“Our Father in heaven.
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done.
On earth as it is in heaven.”
There it is. Did you see it?
The last line. On earth as it is in heaven.
What’s happening in heaven is supposed to be happening on earth?
And really, heaven? … perfection, holiness, righteousness, eternal worship, streets of gold, God Almighty. Here on earth?
I am just trying to wake up and pour my first coffee. How does all that show up here on earth? I mean, it sounds really great and all. And I am hoping we get there someday. But how does heaven make it down here on earth?
And then there’s this.
Jesus says, “This is how you are to pray” just before he teaches his disciples to pray this prayer. In other words, he’s saying: Pray like this. Every day. Just after you pour your first coffee. While you’re waking up. Pray “on earth like it is in heaven.”
A Better Place
The challenge for many of us is that we have a default understanding of what we think about when we think of heaven. It goes something like this. Our world is evil. It’s a terrible place to live. Sin, Satan and the rebellious heart of humanity has corrupted God’s design. This world will be destroyed. But God has a better place for those who are faithful to Him.
Those who believe that Jesus died for them. That He died for their sins. Their wrongdoing. They will be saved. Saved from this evil world and God’s destruction of it.
They will go to Heaven. It’s the final “resting” place. The place of perfection. Joy. Eternity. Or in C.S. Lewis’ language, it’s the beginning of the rest of the story.
It’s our hope. It’s what we can be sure of. Not because of what we have done. But because of what He has done.
The only catch is that Heaven is something that we have to wait for.
We haven’t quite got to that place in God’s plan. So, in the meantime, while the world is falling apart, we have to wait. Hang on. Be good. Do our best. Until Heaven comes.
That (or at least parts of that) is often what we think when we think of heaven.
But that’s not what Jesus teaches.
Or, at least, that’s not all that Jesus teaches.
And I might add, that that is not what Jesus was thinking when he told us to pray on earth as it is in heaven.
Heaven On Earth.
There is a final Heaven, a time and place where all this is moving, that very much carries many of those ideas of heaven that we have been carrying with us for all these years.
But Jesus was getting at something else. Something a little more real. More tangible.
To understand his teaching in the Gospels we need to think of heaven as the space where God’s reigns, where his effective will is being carried out. Heaven, or the Kingdom of Heaven, is the place where God rules, where his presence and shalom are being worked out here on earth.
Heaven is the body of Christ. His Church. Acting in faith and obedience to the Father’s will. Heaven is the tangible reality of God breaking in with living water. Bread for daily life. Healing from the wounds of sin and heartache. Guidance for the journey of the day.
Heaven is daily bread. Forgiveness of sins. And deliverance from evil.
Heaven is the space where all of a sudden I realize that God has been with me on this commute. When I sense his presence. His love.
Heaven comes when I wrestle with sin, and the light of His love shines into the darkest place. When I confess and turn to the Father. Heaven is there. Breaking in with grace and mercy and peace.
This is heaven. The reign of God. The presence of his love. The kingdom.
Kingdom of Heaven
Jesus shows us what the in-breaking of heaven is like when he approached the woman at the well and told her he knew her story (“He told me everything I ever did”).
Jesus showed us what heaven is when compassion filled his heart and he touched the leper on the side of the road.
Jesus showed us what heaven is like when he released the captives, helped the blind to see and set the oppressed free.
Jesus said, this is what it looks like when heaven comes to earth.
The New Testament church struggled, faltered at times, but for the most part, many actually believed this (read Acts, it’s all about heaven on earth). That this kind of heaven was accessible to them here on earth.
They believed Jesus.
Not just the part that he died for their sins. That they were saved. That some day they would be with him in “Heaven” for eternity.
No they also believed the part that because of Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, that now heaven was breaking into life here on earth.
And because they believed they took Jesus teaching on prayer seriously.
That somehow, because sin, Satan and the tendencies of the heart still has some play here on earth that they needed to lean into Almighty God with prayer and faith, on earth as it is in heaven.
They knew that was all they had.
And the hope of heaven on earth.
Friends, that’s where we are going on this Sunday morning.
I hope you’ll be there.
I’ll be there.
Praying in faith.
That heaven touches earth.