You may remember from history class that the event that sparked WWII was Germany’s invasion of Poland. But do you remember why Germany did it? They were invited to do so. At least that’s what Hitler wanted the world to believe. On the night of August 31st, 1939, a small group of German Special Forces, dressed in Polish uniforms, seized a German radio station in Gleiwitz, Poland and broadcast a short anti-German message in Polish. Hitler used this deceptive maneuver, which was part of a larger operation dubbed Operation Himmler, to give the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany and argued that Germany had to invade Poland “for the sake of the Germans living there who wanted protection from anti-German sentiments.” The world saw through Hitler’s ploy and three days later Britain and France declared war on Germany.
Why didn’t anyone fall for Hitler’s ruse? Simple: sovereign nations do not invite invasion of their homeland by friend or foe. Now, today, some of the people living under ISIS control in Syria and Iraq may welcome a liberating invasion, but generally nations don’t invite invasion, they arm themselves to defend against it. That fact is what makes the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer so interesting and unusual. Because when we pray your kingdom come, we’re inviting an invasion: both on the Last Day and today.
True or false: Whenever we pray your kingdom come we are asking for the end of the world. True. Praying this petition has eternal, universal implications. In this petition we are asking Jesus to return to send unbelievers to burn forever in hell and to take believers to live with him forever in heaven. This is no small petition. And there’s good reason for Christians to long for that day. This world is a battlefield. Satan rules as the prince of this world (John 14:30) and has allied himself with wicked governments, false prophets, and ungodly institutions to keep unbelievers in the dark and to try to rob believers of their faith. These are formidable enemies. In Revelation 12 and 13, Jesus compares Satan to an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, wicked governments he saw as a beast coming out of the sea, and antichristian teachers and institutions he saw as a dragon-like beast who rises out of the earth. We may know in our heads and hearts that Jesus rules this universe for the benefit of his Church, but as long as we live in this world we are pressed by these enemies on every side. We struggle against a world of anti-Christian policies and opinions. We may even begin to question our own faith when many so-called “Christians” seem to be going along with the world and against God. For genuine Christians, this is a heartfelt prayer, we truly desire Jesus to come to rescue us from the spiritual battlefield of this world.
But after 2000 years of praying the Lord’s Prayer, we might wonder if the petition is getting through. If we don’t know when he will return, and we can’t do anything to hasten his return – why do we keep praying this petition? It’s not for Jesus’ sake, it’s for ours. We need to keep praying this petition because even though we don’t know when he will return, we need to be ready for it. The Apostle Peter wrote: the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God. (2 Peter 3:10-12) We continue to pray this petition so that we don’t wind up like Joseph Stalin. In 1941, Stalin was warned by both Winston Churchill and his own spy network that Hitler was planning to invade Russia. Stalin didn’t believe it and didn’t act. Even after 3.4 million German soldiers were seen crossing the border into Russia, Stalin still failed to prepare to defend his homeland. In the end, Stalin saved Russia by a policy of aggressive retreat which left much of Russia in ruins. But there will be no retreating, no buying more time when Jesus returns. Anyone who is found without faith on that day will face God’s wrath forever in hell. And so whenever we pray these words, your kingdom come, we are also praying that when he returns, he might find us ready.
Which leads to another question: how do you prepare to face the judgment that decides where you will spend all eternity? Well, imagine that you knew a tornado was going to destroy your neighborhood this evening. How would you prepare for that? You probably wouldn’t worry about making sure to grab your favorite toys or fanciest pair of heels, you wouldn’t waste time unplugging your flat screen TV or throwing your golf clubs in the car. No, you would grab the necessities of life: bottled water, non-perishable food, batteries for flashlights and matches before you would get out and run. In the same way, in teaching us to pray this petition, Jesus is reminding us that what’s finally important in life aren’t earthly things, but spiritual necessities: not bottled water but the water of forgiveness found in baptism; not food to preserve these bodies but the food of Holy Communion that preserves our souls; not batteries for your flashlights but the power of God’s Word that fuels your faith. In other words, the only way to be truly prepared for Jesus’ return in judgment is to let him prepare us through Word and Sacrament – by washing away our sins and clothing us in the robes of righteousness he won on the cross.
Already we can see that when we pray your kingdom come, we’re not just inviting Jesus’ invasion of our world on the Last Day, we’re inviting him to invade our hearts right now, today. To understand how Jesus invades our hearts now, it’s important to remember the nature of his kingdom. Jesus’ kingdom is not a place with borders, armies, and laws. His kingdom is not a place, period; it’s an activity; it’s his ruling activity in human hearts. Our sinful nature doesn’t want this invasion. Our sinful nature wants to rule without any rival. This is the enemy we battle every single day. On Sunday mornings it may try to convince you that you have better things to do than worship. Right now it may be telling you that listening to this sermon is a waste of time. Our sinful nature wants to go along with a culture that denies that we are accountable to God for everything we think, say and do. This summer your sinful nature doesn’t want you to get in the habit of reading and meditating on God’s Word – to really understand what you believe and why, it wants to distract you with recreation and activities that promise rest and relaxation but in the end leave you empty and exhausted. And your sinful nature won’t give up this fight until the day you die. Satan makes sure of that by throwing gas on that fire with his incessant temptations.
What chance do we have against the evil axis of Satan, the world and our own sinful flesh? How can we possibly stand against godless governments and institutions who make it their mission to root the faith out of our hearts? Well, remember Colossians 1. According to Paul, the battle may be ongoing, but the war is won. God has already rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. (Colossians 1:13) He didn’t do it with guns or bombs or propaganda. Jesus rescues us with something far more powerful: the Gospel. Paul observed that unlike any other military or movement all over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. (Colossians 1:6) In the end, it’s not a matter of us overcoming Satan and his allies; rather it’s trusting that Jesus has already conquered them. It’s believing that Jesus’ kingdom will come, every knee will bow before him (Colossians 2:10) even without our invitation – but we pray your kingdom come to invite Jesus to invade our hearts today and include us in his kingdom now and forever.
But even here, Satan has one trick left up his sleeve. He teaches his own version of this petition: “your kingdom come…but not yet, Lord. There are still a few pet sins I don’t want to give up. There are a few people I’m not ready to forgive just yet. I want to be part of your kingdom, but I don’t really intend to get serious about studying your Word and learning your truth right now – there’s time for that later, when I’m married, when I have kids, when my kids have moved out, when I’m retired, when I am physically unable to do anything but sit and read your Word.” Satan might realize that he can’t prevent us from praying this petition, but he’s satisfied if he can lead us to pray it half-heartedly, to procrastinate in really letting Jesus rule our thoughts and lives. And when Satan succeeds in getting us to believe that being a part-time Christian is good enough, he wins. Demanding that God wait until we’re ready for him is utter foolishness. It’s as foolish as the person who knows the tornado is coming but refuses to leave his house because he won’t leave his TV behind.
What should God do with people like us – who sometimes pray Lord, your kingdom come…but not yet? According to our standards of justice, he should destroy us right now. He should throw up his hands and say, “You want to continue living in Satan’s kingdom when I have given you the way out? Fine. Have it your way…live under Satan’s dominion today and forever in hell.” But God doesn’t do that. In fact, he didn’t even wait for our invitation to invade this world on his mission of salvation. As Paul said: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) When the world didn’t want him, Christ was born in hostile territory, lived among people who hated him, and finally gave himself up to die at the hands of his enemies – all to save his enemies. And he continues his invasion to this day. In baptism, Jesus takes dead, lifeless souls and breaths the Spirit of forgiveness and life into them. In Holy Communion, Jesus strengthens us to continue the daily battle against Satan and his allies by assuring us that with his own body and blood he has won the war for us. And even though we daily commit treason by giving in to our enemies, he continues to answer this petition by forgiving our sins and assuring us that he is coming soon to take us home to the safety of heaven.
In spite of what his propaganda stated, Hitler wasn’t really invited to invade Poland. He invaded Poland, not for the good of the Germans living there, but for his own benefit. That’s not how Jesus’ invasion works. He doesn’t teach us to invite him to invade our hearts for his benefit, but for ours. Pray this petition boldly and sincerely. Thank God for invading your heart with his forgiveness even when you didn’t want it or know you needed it. Pray that Jesus would invade your heart with his gospel today to prepare you for his coming on the Last Day. And pray that God would extend his kingdom to many others, because you know that only life in Jesus’ kingdom offers true freedom. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from fear. And freedom to serve our good and gracious Father now and forever. Amen.
(Introduction & Outline originally authored by Pastor Daniel Habben)