can type anything in the chat section if you are able to do so. Don’t be afraid to make noise because that’s the Reign of God: life, noise, joy, people talking, sharing their hearts, journeying together, wondering sometimes.


Make a joyful noise. Let’s see if you have anything you were able to share. Anyone who was able to, just one or two of you who would like to share anything that you heard, or if you want to say what you wrote or drew, just speak loudly so we can repeat and people online can hear. Anyone who wants to venture? I’m going through the row of pews to see what you have on your bulletins. I’m coming, so you better raise your hand. Okay, Jenica?


Justice.


Anyone else?


Ruth?


A place of hope and encouragement.


Anyone else?


Honor.


Unconditional love.


Thank you for sharing that, and I invite you now to start thinking because I’m going to conclude with a few words and a short story that I hope will help us, and we’re going to watch a short video, a very short video. When I was thinking of this prayer, as I said earlier, "Let your Kingdom come," I was thinking that this prayer is our desire to let God work in and through our lives, to be the reflection of the initial intent of God when God said, "It is good." I believe that this unfolding prayer we have been reflecting on in Jesus is a reflection of how Jesus reorients us and reorients our prayers from the tendency that we have when we pray to ask, or sometimes even to beg, for the needs that we have to the position of declaring and proclaiming that everything we need, we already have because we have the Reign of God among us. This is what God has always wanted to do from the beginning in and through Jesus, and we see this in the Gospel according to Luke. In chapter 1, in the Annunciation, when the angel tells Mary that Jesus will have the Kingdom with him, but also in the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 11, we hear Jesus remind us that this Kingdom has already been given to us, and in chapter 17, where Jesus tells us that this Kingdom is already among us.


Why is this Kingdom so important?


A few weeks ago, we had the visit of Sister Lucy. I don’t know how many of you were able to watch the recording of the event. Sister Lucy is the founder of the organization in India called Maher. What they do, what she does, is build homes for women, children, and men who are abused, victims of domestic violence, and those who are sexually assaulted. Those who are traumatized, whose lives have been broken. With her that day came a young man. His name is Lucian, and he was with her. I call him her disciple because he is walking with her and learning about what she does in India. Lucian was invited to share with us his story and how he got connected with Maher. I forgot to say Maher is one of the recipients of the grants of our ministry of Living Waters. We have been supporting them to build schools and to provide water for those schools they are building in six states in the country of India.


Lucian was telling us that when he was young, his mother, who was connected with Maher, took him to India because his mother is an artist and she had a project to work on with all these people in these houses that Maher has built. He says that during the time he was with his mother, he spent time with the children in India. He was at home, of course, as a foreigner—he's from Austria. When he was at home, the children in India came to knock on the door and pull him out and invite him to play on the streets. Every day he was playing outside, and when he came home, he says, all dusted because we were playing on the dirt. He says that one day his mother told him that when he came back from playing with his friends and being in those houses with his mother, he asked his mother, "Mom, is this heaven?"


The word that we have in the Gospel according to Luke for "Kingdom" is "basileia," but this word can be translated better if we use words that indicate activity: words like rule, reign, kingship, or more recently, "kin-dom." You will hear me using all these words interchangeably because I believe there is no word that exactly describes what this Kingdom that we have learned is about. The way I describe it is like the medium where you and I live, where you and I are eager to experience the fullness of Abba's love, holiness, and reign. A reign of healing, restoration, wholeness, and forgiveness, as you described it earlier. In my view, it is, and you know I like to hike, like when I go to the mountains and see rivers coming down from the mountain. I stand next to the river and see these rivers coming and coming. I never see a river that comes and goes away—always and constantly coming, bringing life, noise, freshness, and life. Those rivers that are coming sometimes so fast with rushing waters sometimes slow down, and in those places where it slows down, there is this stillness, quietness, and opportunity for us to see the life that grows around them. For me, that is an image of the Kingdom of God.


Lucian continued the story, and he said because of that experience that he had when he was little, seven years old, with his mom, he decided that he wanted something different. He got to the point in his country when he needed to do the military service, but in Austria, we have the opportunity to do something different like volunteering, doing something with ambulances or hospitals, or things like that. He decided he wanted to go to Maher to continue to learn and see what his original experience was when he was a child. He got excited and wanted to go, but as he finally got ready and even invited a friend of his to go, he started thinking, "Wait a minute, what am I going to do there? How am I going to face the reality that I'm going to be with women, children, and men, victims of rape, home violence, and traumas? Can I handle that?"


He decided to go, and he said when he was able to stay in those homes, the only thing he found was joy, love, and care. We have received the Kingdom of God as a gift. You and I are part of this reign that is already here. God’s reign doesn’t follow the usual patterns. According to Jesus, God’s reign spells liberation for us, for all people, and for all creation. "Let your Kingdom come" means, "Father, make your healing reign more and more tangible and visible in our world. Let your rule assert itself even more concretely in places where sickness and evil still seem to have the upper hand."


I invite you to conclude by watching this video, which is an adaptation of the Lord’s Prayer by The Many, a group whose songs we sometimes sing here at church. After you watch this short video, which is The Lord’s Prayer in this adaptation, I invite you to go back to your bulletin and draw something else that may have come to you as you hear the story of Lucian and as you hear the voice of The Many in this adaptation of The Lord’s Prayer. Just take a moment. Let’s watch this video, and then you can draw or write in your bulletin.



As you draw, as you write, I invite you that at the end of the service, if you have a chance, to share with others what is in your heart and how you experience the Kingdom of God, the reign of God, the rule of God. I invite you to think and to pray that Trinity Lutheran Church and Schools be the prayer that everything we experience in this place will point to the gift of the ever-flowing reign of God. May we not make our own kingdom, and may this reign of God teach us to tear down the powers that divide us, the powers that set us against each other. May it give us the courage and boldness to rise against the forces that prevent us from living in the already-here reign of God. May Trinity Lutheran Church and Schools' ministry evoke the question for anybody who comes here: "Is this heaven?"


Your love covers the entire Earth, holding us all in your embrace. You hold everything together. We want to know what your vision for the world is. Help us, Abba. We want to live in that vision. Guide us, Abba. Let your Kingdom come.


Amen.

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