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Ephesians
4:7-16


Grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men."

(In saying, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
 (ESV)
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Friday of Lent 5
18 March 2016
In the Lord's Prayer we pray both for God's kingdom and that it would come among us. Perhaps they are the same thing. For who would pray for God's kingdom, but not pray that that kingdom would be extended and built among us? This highlights for us the fact that God does not build a kingdom for its own sake or even for His sake, but for our benefit and habitation. Indeed to pray for God's kingdom is to pray for the whole company of the saints here in time, so that God would graciously build up the walls of Jerusalem through the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments.
 
So closely are Christ and all His gifts identified with His kingdom that Martin Luther describes the kingdom of God in terms of Christ, God's Son, and His precious work to save sinners from the kingdom of the devil. So God's Son, people, and kingdom are all coextensive, even interpenetrating. How gracious God is, that we should be placed in a kingdom given its character by the fact that His Son dwells among us in that kingdom. The King's gracious dwelling through the proclamation of the holy Word means all the precious gifts of the Son are the common possession of the people of the kingdom.
 
In divine abundance the gifts are multiplied as the community of the redeemed expands. The preaching of the gospel is not a zero-sum game. It is not as though there's only so much gospel to go around, so that the more we spread it the less there is. No, the larger the company of the faithful the greater the abundance of the gifts (Eph 4:8). The more the gifts are used, the more the abundance of the gifts. In the divine calculus of the gospel, the more kingdom you give away the more kingdom you have. 

 

Martin Luther

"'What is God's kingdom?'
 
"Answer, 'Nothing other than what we learned in the Creed: God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the devil's power (1Jn 3:8). He sent Him to bring us to Himself and to govern us as King of righteousness, life, and salvation against sin, death, and an evil conscience. For this reason He has also given us His Holy Spirit, who is to bring these things home to us by His holy Word and to illuminate and strengthen us in the faith by His power.'
 
"We pray here in the first place that this may happen with us. We pray that His name may be so praised through God's holy Word and a Christian life that we who have accepted it may abide and daily grow in it, and that it may gain approval and acceptance among other people. We pray that it may go forth with power throughout the world (2Thess 3:1). We pray that many may find entrance into the kingdom of grace (Jn 3:5), be made partakers of redemption (Col 1:12-14), and be led to it by the Holy Spirit (Rm 8:14), so that we all may together remain forever in the one kingdom now begun." 

Martin Luther, Large Catechism, 3.51-52
 
Prayer
Our Father, may Your kingdom come to us and expand, that all transgressors and those who are blinded and bound in the devil's kingdom be brought to know Jesus Christ Your Son by faith, and that the number of Christians may be increased, through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
 
For the stewards of the mysteries of God, that they would make God's kingdom come among us by giving God's gifts in abundance
 
For all sanitation workers, that God would bless them in their calling and service to the community
 
For all who travel in their profession, that they might be kept safe in their travels and have joyful homecomings

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)

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