"Thy Will Be Done On Earth, As It Is In Heaven"

Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - October 1, 2006

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22: Mark 9:38-41

    How many of us remember a time when the religious beliefs and practices of other Christians made us feel insecure in our faith journey or with our relationship with God?  When we were initially among such believers, they had the smiles and the affirming presence as long as we were singing their song.   I am sure a number of us have experienced this setting. 

     When they learned, however, that we had not been baptized by the Holy Spirit, could not speak in tongues or that we doubted the inspiration and authority of certain Scriptures, or that we did not share a number of the same convictions as they, how quickly their loving radiance turned into expressions of tolerance if not a profound concern for our salvation.           

     In our lesson this morning, we learn that John was among those who were concerned about differences.  He came to Jesus one day and said, “There is a man who is healing people in your name and he does not belong to our group!” Jesus responded, “Don’t try to stop him for whoever is not against us is for us.”  What Jesus communicated is a lesson many Christians have not yet learned.             

     For our personal salvation to be assured many Christians stress the importance of essential beliefs.  Jesus stressed the importance of people caring for all others, including our enemies.  In fact, Jesus distilled his message into one of the simplest acts of kindness.  He said, “Anyone who gives you a drink of water because you belong to me will grow in spirit.”  Jesus was teaching his followers to extend themselves in compassion without wondering what will come back to them in return.  In so doing we are reflecting the presence of God’s spirit within us.           

     When the K Section of Bowie was hit hard by a powerful wind burst last Thursday evening, we saw images of destruction on the evening news that rivaled those that normally come from tornado alley. The next morning a number of people from our church went into action with chainsaws and power generators.  This was the first opportunity to serve neighbors by those belonging to our church’s growing Disaster Relief Network.  The only belief necessary to inspire a rapid response like this is to understand the value of expressing compassion toward others.  This is what discipleship looks like.              

     There is an old eastern fable about a man who possessed a ring that featured the most perfect opal anyone had ever seen.  Whoever wore the ring possessed enormous power to exhibit marvelous qualities of character.  The ring brought friends and business opportunities because the owner of the ring was known for his integrity, faithfulness and trustworthiness.  The ring was always handed down from father to son.  This practice continued for generations.           

     On one occasion during the ring’s history, a father had three sons whom he loved equally.  He labored about what to do.  At last, a solution came to him.  He conspired with a world-class jeweler to create two rings that were identical to his.  Prior to his death, the father invited each of his sons into his presence.  He gave each son a ring and instructed him not to mention the prized gift to his other two brothers.           

     Following the death of their father, the brothers could no longer hide their secret.   When each discovered what their father had done, they took the matter before a judge.  The judge studied the three rings and fell silent for quite some time.  Then he said, “I cannot tell which ring provides the power, but you yourselves can prove who owns the authentic ring.  The brother who is wearing it will radiate powers and abilities that reach far beyond those of the other two.”  The fable concluded that the three brothers engaged in compassionate living for the rest of their lives, proving that the only power the ring had was to remind the wearer of his potential for expressing a noble and generous spirit.           

     This is the way life can be when people express themselves through a kind and compassionate spirit.  Jesus said, “Those who live in the same spirit as we cannot be against us.” Intolerance for the beliefs of others causes us to perceive without love.   When we live as though we have an exclusive right to truth, we are refusing to acknowledge God’s ability to offer guidance to other people of the world in a form we may not recognize.  We need to examine what our beliefs have made of us.           

     In his book, The Primal Vision: Christian Presence Amid African Religion, M.A.C. Warren wrote:   

We need to approach every religion with a deep humility, by which we remember that God has not left Himself without a witness in any nation at any time.  When we approach people of another faith, it should be in a spirit of expectancy.  We need to listen for how God has been speaking to them and what new understanding of God's grace and love we may discover from them. Our first task in approaching others, another culture or another religion, is to take off our shoes, for the place we are standing is holy ground.  If we do not, we may find ourselves treading on people's dreams.  More serious still, we may neglect remembering that God was here before our arrival.   

     World Communion Sunday is a time when Christians around the world celebrate at the same table of remembrance.  We were asked to go forth into our communities and teach others how to be a good neighbor, how to forgive, how to be kind and generous by our example and by our encouragement of others to master the same skills of spirit.   

     Jesus was not asking us to manipulate others with fear into becoming whom we think they need to be in order to save their souls.  When we presume to know the spiritual depth and breadth of another person’s soul, the only aspect of truth we are revealing is our own misunderstanding of what discipleship looks like. 

     We need to think about the words we say each time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Notice that the stress is on activity, on what is being done by us, not on what we believe.   

     Our particular beliefs will not matter one bit when we transition from this life.  Paul reminded us of this when he wrote, “Now we see truth dimly.  A time is coming when we will experience truth face to face.” (I Corinth. 13:12)  What will matter then and what will inspire the continued evolution of our soul, is the quality of spirit that made God’s love visible while we were here.  The question we need to ask ourselves is this:  “Are we allowing our understanding of God’s spirit to become visible on earth as it is in heaven through our words, attitudes and acts of compassion?”   


     Loving and life enhancing God, we come to the table this morning believing that you created us in your image.  We are painfully aware that being created just a little lower than the angels has given us only potential, and not the gifts of angels.  There are times when we need assurance.  There are times when we seek security in the abundance offered by our physical world.  There are times when we avoid others because of their differences.  We thank you for your patience, O God.  You are a remarkable teacher who gently guides us even though we are distracted by so many things.  Polish the lenses of our spectacles of spirit so that we might discern your will with more clarity.  Amen.