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14 May 2016

Thy kingdom come: life-transforming good news

Thy kingdom come: life-transforming good news

When reading the gospels, our gaze too often skims over the descriptions of the large numbers that are attracted to Jesus. We often don't register the crowds that surround Christ unless they need feeding or if they block direct access to Jesus.

The crowding of Jesus is such that near the end of Luke 4, as a result of his teaching and miracles, the people seeking him out would have "kept him from leaving them", despite Jesus retreating to a "desolate" place.

It's not surprising at all that Jesus, with his manifesto of love and forgiveness, reconciliation and life for all, would cause people to flock to him.

Except, when we think about it a little more - and especially in our current context as evangelical Christians in the West - the image of people crowding to receive news of the kingdom of God could be considered at best unusual, and at worst, unheard of. In a world increasingly removed from a relationship with Jesus, what an encouragement to be reminded of the power of the kingdom message.

Life-transforming, joy-inducing, love-mandated; the good news of Jesus offers life in its entirety to every person. As we journey deeper in our relationship with him, as he reveals new mercies to us and as we enjoy in wonder and thanksgiving the grace he lavishes on us daily: remember Jesus' words at the end of Luke 4: "I must preach the kingdom of God". He describes it as the purpose for which he was sent and commissions us later to carry on his work.

On the island of Ireland, to mark the centenaries of the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme, many have been uniting and engaging as part of a movement of prophetic prayer -  100 Days of Prayer for 100 Years of History. In this land, Christians have been earnestly praying for healing of the past, honour in the present and hope for the future. Our prayer is that our land would be transformed by a fresh revelation of the kingdom of God. The words of the final prayer in our 100 Days magazine are particularly appropriate -  not just for our island or the UK, but for Christians all around the world:

God, holy, sovereign, faithful and generous
God of healing, God of honour, God of hope
Yahweh – the one true God
We worship you as the true and living God
We pledge our allegiance to You
We find our identity in You
We – the ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven
You – the redeemer, healer, restorer, forgiver
We are sons and daughters of the King
Kingdom carriers and trusted rulers
Marching under the banner of love and hope
We are priests called to mediate
To steward heaven to earth
To petition You, Father, on behalf of others
We are prophets proclaiming Your mighty acts
Challenging those who perpetuate injustice,
Offering instead creative solutions and hopeful imagination
We are people of the covenant, repenting that we did not keep covenant with You
We are people of the proclamation, repenting that we did not proclaim You
Now would be a good time for Your kingdom to come crashing into this land
Turning it upside down, or more accurately, right side up
Break off fear; smash the chains of despair
Chase away cynicism; expose anxiety
Instead bring hope; renew culture
Release the dreamers; pour out Your blessing
Restore Your kingdom
Renew our land
Revive Your people
Heal this land and bind up broken hearts
Help us become people of honour
May we be hope carriers, in this land and beyond
In the name of Christ, whose name we bear. Amen.