Saturday, 21 November 2015

Thy Kingdom Come

"Thy Kingdom come," we pray every Sunday, and rather more often, I hope. What do we mean?

Jesus reluctantly admits to Pilate that He is indeed a King, but His Kingdom is not of this world: not of fighting, not of political power, but of truth. Elsewhere, He tells us that this Kingdom is already here, within us. And yet He tells us to pray for the Kingdom to come. So, we are left with a Kingdom of truth, a Kingdom of the heart, which is in one sense already here, yet in another, yet to come.

C.S. Lewis explains this paradox as something like living in enemy territory even after the war has been won, like those Japanese soldiers stranded for decades in the jungle who never realised that they'd lost the war. And prayer is a kind of spiritual warfare. It's warfare against sin, certainly, and especially against the sort of sin that leads to the violence committed by earthly kingdoms and caliphates, satrapies and soviets. But it's a war that begins internally, with the conquering of our own hardened hearts.

The Kingdom of Heaven cannot be taken by the sword, but nor is the pen enough. I keep saying that Christianity isn't a value system, it's a spiritual path, and simply arguing about ethics from a "Christian perspective" or for that matter talking about prayer isn't going to win the war. We've actually got to pray. In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us we've got to pray constantly. "Thy Kingdom come" needs to be at the core of our being, as natural as our heartbeat.

The first step is to realise that this Kingdom cannot coexist with sin, any more than righteousness with lawlessness, light with darkness, Christ with the Devil. So if we want God to reign within us, we do need to examine ourselves, confess our sins, and eliminate them. We need to make straight the path for Christ to enter in.

Which of course brings us to Advent, the start of the new Church year, the time of preparation for Christ's birth not just in the world as some sort of memorial, but actually, really, spiritually, in our hearts. It begins next week, and that's why the Feast of Christ the King is here, at the end of the old Church year, to remind us of exactly what we are hoping to usher in: the Kingdom, which is nothing short of immortality, the final victory over the tyrannies and territories of death and sin, where death is dead and violence is no more. So let us think carefully how we will make room this Advent for God to reign in us.

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