Thursday, August 11, 2011

“For Thine Is the Kingdom” - July 31, 2011


[Sermon timeslot begins with a testimony by Pam, a member of our congregation. She speaks to God’s faithfulness in a dark period of her life and the joy she finds in now faithfully giving and serving for the sake of God’s Kingdom] Thank you, Pam, for being willing to share a part of your faith story with us. Your words and your living witness encourage us and challenge us.

For the past few weeks we have been looking at the Lord’s Prayer and its call for utter dependence on God. It is a prayer where we invite God to step into every part of our life and to trust God with the very essence of who we are and with the path we walk. We come now to the close line of this great prayer.

We pray; “For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.” What words would you use to describe God? What hymn or song does your heart sing when you see God move in your life? Up until this moment every word from the Lord’s Prayer is lifted from the Jesus’ teaching on the hillside outside of Capernaum known as the Sermon on the Mount. But, when we look at Matthew 6 or the corresponding passage in Luke, we find these words absent in the text. You probably find it as a small footnote on the bottom of the page in your Bible - but it’s not found in the most trusted manuscripts that scholars use to translate our current versions of the Bible. It is commonly called David’s doxology and was linked to this prayer early in the development of the church. It seems to have been their cry in response to this incredible prayer of absolute dependence on God. While it is not found in the Scriptural text, it is seen as a traditional part of the prayer and has had significant standing in church history/tradition. It is tied to and echoes the heart of I Chronicles 29: 11 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.

It is a remarkable picture. The prayer has led us to the feet of God with a bold humility. The prayer invites us to voice a series of petition or pleas to God. We pray that the God who is at one moment both up close and personal and eternal and transcendent will be honored and revered in our lives. We pray that the kingdom of God and the will of God be done among us just like it is at the foot of his throne in heaven. We pray that God will provide our most basic needs and call us daily to dependence. We pray God will lead us away from temptation and evil – that God will keep us away from anything and anyone that would lead us away from God’s presence. Petition by petition we affirm our absolute dependence of God. Petition by petition we pray that God will align us – guide us – direct us to toward the will and way he has for our lives. It is a prayer of absolute dependence, absolute obedience, and absolute trust. It is incredibly counter-cultural to our culture that extols the virtues of self-reliance and independence. It was equally counter-cultural to those who first claimed this prayer as a regular part of their worship experience. But what they discovered was in their prayer of bold humility that carried them to their knees they found themselves face-to-face with God who was worthy of their worship and worthy of their trust. The songs of their heart found voice in this doxology. They so relished in the greatness and power and glory and majesty and splendor of God that the words they claimed became a permanent part of the Lord’s Prayer. Their witness flows from our lips every time we repeat this great prayer. The call is for us to claim the kind of relationship with God where our witness becomes like theirs - our song of faith joins their song.

Have you ever felt so close to God that you we moved beyond words? Have ever seen God move in your life where your faith – your trust – your dependence on God was so clearly affirmed all you could do was to sing? Have you ever experienced the power of forgiveness where you were humbled in the presence of God? Have you ever gotten a glimpse of God’s holiness – or of the depths of God’s love – or the wonder of God’s grace – where your heart is stirred? Have you ever had a moment where the “bigness” of God was on display?

This gets personal for me. Nine and a half years ago a young doctor in a suburban Dallas hospital decided that death was more likely than life for me. While I was in an ambulance being transferred to a private hospital related to the University of Texas medical school, he sent my wife to my house with Keith Parks, a Baptist missions leader that had become like a grandfather to my children. Their task was to tell my children to pray because it looked like I might not live to come home again. Where the doctor saw hopelessness, God had another answer. When another doctor told us that I might never speak in public again, they saw only darkness and despair, God had another answer. When a young Physical Therapist pronounced that I might never walk without a walker again, she saw only boundaries. God had another answer. My life story was not designed to be written in a medical journal, it was written by my Father, who is in heaven, whose name is holy and honored in my life. I sing with joy with the Scripture when it proclaims; 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. The prayer rings out, “For Thine in the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Sometimes our stories of God’s work in our lives are big and dramatic. Sometimes the stories are simple and quiet. It is not about the scale of the story, but is instead about giving our lives to God and seeing God at work. Within our church family we know of stories where grief has given way to hope, when pain has given way to healing, when tragedy has given way to a future founded in faith, when despair has given way to joy. In each case God has answer. In each case we see God act. When our story becomes God’s story God’s kingdom and power and glory are on display. When we honor God’s name in all that we do God’s kingdom and power and glory are on display. When our way gives in to God’s will for our lives God’s kingdom and power and glory are on display. When we depend on God’s provision and trust God to meet our daily needs God’s kingdom and power and glory are on display. When we follow God’s lead to His feet instead of following the voices that would call us any other way than God’s way God’s kingdom and power and glory are on display.

We were not created to wander from one day to another on our own; we were created to live lives of trust and dependence God – lives filled with awe and wonder. We were created to lives the kind of lives that sing out to God in praise. Let’s not settle for anything less.

Our Father, who is up close and personal and divine and eternal, Holy, revered, honor and respected, is your name,  Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth and in my life, as it is in heaven. Give me today, my most basic needs, so that I depend wholly on you. Forgive us – forgive me, and help me to forgive others the same way I want to be forgiven by you. Lead us away from anything that might tempt us – anything that might draw our eyes away from you- and deliver us from the one who would have us walk any way but yours. For the Kingdom is yours, the power is yours, and the glory is yours, forever! Amen!

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