February 27, 2011

“For Thine Is The Kingdom, The Power, And The Glory Forever”

Matthew 6:9-13 & Psalm 96

Listen To The Podcast HERE:  110227Sermon

Today is the ninth of a ten-week sermon series exploring the rich and multifaceted Lord’s Prayer.

Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Rev. Allen V. Harris


How dare we!  Really, how dare we?

How dare we ever think that we could ever pray the prayer Jesus taught us and do any justice to it?  Sure, Jesus says, “Pray then in this way…”  But do we really think that our prayers could ever begin to match the honesty, the clarity, the faithfulness of our Master, our Savior, Jesus?  The beauty, the richness, the simplicity of our Sovereign and our Lord, Jesus?  Really now?!

Oh, I can pray.  I can pray on the spot in the most difficult of circumstances and I can pray at reunions, celebrations, at banquets, and in boardrooms.  I can pray prayers I have carefully crafted on notepad or computer keyboard and I can pray prayers off the top of my head extemporaneously for that moment and that moment alone..  I can pray the prayers handed down from generation to generation, of great preachers like Athanasius, Julian of Norwich, St. Francis of Assisi, John Calvin, Fanny Crosby or M.L. King, Jr. and  I can pray the prayers of my own heart.  I can pray for you and I can pray for me.  But how on earth and in heaven’s name can I have the nerve to pray the prayer of Jesus?!

Now, it would be one thing to have the audacity to simply repeat the prayer Jesus modeled for his disciples, quoting scripture as if it were our own faith, but then we go and have to add to it, meddle with it, play around with it and proclaim our own supplements and add-ons week after week after week as if they were scripture!  “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever” doesn’t even exist in the scripture text!  Neither Matthew 6 nor Luke 11 has such an ending!  No “kingdom,” no “power,” no “glory.”  At least not here in this most sacred of prayers.  What hubris to think that we could improve upon the words of Jesus!

How dare we!  How dare we!

But then again, how dare we NOT pray the prayer Jesus taught?  How could we, those of us who have been convicted and convinced by this wandering prophet of two thousand years ago whose ways of love, compassion, and justice not only live on into our day but still have the force to change lives, circumstances, and world events?  How dare we NOT take Jesus at his word when he says, “Pray then in this way…?”  Yes, sir!  Yes, Jesus!  I shall!  I must!  I will!

For there is no doubt at all that the words Jesus spoke and the teachings that he expounded were meant not only for the ears of those who heard him, but for the hearts of those who someday would follow.  There is no doubt but that we were expected, even invited, (commanded?) to listen in on and observe this and other parables, healings, sermons, and prayers.  There is no doubt but that as Jesus laid out this simple but never simplistic prayer to the eager waiting ears of those first disciples, that he knew our ears, some two thousand years later, would perk up, our attentions focus, and our backs bend in to get a closer listen, to not miss a word.

How could we NOT dare repeat the prayer Jesus gave us?!

Likewise, how could we help but not add our praises to that which gives us joy, hope, meaning, and liberation?  Is it even possible to contain such excitement, such happiness, such thanksgiving, such devotion?  I can just imagine some early scribe, carefully writing painstakingly each word of scripture so that another generation would know the story.  As the engraver comes to this magnificent prayer, he cannot contain himself.  In the margin of the text next to this most simple but most profound prayer,  he scribbles with utter abandon, “OH YEAH!”  “To God be the glory!”  “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever and ever and ever!”

I could just hear in the small house churches or the first basilicas of Christendom that as the recitation of the prayer ended, “…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil….”  [        ]  A lone voice in back says quietly but faithfully in response, “To thine be the kingdom.”  Another voice, emboldened by the first, says more confidently, “and the power!”  And a third voice, perhaps voices, says quite assertively, “and the glory forever!”  And the congregation, now knowing the power of liturgical response, proclaims, “Amen and Amen!”

How dare we NOT allow these hearts, these voices, these hands, these bodies of ours to praise God in response to the great things God has done?!  “I tell you, If these disciples were forced to be silent, the stones would shout out!” How dare we not shout out our praises for all that has been done for us?!  How can I keep from singing?!  Can I get a witness?!  Amen!  Glory Hallelujah!  Praise be to God!

Think about it… “For thine is the kingdom…”  Is not every inch of creation God’s commonwealth, God’s dominion, God’s territory, God’s ‘hood?  “Where can I go from God’s spirit?  Or where can I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there…”  There is absolutely no place you or I or he or she or them or they can go where God is not.  Praise be to God!  No mountaintop, no valley, no city street, no back alleyway, no country road, no warm rock nor no shadow, no place where the divine source of all life has not already taken up residence, made a home, bought real estate.  No place!  Thanks be to God!

And think about it… “and the power.”  There is no force greater than God’s power.  From the lightest whisper of breath and the gentle touch of a feather to the blast of TNT, a rocket’s propulsion from earth, or even a nuclear blast… God’ is stronger than that, mightier than that, more powerful than all of that, and more combined!   Neither is there an authority more commanding than God’s.  No dictator, no president nor prime minister, no tribal lord, nor grandmother more imposing than God.  No one commands more respect and admiration than God.

None other than king David prayed of this divine power, as he commissioned his son, Solomon, to build the Great Temple in Jerusalem, “Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.  Riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all.  In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all.”  This is worthy of praise, thanksgiving, and our utmost devotion!”

And finally, think about it… “and the glory forever.”  With all those that compete for glory on the world stage, the only glory that will last forever, and ever, and ever, is God’s.  Hosni Mubarak?  His so-called glory seems to have come to a Twitterfied end.  Moammar Gaddafi?  His so-called glory will soon come to an end, albeit a tragic bloody one.  Even more benevolent leaders, from Queen Elizabeth to Nelson Mandela to Barak Obama, their glory will someday come to an end.  From Grady Sizemore to LeBron James to Mick Jagger to Penelope Cruz… all their fame will fade and their brilliance dim.  Donald Trump?  His glory will end.  Bill & Melinda Gates?  Their glory will end.  Oprah Winfrey?  Well…. well… Yes, even her glory will someday come to an end.

Even your magnificence, my beloved people, you who are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, your gorgeous God-given and God-ordained glory will diminish and decline, like the grass of the field, it will wither and fade.  Like the flower of the garden, it will wither and fade.  But God’s word, God’s glory remains, and for this we are forever grateful.

How dare we pray the prayer Jesus taught us?  Indeed, how dare we not!

Join with me:

“Our Father, who art in heaven.  Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not, into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.  Amen.”



Scriptures Cited:

Luke 19:40

1 Chronicles 29:11-12

1 Peter 2:9

Isaiah 40: 7-8