17 July 2013

Today's Catechesis

Catechesis on 2nd Petition of the Lord’s Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come

Reading: Galatians 5:16-25

It’s a battle of the Kingdoms. The Kingdom of this world as it now is. The Kingdom of God as this world will finally be at Christ’s return. You heard St. Paul describe them in the reading. The one characterized by works of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (living for pleasure, hedonism), idolatry (trying to squeeze eternal life out of the stuff of this fallen world), sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and (he’s not even giving an exhaustive list!) things like these. That’s the world we live in. That’s the world that lives in us all since the Fall.

But the world that will be, the Kingdom that is coming? The fruits of the Spirit characterize it: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

The Kingdom that is coming and that will be the future of this world, made its beach-head into the Kingdom of darkness at the incarnation of our Lord Jesus. There for the first time in human flesh was a person who literally LIVED the fruits of the Spirit without ceasing. Flawlessly.  From conception to death and so from death to resurrection! And from the resurrection the Kingdom expanded and grew. And that growth comes in two ways.

First, it grows by new folks being added to it through the Spirit’s work. They receive the gift of faith, and are baptized and the Church grows. That’s how it has expanded through the whole world and how it continues to expand.

But the second way the Kingdom grows is INSIDE you. For that’s where the battle rages. As long as you live in your fallen flesh, the works of the flesh will continue to try to erupt in your life and disrupt your enjoyment of the Kingdom of God, to destroy the fruits of the Spirit in your life. And in just the same way the Kingdom of God in your life, planted into you at your baptism, engages in an non-stop war against the passions and evil works of your flesh. They never make peace with each other. The one means the death of the other. To be a Christian is to live in this battle.

Now there are some Lutherans who will tell you that there is no progress in the Christian life, no growth in sanctification. But this is false and it is a lie. Luther in the Large Catechism on Baptism describes the ongoing struggle that Christians engage by the Spirit against the flesh, and he speaks of ever increasing in the fruits of the Spirit and ever diminishing in the works of the flesh. To be sure, it is a battle that proceeds in much weakness and with many setbacks, but it presses on relentlessly to the final victory at the Resurrection. Where this isn’t happening, Luther observes that Baptism isn’t being put to use but resisted.

Yet here is an oft-overlooked truth: this new life of the Spirit isn’t given to you piece-meal. It is given whole. When you were baptized you received the very righteousness of Christ, His flawless obedience to the law, as your very own. It’s the Lord’s gift to you. What you grow in is in your living out from that gift more and more, and less and less from the old Kingdom, the Kingdom and works of the flesh.

But this is impossible by your own strength and power. It can only happen by the Holy Spirit. And so the petition: “thy Kingdom come.” That’s your prayer that the Kingdom would increase in this world by gathering others into it, and that’s your prayer that the Kingdom would expand in YOUR life, so that by the gift of the Holy Spirit you believe God’s holy Word and lead a godly life here in time and there in eternity.

That is, when we pray the Second Petition, you ask that by the Spirit’s power your life would become ever more and more filled with the God’s own love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. That’s the Kingdom that WILL be the future of this world at the return of Christ. Thy Kingdom come asks for nothing less that that future gift to grow in your life now. May God grant it to us all!

1 comment:

Carla said...

Thank you! :)