The Greatest Prayer Week 8 - "For Thine Is The Kingdom"

This week I am continuing the sermon series that I've been preaching on the Lord's Prayer by teaching on the eighth line of the prayer: "For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever." 

The fascinating thing about this line of the prayer is that it wasn't part of the original prayer that Jesus taught his disciples.  It was, in fact, added in later---possibly around the end of the first century or perhaps at the beginning of the second.  The Didache (or the Teaching of the 12 Apostles) was a guide of sorts for the early church that was used during the first and second centuries and it included this line of the prayer.

Interestingly, many early church leaders in the first and second centuries were suspicious of the Didache and it's teachings and some even branded it as heretical. 

When the King James version of the Bible was translated in the 17th century, it included the line even though scholars now know that it wasn't part of earlier transcripts.  But then again, the King James version of the Bible is full of errors like that---sorry, Fundamentalist King James Only Christians.

Before you start to seize up, though, let me say this...  This line of the Greatest Prayer is not pulled out of the ether.  It's found in Scripture, most dramatically in I Chronicles 29:10-11, which we'll get to in a moment.

I read this week about a fellow who was confronted with the facts about how Jesus never said this line of the prayer.  He'd been one of those aforementioned Fundamentalist King James Only folks for a number of years and was starting to see the light.  His response after he thought about it for a while was, "Well, if Jesus didn't say it, he should have!"

Does the fact that this line was added in change the the prayer?  What function does it serve?  How do we reconcile our understanding of Scripture as inspired by God's Holy Spirit when it's clear that a line like this was plugged in by some well-meaning Christians nearly 2,000 years ago?

First, we need to understand what a doxology is in the first place.  Doxo is the Greek root word for "glory," so a doxology is an ascription of praise.  In other words, when you sing, pray or say a doxology you are praising God.  THE Doxology goes something like this: "Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Him all creatures here below.  Praise Him above, you heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost."  It's all about praise, and recognizing that God is God and we are not.  The words of the THE Doxology that we sing in church and the doxology at the end of the Lord's Prayer are direct quotes from Scripture that are simply borrowed.

This is "our" part of the prayer.  This is the moment when we just cut loose and acknowledge who God is, what God is doing, has done and will do in our lives and in all of Creation to redeem it, renew it and reconcile it to himself.

When David, the great king of Israel, was on his deathbed he offered this doxology, which should sound familiar:
“Praise be to you, LORD,  the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all."
I love how in the waning moments of his life that David didn't spend a whole lot of energy reflecting on his own life, and accomplishments.  He just straight up gives God all the glory.

There's this moment in Handel's Messiah that I absolutely love.  It's the point when the choir sings, "The kingdom of this world is become, THE KINGDOM OF OUR LORD AND HIS CHRIST!"  I put that in all caps because that's the point when the choir just sings the heck out of it.  I get chills when I hear that.  And here's something else...  When the Hallelujah Chorus is sung everyone stands.  Doesn't matter whether you are a Christian or not.  You stand.  And as you stand there, you feel something, don't you?  Like maybe God is God... and you are not.

But does the world feel like God is in control?  That this is His kingdom?  Who is really in charge?  If God is really in charge of things, then why are so many things screwed up?  Most of us Christian-y people have really well-crafted answers to those questions, but for a lot of people it doesn't make any sense.

That's why we need to begin at the beginning...  Like, at the very beginning.  Read this:
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness."
Ponder that.  There was Chaos, and God brought Order.  There was Darkness and God created Light.  And then proclaimed the light was good and separated it from the darkness. And in the Gospel of John chapter 1 we read a little more about this first moment of Creation where Jesus was present:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
We may feel sometimes like the darkness is winning, that God has fallen asleep at the wheel... It's in those moments that we need to remember that the darkness cannot overcome the light---no matter how hard it tries. And if we have eyes to see, as Jesus would often say, we can see those moments of life and light springing up all around us.

Most Christians, however, pray and act like we're in a poorly run hotel.  I am staying in a pretty bad hotel right now as I am taking classes this week or my Doctor of Ministry program.  Bad carpet, tattered blankets, dingy looking pillow cases, 1980's decor, crummy shower...  I think hotel is too fine a word for this joint.  It's a motel.  But I digress.  When you are in a poorly run hotel, you're always on the phone with the front desk asking for things.  Nothing is quite up to your expectations.  This is how most of us act.

I read this quote recently, "Why do people who are so concerned about the mystery of death, insist on missing the miracle of life?"  Jesus pointed out mustard seeds more than once during his ministry as an example of something tiny and unassuming that grows into something huge and not-to-be-missed.  You can overlook a mustard seed because of it's size, he basically taught, but when it finally grows and is being enjoyed by others, you'll regret you weren't on board with it sooner!

The doxology also mentions "Power" and "Glory" belonging to God as well.  We need to understand that all other forms of power, all other examples of glory are brittle and frail compared to the power and glory that emanates from God.

Power is relative, and so often it is more imagined than real.   Most of us who crave power and influence do so just so we can feel better about ourselves.  We secretly believe that we aren't "good enough" and the only thing that will dispel that feeling is the illusion that we are in charge.

I've heard an old joke about an Army Colonel who was recently promoted.  He sat in his new office feeling important and relishing the moment.  There was a knock on the door, and he thought that he would start off by impressing the first person to visit him.  "Enter!" he barked.  Then he picked up the phone and started talking on it like he was talking to the General.  "General, I am so glad you asked my advice on this matter.  I know that if you follow it, you won't be disappointed."  A young private entered and stood at the Colonel's desk, waiting for him to hang up.  "What do you need, Private?" the Colonel asked.  "I'm supposed to hook up your phone, sir?  Shall I get right on that?"

And it's not just our efforts to appear powerful that fall short.  We seek glory and praise, but the kind of glory that we try so hard to obtain just fades away over time.  Can anyone really remember what movie won last year's Best Picture Oscar?  I think it was Black Swan, but I'm not sure.  Who cares?  It seemed like a big deal at the time, right? 

The glory of God, however, is written on the skies with every sunrise and sunset.  It's carved in the craggy peaks of snow covered mountains.  It's on the sound of a newborn baby's first cry of life.  You feeling me?  That's glory.

What it comes down to in the end is belief.  You either believe this or you don't.  You either choose to see or cover your eyes.

Do you believe the Creator of the Universe has it going on?

Do you believe the Source of all Light and Goodness might have it under control?

Then SHOUT IT OUT!  Don't mumble.  Every time we say the Lord's Prayer, we taper off at the end when we get to the doxology.  We start to mumble because we want to make sure that everyone knows that we are reverent and almost done.  So next time you pray the Lord's Prayer in church just let it loose when you get to the doxology.  Embarrass everyone around you. 

Because God is Large... and in Charge!

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