“When My Ship Comes In- Thy Kingdom Come” 8/26/12 Dr. Ben Sloan at Lake Murray Presbyterian Church, Chapin, SC
There’s an old saying that probably originated in the port cities (and thus is around South Carolina). It is “When my ship comes in.” It means “When I achieve success” or “When my investments materialize.” It had to do with the fact that for centuries people would invest large sums of money in the cargo of a ship. When the ship would come in the person would be rich, but beforehand the person had to be careful with money. It is used today in the following ways: “When my ship comes in I’ll buy a new car.” “When my ship comes in I’ll send my child to the best college.” “When My ship comes in I’ll buy new furniture.” I remember asking my father when he said he would do something for me when his ship came in, “Dad, when exactly is that boat going to come?” The prayer, “Thy kingdom come” is a prayer for God’s ship to come in. More than that it is a prayer for our ship to come in as well.
God’s kingdom was a central theme of Jesus’ teaching. In this important prayer it occurs twice- here: “Thy kingdom come” and “Thine is the kingdom forever and ever.” He told his disciples to “seek first his kingdom” His message began with “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” He left one city to enter another saying the gospel of the kingdom must be preached throughout.” On his entry into Jerusalem the people were saying “Hosanna to the Son of David, Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” On his cross was written “This is the king of the Jews.”
The question ought to be asked, Is Jesus really king? A kingship is determined not simply by the power of the ruler but by the consent and loyalty of the subjects. The question of whether Jesus is really a king is determined by our own hearts. During the civil war you could tell which side someone was on by asking, “Who is president?” If they said Jefferson Davis, or if they said Abraham Lincoln, you knew. Who is your ruler? Is it our passions? Your spouse? Your children? Your friends? Yourself? Your money? Or is your king Christ?
The world is trying to tell you that if you get the right president everything will be okay. As of this date $1.1 billion has been raised to elect them. They will tell you that the world will fall apart if the other guy is elected, and it will fall apart into either communism or elitism. For us, our Savior is not the president whoever he or she may be. We should pray for our rulers, but let us not forget who is really on the throne.
In the American Revolution Presbyterians played a key role. They kept echoing the phrase, “We have no king but Jesus.” The Head of the Presbyterian Church is not the minister, not the congregation, and not even the elders, but the Lord. We may say Jesus is our King, but ask yourself do you treat him as a king?
George Gallup says that 82% of Americans believe that religion can change lives. But less than 30% go to Christ for guidance in major decisions.
We must give up our desire to control everything to the grace and power of God. Jim Elliot, who was a martyr to the Auca Indians in Ecuador said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Do not keep trying to be your own ruler. Give it to the Lord, the King.
Well if Jesus is the king, is the kingdom come? Yes and no. In the same prayer Jesus could pray “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”, and “Thine is the kingdom forever and ever.” The great theologian and Biblical scholar Oscur Cullman described it as when the American troops landed on D-Day. D-Day assured victory for the allies, everyone knew it. But victor didn’t happen until V-E Day. Where Christianity has spread in its truest form, it has brought freedom and truth. People have been changed and whole societies have been changed. A more modern illustration is that when the Berlin Wall came down, it meant the end of communism in the old Soveit Union or eastern Europe. But the governments had not fallen yet- but it was coming. When Christ came and died on the cross, evil was truly defeated, yet not finally so. So we can say, “Thine is the kingdom forever” and also “Thy kingdome come” at the same time.
So what happens when the kingdom comes? Gods claims and benefits are made complete. He claims us as his subjects and we willingly listen to Him. We are not in rebellion against His will, but rather we are seeking to fulfill His will. Many scholars feel that the phrase after “Thy kingdom come” which is “Thy will be done” explains what will happen when the kingdom comes. It means that we pray, work, live not for ourselves alone, but for the kingdom of God. When the kingdom comes lives and justice is changed for the right. All favoritism, bribery, blindness and hatred will be wiped away. Justice will roll down like waterfalls. Joy and peace will be the way of the day. God will defend us as a good king would, and provide for our needs. Evil will be cast out.
In a sense the kingdom is invisible. Jesus said the kingdom of God is within you. He also told Pilate- My kingdom is not of this world. But it is also visible- He took a child and “of such belong the kingdom of God. He told John a sign that He was the Messiah was that the lame walked, the deaf hear and the blind see. When the spiritual intersects the physical, the kingdom is come. When the kingdom come- people are treated fairly, the poor, the hurting, the widow and the orphan are remembered. The most vulnerable ones of the kingdom are treated with kindness and help- the least, the last, and the lost. The least become better; the last become first, and the lost become found. When the kingdom comes- people seek to obey the king- excuses, rationalizations disappear. My wife used to have a sign on the door to her classroom- “No excuses. No excuses. No excuses.” We tend to rationalize away why we don’t listen to the king. Instead there is a deep love and excitement about the King of Kings in our lives. Jesus said to seek first His kingdom- and the parallel was to seek first His righteousness. So the kingdom is interior and exterior; involving both fairness and holiness.
Christianity has brought with it physical and mental health as well as agriculture and education. Christian missions can be ascribed with the elimination of cannibalism. Once in the London Times someone gave a great criticism of Christian missions. A letter to the editor came back in reply from a well-worn traveler that said, if he was shipwrecked on an unchartered island, he would pray that the lesson of the missionary preceded him lest the cannibals still be there! His name was Charles Darwin.
The Vikings were a people never conquered who terrorized all of Europe in the early Middle Ages. They would burn, kill, loot, and rape. The Viking warriors were called “beserkers”and our word “beserk” comes from their wild and uncaring ways. They were never fully conquered by any king. But in 1020 King Olav called a meeting of the Vikings. In that meeting he declared that Christianity was the law. Immediately the blood sacrifices, black magic, setting out of infants to die, slavery, and the looting ended. Has God’s ship come in? Has the kingdom come? Yes and no. God claims us as his subjects longing for us to come to him. He asks us to pray for the day when His rule will be complete. I invite you to be His loyal subject.
We get glimpses of the kingdom when we think of the great revivals in America. When revivals happen the family is strengthened, the poor are helped, social change occurs. Crime rates decrease, selfishness decrease- getting to know neighbor increases. When God’s ship comes in dreams come true.
How does the kingdom come? I believe the first step is praying the word “Thy.” It is not my kingdom- I am not the king or God- I am following another King or Lord. We pray because the kingdom’s coming into our hearts, lives and world is not in our own control.
The Kingdom is actually entered by making King Jesus your Lord. “What does it mean to call Jesus “Lord?” It means He is the one to whom we pledge ultimate allegiance. It means we seek to follow His ways- His laws, and put our trust our lives in His hands. Can you do that? Or are you holding back on your pledge to God?
The entrance to the kingdom comes when we ask the king to be our Lord and Savior. So Nicodemus was told that “no one can enter the kingdom unless they are born again.” It is a change in allegiance and a change in the way we live. We must ask the King to come into our hearts.
When we give in worship, we don’t give to the church as an institution. When the widow put all she had into the Temple box Jesus didn’t complain that she shouldn’t have done it because the Temple was corrupt or making bad decisions. No, she gave out of loyalty to Her God who was her King- whom she trusted. And the King saw what she put in, and she has been blessed for 500 generations. A sign of the kingdom is when people give of themselves. And Christians are called to give tribute to the King- not simply to the church, or to charity, but to the work of the kingdom of God. We pray for it, we work for it, we give to make it happen because we believe it is not just nice- but vitally important.
The election of officers and the election of a committee to find new staff to enhance this little section of the kingdom are important steps. We work in the church for the kingdom. The church is not the kingdom any more than the governmnet is the United States. Yet the duty of the church is to the kingdom as the duty of the government is to the people and land.
There is a great hymn that says, “by deeds of love and mercy the heavenly kingdom comes.” When the kingdom comes people are obedience to God, and love neighbor, care for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and seek to please Him. We follow in the way and example of Jesus who cared for the least, the last and the lost. There is a sense that seeking first His kingdom is synonymous to seeking first His righteousness.
Then we are called to proclaim the kingdom. Many times Jesus told his disciples that their duty was to proclaim the kingdom (Lk. 9). Part of this is starting new churches. At the Fellowship of Presbyterian conference last week, we were told of the Redeemer Church in New York City which was given $250,000 in start up money. They could have supported 10 different and good Christian charities at $25,000 each, but then the next year they would need another $250,000 and the next and the next. But because they invested in starting a new church, that new church which has 4-5,000 members generates $1.5 million in benevolent giving each year. Part of our duty as Christians in the kingdom is to proclaim- spread the good news. That would include inviting a friend to Sunday School at rally day, or Back to Church Sunday 9/16, or youth extravaganza this afternoon, or PW circle coming up, or Forty Days in the Word in September, or starting a new church- which we hope to do as part of our benevolent giving when we build the new children’s ministry building.
WE SHOULD PLEDGE OURSELVES TO THE KING- When someone becomes a citizen of the United States they say, “I hereby declare on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen. I will support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.” In this we declare our loyalty and allegiance. If we do this to our country can we not do it for our God?
Faith tells us that we are not simply put here by some kind of cosmic accident. We are created- and created not so we can build up our kingdom- but God’s We are made and designed to be God’s kingdom-builders. So building up the kingdom is the first priority for our children, for ourselves. It is what we seek, what we pray for, what we long for.
Thy kingdom come- is a pledge of allegiance to the king. It is saying, “Lord may your ship come in. May your will be done. May you reign freely and justly. Amen.