My top go-to prayer these days is the one Jesus taught us. “Let your kingdom come and your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.” Last Sunday, as we sang a song together containing these powerful words, a member commented, “I don’t just want to sing these songs. I want to believe that when we pray them, God’s kingdom, God’s rule and reign, God’s healing, peace, justice, mercy and renewal will actually come in that moment.” And I deeply resonated with his words as I have pondered this a lot. I want to see God show up. I want to see hearts and lives, people and places transformed. I long to see God’s merciful and just kingdom come to a broken and unjust world.
And here, our intellect and reason, our apathy and disengagement, our cynicism and unbelief, and especially our pride and self-sufficiency keep us from receiving God’s kingdom. Over the last few weeks, we have been immersing ourselves in Jesus’ words. Blessed are the poor in spirit, the pure in heart, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness -- for the kingdom of God is theirs. But to receive this kingdom, it seems we must be hungry for it. We must become poor, giving up our rights, grieving over our sin, and surrendering to a God who is so much bigger than we can fathom. Trusting that God is indeed good. For if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, Jesus says that we can move mountains. Nothing will be impossible for us.
John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard Movement, talked a lot about the kingdom of God and how as followers of Jesus, we are compelled and commissioned to actually do the works of Jesus. You know that Jesus-stuff -- preach the good news, heal the sick, open blind eyes, set the captives free, and feed the hungry. Wimber coined it, “Doing the stuff”, and called every follower of Christ to proclaim and demonstrate this revolutionary kingdom. Wimber told the story about how when he first became a follower of Jesus, he kept waiting to do the stuff. But alas, Christians just wanted to talk about it. And you know, I can relate. I am so tired of the talk. Aren’t you?
I don’t want to do church unless transformation happens. Unless God’s kingdom of love breaks into our everyday lives. Unless we become known as folks in our communities that bring healing, renewal, and restoration, like the words of Isaiah 58, making the community livable again. I am tired of an impotent gospel. I long for people to truly know what God is like. To experience the “good news” of this kingdom of grace in a holistic way.
You see, I am a charismatic contemplative. I believe these are not polarities, but rather two sides of the same coin. I long to join in God’s work in the world, attending to what the Spirit is birthing in our own lives and in the world around us. And I believe we do so by cultivating the slow work of the Spirit that happens gradually over time. The steady, the faithful, the small, the ordinary. And yet I also believe that we are called to midwife the Kairos moments of the Spirit where heaven breaks into the now in an instance or opportune time.
For I want to see God’s kingdom come in the slow, the small and the ordinary as we join God in our everyday lives. And I also want to see the supernatural power and presence of the Spirit breaking into the midst of sickness, need and affliction. I long for God’s power to demonstrate His love. Those of us who say this is unimportant forget what it is like to be desperate and in need, to be bound and to be afflicted, to be broken and to be shattered. We talk about the now and the not yet of the kingdom and I wholeheartedly embrace this theology, but what happens when we lose our faith for the now? Yes, it is true. So often, we live in the painful realities of the not yet. We cannot explain suffering, and we don’t understand when God fails to answer our prayers. And yet Jesus, in a moment, changed the trajectory of life after life, as he healed the sick, cast out demons, forgave sins and invited the outcasts and the untouchables to the table.
For how can we be the people of God unless we are people of faith? And how can we be people of compassion unless we enter and engage the suffering of our neighbors, believing that God’s work is the work of transformation and renewal. We must marry our words with our deeds, our walk with our talk, for it is not enough to say to the cold and hungry, be warmed and be filled unless we ourselves have bread that we can offer. Bread that meets the hunger of the body and the soul. The bread of life that meets our deepest needs and satisfies the deepest of hungers.
I recently learned a new favorite prayer from our national director, Phil Strout. May my life be a demonstration that you hear and answer prayer. And my heart burns with this prayer. I long to see God’s kingdom of love and justice break in and bring transformation to those who are longing for healing and for freedom. If we believe our sacred text. If we are to walk in the way of Jesus. And if we believe that God is real. Then I believe we need a fresh fervency, surrendered obedience and a robust kind of faith to believe that heaven can come right here, right now.
by Jessica Ketola