Man bedecked in orange raises his hands in the air

Week Three - The Kingdom of God

This year's Lent Challenge is accompanied by a six-week online Lent course. The material draws on the key themes of the new diocesan vision, Transforming Church, Transforming Lives - prayer and growth; transformation and the mission of God; the people of God, Church and Kingdom.

Each of the six week sessions begins with a time of prayer and a conversation starter to introduce the theme. This is followed by a Bible reading - and a reflection on that passage drawing on the tradition of lectio divina. This is a way of reading Scripture together, listening to it as God’s word to us, and prayerfully reflecting on it. Lectio divina might look something like this:

  • Read the passage through once
  • Keep a few moments silence
  • Read the passage a second time with different voices
  • invite everyone to say aloud a word or phrase that strikes them
  • Read the passage a third time
  • Share together what this word or phrase might mean, and what questions it raises

After reflecting on Scripture, a short reflection is offered to lead into further exploration of our response to the week's theme.

The discussion questions engage with the vision of Transforming Church, Transforming Lives. The ‘footprints' section is an opportunity to consider practical actions which we can take in the week ahead; actions which enable us to be alert to the activity of God in the world. These suggestions stand alongside those related to projects supported by the Bishop of Guildford's Foundation and the Diocese of Kebbi in Nigeria. Each weekly session ends with prayer.

Lent Course 2017 - Week Three - The Kingdom of God

Word document version of Lent Course 2017 - Week Three (as shown on this page of the website) - for simple, download and print.
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Opening Worship

Lent crosses imageGod the Father, Lord of creation,
have mercy upon us.

God the Son, through whom all things were made,
have mercy upon us.

God the Holy Spirit, who renews the face of the earth,
have mercy upon us.

Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, creating and saving God,
have mercy upon us.

The Lord is loving to everyone
and his mercy is over all his creatures.

All your works praise you, O Lord,
and your faithful servants bless you.

They tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your mighty power,

To make known to all peoples your mighty acts
and the glorious splendour of your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;
your dominion endures throughout all ages.

The Lord is sure in all his words
and faithful in all his deeds.

The Lord upholds all those who fall
and lifts up those who are bowed down.

The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord,
and you give them their food in due season.

Psalm 145.9-16

God of our days and years,
we set this time apart for you.
Form us in the likeness of Christ
so that our lives may glorify you.  Amen.

Conversation
  • What do you think heaven is like? Have your thoughts about heaven changed over time?
Reflecting on Scripture

‘And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

‘When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

‘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.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
(Matthew 6.5–15)

Reflection

When we hear phrases like ‘the Kingdom of God’, or ‘the Kingdom of Heaven’, it can be easy to think of a location, perhaps we might gesticulate upwards. The place where we will be reunited with those we have loved and lost; the place of comfort in God’s presence, where all pain and suffering has been healed by God’s love. 

Of course, there is nothing untrue about this, even the gesticulations upwards! All of these thoughts try to get hold of the idea that God is in some way with us, alongside us, present in healing love, but also beyond us, above us, different from us. However, as true as our theological instincts about heaven might be, when Jesus invites us to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom, he almost certainly doesn’t mean that we are to pray to go to heaven at the end of our lives.

Consider what ‘Thy Kingdom come’ is paired with in the Lord’s prayer: ‘Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’. The second phrase interprets the first. What does the kingdom, or rule of God look like? It looks like God’s will shaping the life of earth as it shapes the life of heaven.

In his model prayer, Jesus invites us to pray that God’s kingdom, his rule, already present and growing, would become more and more visible as it is honoured on earth as it is in heaven, that is, perfectly, with every action and every word ordered to God’s heart of love. When we pray the Lord’s prayer, we pray that we would participate in this. But how? ‘Random acts of kindness’ is a good place to start. Not wishing to pour cold water on the idea, perhaps we should look to something more inspired by the Lord’s prayer. Perhaps we should commit to intentional acts of kindness.

Random acts of kindness are good, they assume liberality and bounty, but they are, arguably, too easy. It’s pretty easy to pay for a strangers shopping, or to let someone you will never have to see gain have your car parking space. Intentional acts of kindness require premeditation. They compel us to name those people to whom we would not usually express God’s kindness, the people whom we dislike, and to decide to offer kindness anyway. ‘If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?’ Jesus says, ‘But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.’ (Luke 6.33, 35)

For Discussion
  • How does your faith motivate your good actions?
  • How is your church showing the fruit of God's loving rule in your community?
  • Why do we sometimes find it hard to prioritise being kind to people?
Fingerprints
  • Where have you seen people deliberately being kind in difficult situations this week? Has faith motivated them?
Closing Worship

Let us pray
King of the universe,
you show the bright glory of your reign
in acts of mercy and enduring love;
raise the spirits of the downcast
and restore those who have fallen away,
that we may sing of your love for ever;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

A short period of silence is kept

Let us hear our Lord's blessing on those who follow him.

Blessed are the poor in spirit
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are those who suffer persecution for righteousness' sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

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