“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” (Luke 11:9)
There are countless ways that the tales of King Arthur have been told and retold throughout the centuries. At the heart of the legend is the tale of an unlikely boy, raised by adoptive parents, who comes into his own through the arrival of a sign marking him as the true king – in Arthur’s case, a sword called Excalibur. As he grows in age, he gathers other noble and service-minded men and women around him, flawed though they might be. Together they seek a rule that is in service of something far greater than themselves and strives to make life better for all people in their midst. And among the countless quests was the seeking after the cup of Christ, the true king. Like Arthur, he will come again to rule his people.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus describes the kingdom of God in a number of ways. The kingdom is like a mustard seed that grows into the greatest of plants. The kingdom is like yeast that leavens a whole loaf of bread. The kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field, which, upon learning of it, the wise man spends his treasure to buy the field – so as to attain this treasure through honest means. The kingdom is like the merchant of pearls who seeks after the one of great value. The kingdom is like the net thrown to catch fish of every kind, keeping the good and throwing out the bad. The kingdom is like the landowner who pays his laborers equally, however long they work. The kingdom is like the farmer who sowed seed in different soils. The kingdom is like the king who forgives far more than he should. The kingdom is the wedding banquet which all the “appropriate” people ignore and so all the “unwanteds” are invited in.
The kingdom is many things – most of which we know thanks to parables in the two gospels from which the Lord’s Prayer come. The kingdom is present. The kingdom is persistent. The kingdom is essential. The kingdom is beautiful, even if not in the conventional sense. The kingdom is all-encompassing, though not all-enveloping. The kingdom is equality, equity, and mercy. The kingdom is open to all, though not everyone will necessarily get it. The kingdom is forgiveness even before it should exist. The kingdom welcomes ALL people, especially those the comfortable, powerful and arrogant want to ostracize, demonize, and cast out.
The kingdom of God takes courage. For most of us, secure as we are in worldly lives, seeking after the kingdom will mean that we must deal with some discomfort, some selflessness, some sacrifice. Even better, once we truly begin seeking after God’s kingdom, its nature in our lives will continuously evolve so that slowly and surely, our eyes will be open to its presence among us and our hearts will long to serve it.
Paul speaks of how the whole of creation waits with eager longing for the children of God to appear. Now, there are children of God, in the created sense, everywhere. That is not what Paul means.
Paul is speaking of the true heirs of God. The children who are willing to take up God’s righteous mantel and fight for the world God intended, works for, and desires. That means asking hard questions that the world does not want to face, but God pushes us to voice. That means seeking opportunities in every situation to bring light and life to all around us, because God has opened our eyes and our ears to all those who are hurting, broken, and the pain inflicted by others and our complacency. That means knocking on the doors that the world wants to remain closed because they keep us comfortable, as barriers between ourselves and those whom God loves. And that is only just the beginning. As heirs with Christ, how we serve God’s kingdom will develop in ever-expanding ways as we become more in tune with God’s own self at work among us.
Now, it is fun to talk about King Arthur and to imagine knights and ladies that will fight for what’s right – off in some far away land. And it’s safe to talk about some ancient teacher and his followers who did miracles and took on the powers of the world and loved everyone – because it is in the past. But here’s the thing: every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we say, “your kingdom come.” We say it. Every time. God’s invitation to us is to really mean it. To ask for it. To seek it. To knock on every door we see until it is tangibly all around us. To be the knights, and shield maidens, and disciples, and miracle-workers. To really mean it.