Sermon: As In Heaven, So On Earth

I invite you to open your Bibles with me to the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew, chapter 6, beginning in verse 9. Matthew is the first book in what is known as the New Testament – the part of the Bible that tells of the fulfillment of all God’s promises in the coming of Jesus Christ. If you are in Zechariah and Malachi, you haven’t gone far enough. If you are in Mark, Luke, or John, you have gone a little too far. Matthew 6, beginning in verse 9.

This fall, we have been sitting at Jesus’ feet as he teaches us to pray. We have been taking a slow walk through the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, known as the Lord’s Prayer. In doing so, we have seen how this short prayer and, in fact, the whole life of prayer touches upon the very heart of the gospel and God’s purposes in the world. We heard how praying ‘Our Father’ testifies that God has adopted us into his family as his children through Jesus Christ. Praying ‘hallowed be your name’ is to pray that the world may know God for who he is. Praying ‘your kingdom come’ is to proclaim God is king and there is no other.

All along, we have been encouraging you, whether for the first time or not, to take this prayer and learn it by heart. Let it be your guide as you learn to speak with God, learn how to pray, learn how to follow Jesus as his disciple. I trust the Holy Spirit will work in and through you as you pray the Lord’s Prayer. It’s Matthew 6, beginning in verse 9. But before we hear God’s word this morning, please take a moment to pray with me.

Father, may your Word be our rule,

Your Holy Spirit our teacher,

and the glory of Jesus Christ our single concern. Amen.

If you are able, I invite you to stand to hear God’s Word.

Listen closely and listen well, for these are the very words of God:

Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven,

give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors,

and do not bring us to the time of trial,

but rescue us from the evil one.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

In our journey through the Lord’s Prayer, we have reached the midway point. After the morning, we will have heard three God-centered petitions, three requests for God’s name to be hallowed, his kingdom to come, and his will to be done. In the weeks to follow, we will turn our focus toward the everyday world of bread, forgiveness, and trial. We will turn our focus toward the world, not by turning our backs on the name, the kingdom, and the will of the Lord we prayed for at first, but by turning upon the hinge of the Lord’s Prayer to bringing all the God-centeredness to bear on the everyday stuff of life. The hinge is found in a small phrase tucked at the end of the first half of the Lord’s Prayer – on earth as it is in heaven.

On earth as it is in heaven is the hinge upon which the Lord’s Prayer swings. When we open a door, we turn it on its hinges. Depending on the door, there are two or three devices placed at the joint between the door and the wall the allow it to pivot open or closed. The hinge sits at the intersection between the wall and the door and allow it to turn.

On earth as it is in heaven is the hinge of the Lord’s Prayer. It is the pivot point, connecting all that we learned to pray before – hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done – with all that will come after – give us, forgive us, rescue us. That hinge is that what is true in heaven, where the Lord dwells in majesty, would become true on earth. On earth as it is in heaven.

The original greek words are flipped from how we usually say it in English. It says, ‘as in heaven, so on earth.’ As in heaven, so on earth. To pray this way is to pray for God to act. As in heaven, so on earth. It is a prayer that God would not remain silent, that God would not be still, that God would not stand by, but would come and act, come and make visible, make real, make happen on earth what is already happening in heaven.

Hallowed be your name as in heaven, so on earth. John, who was there when Jesus taught this prayer, was on the island of Patmos because of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day, he was in the Spirit when he heard a loud voice like a trumpet. That voice told him to come up here and record what he saw. And John was given a vision:

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,’

who was, and is, and is to come.”

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being.”

On earth as it is in heaven. As in heaven, so on earth. To pray this prayer is to pray that the Lord would make the world swing on its hinges and the holy chorus of praise in heaven would resound upon the earth.

Your kingdom come as in heaven, so on earth. The Lord gave a vision to Isaiah:

In the last days

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
    as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
    and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.

On earth as it is in heaven. As in heaven, so on earth. Swords into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks, the nations streaming to the mountain of the Lord, the word of the Lord going out to the ends of the earth. Your kingdom come, on earth as it in heaven. May the kingdom of heaven come down to earth.

On earth as it is in heaven is the hinge upon which the Lord’s Prayer swings. It holds together all that we have been taught to pray concerning God’s name, his kingdom, and his will and propels it toward our regular, everyday, earthly lives. It is a prayer that the blessedness of heaven would come crashing down to earth.

This changes how we pray your will be done. your will be done is not a prayer of resignation. It is not ‘your will be done, I guess,’ or ‘your will be done, since you probably won’t do what I want,’ but a prayer that God would blow the door off the hinges and that what is true in heaven would come rushing down to earth.

It is no small prayer your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. As Isaiah says, O that you would rend the heavens and come down. It is a prayer that God would act, because the status quo is not okay. We pray hallowed be your name, on earth as it is in heaven, because God’s name is not honored as it should be. We pray your kingdom come, on earth as it is heaven, because our world is far more comfortable beating plowshares into swords than swords into plowshares. We pray this way because the world has not yet been set right, on earth as it is in heaven.

Your will be done is a prayer that God would come and change things.

It is a prayer of people sick and tired of a world where the unborn are stripped of their voices and their lives.

It is a prayer of people sick and tired of a world where sons and daughters have to be taught how to defend themselves from predators.

It is a prayer of people sick and tired of a world where bullies take what they want, where words are used as weapons, and where people are still judged based on the color of their skin and not the content of their character.

It is a prayer of people weary of all that is broken and aching for all to be set right. It is a prayer of those longing to see the lost found, the weak made strong, and the dead raised to life. It is a prayer for those longing for the salvation of the Lord to come rushing into this world.

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven is no small prayer. It is a prayer for God to bring decisive, redemptive, healing action. It is a prayer that God would set all things right and make all things new. That just as perfectly as God’s will is done in heaven, so we would see it come to earth. It is a prayer that God would act and change things, even me.

Even me.

We are fine praying for God’s will to be done when we see others walking against the will of God. We are fine praying for God’s justice to be done, when we consider ourselves among the just. We are fine praying, hoping that God would finally hold accountable all the bullies and tyrants, all the slanders and predators, all the wicked of the world who defy the will of God and trample upon the weak. We are fine praying all these things because we don’t count ourselves among them.

But praying your will be done on earth as it is in heaven cuts much deeper than that. If we are praying that God would come and change things for the right, that he would bring justice and peace, that he would set the crooked straight, bring down the mighty, and raise up the needy, then we need to reckon with the fact that this change we pray for might begin with us. We must reckon with the fact that if we pray for God’s justice, we will find ourselves among the unjust, among those standing under judgment.

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven is no small prayer. Our Lord Jesus himself prayed it on the night when he was betrayed. While Judas went out to gather the guards to arrest Jesus, Jesus prayed that the cup of suffering of the cross would be taken from him. Yet not what I will, but what you will, he prayed. For all that was wrong and broken in this world, for all that needed to be set right, for the justice and mercy of God, even for us, Jesus prayed your will be done and let the justice of God fall on his shoulders.

We are fine praying for the Lord to set things right as long as we don’t recognize that what needs to be set right includes us. But praying for God’s will to be done does not include an exception clause. It means us. It means placing God’s will ahead of ours, even when it may cause suffering in our lives. It means trusting his will, even if we think we have a better way of doing it ourselves. It will not always be easy, our Lord Jesus can attest to this. But having set us right with himself through the cross of Christ, praying your will be done on earth as it is in heaven is a way for Christians to pray with astounding hope for the future, that God would set all things finally right, even us.

Last year, Olga and I were preparing to teach a new song to our congregation in Iowa. We were sitting in the sanctuary. I was playing guitar, Olga on piano. We got about three or four measures in and I had to call us to stop. It sounded terrible. I’m not that great on the guitar, so I assumed it was me. We took a minute and I tuned my guitar. We started the song again, but it still sounded terrible. I stopped, tuned the guitar, and we started over. This happened a couple times before Olga turned to me and said, “You know what, it is not the guitar that is out of tune,  but the piano.”

I was in tune, but the piano was not. But because the piano is so much louder as an instrument, I assumed something was wrong with me, with my guitar, and how I was playing. Even though my guitar was right, it sounded wrong because of just how loud the piano was.

Praying your will be done tunes our hearts to the will of God, but it puts us out of tune with the world. As people who submit our hopes, our dreams, our desires, trusting the good will of God, we will find ourselves out of tune with the world. As people who hope and pray that God’s name, kingdom, and will would come on earth as it is in heaven, we will be out of tune with a world content with certain levels of violence, certain levels of oppression of the innocent, certain levels of poverty, hunger, and death. We will be out of tune with a world comfortable with selfishness, pride, and slander.

The more in tune we become to the Lord through prayer, the more out of tune we may feel in the world around us. When that happens, we may be tempted to think something is wrong with us, like I did with the guitar. The sheer volume of the music the world is playing can threaten to drown out the tune of the gospel and make the church wonder if somehow we are the ones out of tune.

Praying Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven is a promise and a call to patient endurance. It is a promise that God’s will will, in fact, be done. God’s will is not stumped by our plans. But it is also call to endurance. Your will be done does not put a deadline on God. His will for your life, for your marriage, for your work, for your neighborhood, for our city, for this world is not in our hands, but his, not in our timing, but his. This calls for Christians to be people of patient endurance. Some days, singing the gospel tune with our lives will be jarring. Keep singing. Keep praying. Some days will be wonderful, because we will see others join the tune. Keep singing. Keep praying. Because the promise is true. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

May the Lord come and change things, even us. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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