Thought for Meditation:
Jesus gave a new meaning to the word kingdom. The Church knew that in Him the kingdom had come upon them. At Calvary it had been proved stronger than sin. On Easter Day it rose stronger than death. George Buttrick, “So We Believe, So We Pray”
Kingdom, Power, and Glory!
When a child is first born it knows how to suck. That is how a baby eats. As a child grows older Mom and Dad start feeding it solid food. It is a slow process and sometimes messy, but eventually a child learns how to feed itself. When they become adults they even learn how to prepare food.
In some ways that is a metaphor for learning how to pray. Everyone has an innate ability to relate to God. However, over time we learn how to pray in new ways that nourish our lives. One of the gifts that Jesus gives to us, that teaches us how to pray, is the Lord’s Prayer. Through Lent we have been looking at the Lord’s Prayer as a model to teach us how to pray.
Today we are looking at the last line of the prayer; “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.” Now, you might have noticed that those words are not actually in the Scripture lesson I just read. Actually, they are in the footnotes of most Bibles. Jesus probably did not include these words in this prayer when he first taught it, though he would have known the passage that Mark read from 1 Chronicles. It is a very similar type of doxology.
Most likely, the early church added on this doxology as a way to close the Lord’s Prayer. The prayer starts with praise and God’s kingdom – “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come…” And now it ends with praise and the heavenly kingdom – “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” What I’d like to do this morning is look at each of the three main words in this last line; kingdom, power, and glory.
The kingdom of God was the central theme of Jesus’ ministry. Right at the beginning of his ministry, in his first sermon, he proclaimed “The kingdom of God is near.” Many of Jesus’ parables were about the kingdom. “The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, or like a treasure in a field.” On Palm Sunday Jesus rode into Jerusalem as a king and the people cried out, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Most of us have heard about the kingdom of God, but I have the sense that God’s kingdom is not an idea that we think about very often. We live in a democracy, with presidents that we elect, not kings who rule. The message that the church has proclaimed, at least in our country for the last 200+ years, has tended to focus in one of two areas. Mainline churches have emphasized Jesus as an example who showed us how to live. The Christian life, therefore, is being like Jesus, a nice person who does good works. Evangelical churches have focused on Jesus’ death on the cross, through which we are forgiven. Salvation is all about a private relationship with Jesus and getting into heaven.
Both of those ideas are good, but according to Jesus, the center of his life and ministry was, and is, the kingdom of God. Salvation is participating in that kingdom. Let me share with you two ideas about what it means to participate in God’s kingdom.
First, God’s kingdom is not a place, like the kingdom of Israel, or the Roman empire, or the British kingdom. It does not have geographical boundaries. When Jesus proclaims that the “kingdom of God is near, or even here,” he is referring to himself. He is the king and wherever Jesus is, wherever the king is, the kingdom is present.
Jesus promises that he is always with us, which means that there is nowhere we can go that is outside of his kingdom. I would suggest that one of the main prayers that we need to be praying is that God would open our eyes to his presence around us and to his love for us. We need eyes of faith to believe that Jesus, our king, is right here among us.
The second comment about the kingdom comes from Tony Campolo. He wrote a book called “The Kingdom of God is a Party.” The theme of the book is the idea that God’s kingdom is a party to which we are invited. On Maundy Thursday we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Typically, the Lord’s Supper is a very somber occasion. Thursday that is especially appropriate because we are remembering what took place on Friday, with the cross of Jesus.
However, the Lord’s Supper is also a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, the heavenly party to which we are invited. In one of my churches, as people received the bread and the cup, the music was not the normal quiet and reflective music. The bells, a small brass group and a saxophone, played a jazzy, high energy piece. People were dancing in the pews. As Christians we are to celebrate the presence of Christ and the love of God. In our worship, in our everyday lives, in everything we do, we are called to celebrate God’s kingdom with joy, joy, overflowing joy.
The second word in the Lord’s Prayer is “power.” In our modern world power is the ultimate good. In essence, power is god. The most successful people in the world are the most powerful. We honor people with power, who can get things done. We buy power suits and power ties. We believe that the more power we have the safer we are.
When I was a kid we used to play a game called King of the Mountain. We’d play it any place where there was a mound of some sort, but our favorite place was at the playground. There was a metal structure with a platform that was about three feet high and about two feet wide. From the platform there were slides that went down to the ground. The goal of this game was to be the only one on top of the platform, to be king of the mountain.
It was actually a rather stupid game. We did everything we could not only to get on top, but to get other people off the top. We’d push, trip, climb and paw our way to the top. I don’t remember why we stopped playing the game, probably because it was rather dangerous. Or maybe we didn’t stop playing. We just changed what we were climbing. Some people never stop playing. Those who play today we call politicians.
The only true power in our world belongs to God. And in Jesus God has redefined power. As God said to the apostle, Paul, “My power is made perfect in weakness.” The power of God is found in a helpless baby who was born in Bethlehem. Jesus is the most powerful person who ever lived. He changed the world more than anyone else, yet he never held an office. He never had much money. He never was esteemed by the world. He was even killed by the so-called powers of the world. His death is the ultimate example of God’s power, for through the cross the powers of hell have been defeated.
As we pray the Lord’s Prayer, the power of God, in all its weakness, transforms our lives so that we become God’s beloved children.
The third word I want to look at this morning is glory. The Old Testament word for glory means weight. Something with glory is something heavy, something important. In Exodus God’s glory shone in the cloud that led the Israelites through the wilderness. When Moses went up the mountain he saw God’s glory and his face shined like light. When the Israelites set up the tabernacle, the tent where God lived, God’s glory filled the tent and no one else could go near it. God’s glory was blinding and people were afraid of it.
The New Testament word for glory is doxa – doxology comes from this. It means light. God’s glory is a radiance that shines brightly. That glory is seen in Jesus. In John’s gospel we hear “The Word became flesh and lived among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). In the story of the transfiguration Jesus went up the mountain. A cloud came down on the mountain, pointing back to the cloud that lead the Israelites through the wilderness. It covered Jesus and his face was filled with God’s glory. All the glory, all the majesty and wonder of God, is found in the person of Jesus. In Jesus we see the glory of God at its brightest.
Louis XIV was the king of France for 72 years, the longest serving monarch in European history. He lived a magnificent and spectacular life, and he planned his funeral to be a glorious spectacle. He died in 1715 and was laid out in a gold coffin in the Notre Dame cathedral. He wanted the whole funeral service to be completely dark, except for one candle which was right above his coffin. Thousands of people filled the cathedral for his funeral. The priest, Jean-Baptist Massillon, led the service. At one point he walked up to the casket, snuffed out the candle, and said, “God alone is great!”
The glory that gives meaning to our lives, the glory that alone is worthy of our worship, belongs to God. In our prayers and in our lives, let us always give glory to God.