Although there are Biblical pictures of the Kingdom drawn by the prophets and also in its final book, Revelation, they are evocative rather definite. Whereas images of ‘lions lying down with lambs’ or ‘God wiping away every tear’ do stir us to long for the coming of God’s reign, they do not give us much sense of how we should live as we anticipate its arrival.
The gospels give a clearer shape to life in God’s Kingdom. In Jesus Christ’s words and actions, we see the Kingdom. Jesus is the King of the Kingdom, and where he is, there is the Kingdom. Therefore, we need to pay attention to his teaching and his life as we think about how we can anticipate the Kingdom in our own lives here and now.
One of the constant themes in his parables, his ethical teaching and reflected in his mixing with ‘tax collectors and sinners,’ the marginalised then, was the all-inclusive love of God. Formed by the Scriptures, Jesus Christ put into practice the recurring refrain that God’s people should care for the vulnerable, ‘the widow, the orphan and the refugee’. Their experience of oppression in Egypt was formational: they were to be a people who did not oppress – they knew how that felt – but cared for those on the edge. Jesus Christ makes this emphasis integral to his mission. The Archbishops of York and Canterbury reflect this characteristic of life in God’s Kingdom in their pastoral letter ahead of the General Election. They urge that our national life should reflect ‘a deeper concern for the weak, poor and marginalised, and for the common good.’ This is certainly one aspect of what it means to pray, ‘Thy Kingdom come.’
‘Thy Kingdom come’ is also the title of an initiative by the Archbishop of Canterbury who is encouraging Christians of all denominations across the world to pray for more people to come between Ascension and Pentecost to have faith in Jesus Christ. As a parish, we have embraced this call with a series of prayer events culminating with a gathering in the North Chapel in church on Thursday 1st June at 7.30 pm for an hour and on Sunday 4th June at 4.30 pm at the Community Church with the other churches in the town.
Living in the light of God’s Kingdom does mean a commitment to those who can be excluded and a longing for those we know to come to trust in Jesus Christ. As we pray the Lord’s Prayer in the coming weeks, let’s be conscious that we are aiming to be a church that welcomes everyone and a society in which no-one is left-out or left-behind. In offering generous hospitality to all people, we are bearing witness to Jesus Christ and making faith in him attractive to each individual we encounter.