“Erin Sermon by: The Rev. Erin Jean Warde
Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration | Dallas, Texas
March 12, 2017
Second Sunday in Lent

Texts: Genesis 12:1-4a  |  Psalm 121  |  Romans 4:1-5, 13-17  |  John 3:1-17

Your kingdom come

Your will be done

On earth, as in heaven


Earlier this week, Father Casey asked me how I was doing with my sermon, and I told him I hadn’t even started. I then proceeded to give him the beginnings of about 6 different possible sermons, sourcing multiple authors and perspectives, on these twelve words. To which we laughed, because you can have 6 possible sermons on such a small portion of the Lord’s Prayer, and still feel like you haven’t even begun. I regret to inform you that I was only able to downsize this to about 3 sermons, so just prepare yourself.

The central point of this part of the prayer is, for me, figuring out how to balance my false sense of control with God’s will. This makes the prayer no less life altering than the 10 commandments and no less of a daily upheaval than the Magnificat. As I wrestled internally with this issue of the will, I found myself staring at a sliding scale—looking at its two extremes.

On one end, I could see those who have such a strong belief in God’s will, that they essentially think that what we do, doesn’t matter very much. Social action is well-meaning, but largely unhelpful, because it can’t turn the tide of both God’s grace and God’s judgment. It is the belief that we should just let God do God’s thing, and try not to get in the way. It is, in a sense, very freeing, because it is a form of release from the burdens of the world. Great comfort can be taken in believing that God is fully in control, and that mortal hands—swayed by sin—cannot have any real influence on the world. I don’t want my sin, nor yours, to have much control over the present or future of our world.

Then, on the other end of the scale, I could see those who believe that their work in the world matters so very much, that it could potentially change the tide of the universe if they just work hard enough. This can result in anger and frustration, when so much work is done, yet the sin of the world is still obvious and rampant. This end of the scale might forget the power of prayer, choosing instead to work now, pray later. The power of prayer may be diminished as “wasting time,” when there is so much work to do. However, there can be great joy in this way of seeing the world, because it could show the world that the Church cares. Those who fall on this end of the scale choose to dirty their hands with some of the pain of the world. There can be comfort in being able to say that though no one can fix the world, a person can do something in the world that has the potential to change it for the better.
The truth is that, depending on what life challenge is thrown my way, I might move toward one or the other extreme on the sliding scale of the will. I see both the joys and challenges of living at either end. And I think that wherever you fall, in any given situation, there might be value in looking to the other end.

If I believe I have the ability to work hard enough to fix the brokenness of the world, it might be a comfort to me to remember that the only way the world is fixed—was fixed—is and was through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, something fully out of our control. If I’m inclined to think that there is nothing I can do, because the course is set before me, it might give me energy to wonder how God is asking me to take action while I am on the course that God has set. It might deepen my faith to get my hands dirty, facing the pain in the world that Jesus looked at directly in his life.

Whether we work as hard as we can, whether we give our full assent to God’s control, wherever we find ourselves on the scale, when we pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven,” we must do so with the hope that we see glimpses of God’s kingdom within our world. We live into these prayers, these prayerful actions, when we direct those prayers toward the earth reflecting glimpses of heaven.

I think the challenge as we tread this scale of will, is striking a balance between the two extremes. And I actually think we will only strike the balance if we become serious about how we do the work of theology.

Theology means theologos—essentially, Godtalk. It is a proclamation that the Word matters. It follows in the footsteps of the prologue of John’s gospel, as it is the belief that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

In talking about God, we must recognize both its power and its possibility. In doing the work of theology, we do not change the course of history; we instead usher Truth into its rightful place within the world we inhabit.

We have to do the work of theology, and do it with prayerful intention, because even when we are silent, we are saying something about our belief in God. And what we say about God reflects whether we want God’s kingdom to come, God’s will to be done, whether we want our earth to look like heaven.

The reality is that much good has been done because of theology. The reality is that much evil has been done because of theology.

Theology has within it the beauty of creative power. When we tell the story of what we believe, we breathe life into dry bones. What might have become dusty on a bookshelf now walks alongside us, showing us the way. When the priest stands behind the altar, re-telling the story of creation, incarnation, resurrection, redemption: What happens? Christ shows up to us in bread and wine. When we talk about God, God hears that we are calling, and the Lord arrives. Or, better yet: God is always with us, but when we tell the story of God, we recognize God’s presence.

Yes, theology has within it the power to create. Theology also has within it the power to destroy. You need only look at the way Biblical interpretations have been used—and are still used—to silence minorities, to understand how one of God’s great gifts to us has been squandered. You do not have to go far to see how skewed things get when people start talking about God.

And so we find ourselves, yet again, staring at the sliding scale of the will. The question for us—as we proclaim that we want God’s kingdom to come, that we wish for God’s will to be done, that we want our earth to look like heaven—The question is this: Where do we find ourselves on the scale? And will the power entrusted to us be used to create, or destroy?

Will we be so white-knuckled in our false perception of control that we forget that the great power is God’s love, not our work? Will our heads be so turned toward the dirt of the world, that we forget that only Jesus that can truly wash our feet? Will we be so focused on the darkness in front of us, that we forget to carry within us the light of God’s grace?

Or will we find ourselves so silent, that we give assent to sin in the world? Will we find ourselves so trusting in God’s control, that do we do nothing when we have something to offer? Will we be known not for what we said, but for the fact that we didn’t speak at all?

Again, how do we strike a balance between the two extremes of the scale? What do we have to pray in order to want God’s will to be done, while not lagging in zeal to love one another? How does letting go of our false sense of control actually then call us to greater action to bring about God’s kingdom? In our daily lives, how do we choose creation over destruction, so that our earth might look like heaven?

My answer is to do the difficult work of theology. To put Truth in its rightful place in the world. To remember the beauty of God’s will, and to do all in your power to show glimpses of God’s kingdom. Yes, we wait patiently for the Lord who is in control, but when God arrives—may our hands be dirty.