Over the past 8 weeks, we have sat at Jesus’ feet and listened as he said: this is how you should pray. (Matthew 6:9) As children talking to their dear Father, that is how you should talk to God. And these are the things which you should ask of God: that His Name, his Word be honored on your lips and in your life before a world that is watching; that his kingdom may reign in your heart and in the hearts of others; that his will – his Law and Gospel – may rule your life just as it rules everything in heaven. Ask your Father for daily bread, the stuff you need to sustain this life on your way to eternal life. Ask God every day to forgive your sins for Jesus’ sake and ask him to help you pass that forgiveness on to others. Hold out your helpless hand and beg God to lead you through a world riddled with temptation and trust him alone for deliverance from every evil. And today, we conclude this prayer the way we began it: with our Father. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. This doxology is the Church’s bold confession and her resounding Amen.
You probably noticed that we read the Gospel lesson this morning from the 1900 edition of the King James Version. Because some original manuscripts include these words and some do not, the editors of the NIV made the decision to put the doxology in a footnote. So what should we think? Are these Jesus’ words? Should we be praying them? Well, to make a long story short – and you will rarely hear a confessional Lutheran pastor say this – it’s not a big concern for us. Why not? Two reasons. First, whether Jesus spoke these words or not, they had become a part of the Lord’s Prayer in the Christian church as early as 70 AD – around 40 years after Jesus’ crucifixion, while some of the Apostles were still alive – recorded in one of the earliest non-Biblical Christian documents we have, the Didache.
Second, even if these words aren’t part of Matthew’s original text, they are without question Biblical. We heard proof of that twice this morning. In 1 Chronicles 29, David was preparing for death and preparing his son, Solomon, to take the throne of Israel and to undertake the building of the Lord’s Temple. As David looked back over his life and ahead to his heavenly home, he summed it all up with this grand doxology: Yours, O 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, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. (1 Chronicles 29:11) These words have stood the test of 3000 years and they also pass the test of eternity – as Jesus revealed to John in his Revelation of heaven where he witnessed saints and angels fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen!” (Revelation 7:12) Whether she is praising God in this world or the next, these words are the church’s abiding doxology; her unchanging hymn of praise to the Father who created her, defends her, and will carry her safely home.
When we began this series 8 weeks ago with the address, we noted that the only ones who can properly pray the words of the Lord’s Prayer and expect to be heard are those who have been washed in Jesus’ blood and approach God’s throne through faith in him. In that way, the Doxology not only rises as a hymn of praise to heaven, it is a public confession of what we believe about God. In a world that celebrates religious pluralism, that bends over backwards to treat every religion – from Islam, Judaism and Christianity to various cults, to the local Atheist church, and those who bow down to Mother Nature – as equally valid and true; it is all the more important that we give a bold and clear confession of the one, true God. So what do we believe about God?
Yours is the kingdom. All other kingdoms collapse. The mighty empires of old are piles of rubble underfoot. Mad tyrants whose thirst for power led to their own undoing – men like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Adolf Hitler, and Saddam Hussein – theirs is not the kingdom. ISIS and the EU and the UN, who extend their borders through treaties and military might – theirs is not the kingdom. The countless millions who spend their lifetimes carving out their little kingdoms filled with boats and cars, vacation homes and bigger and bigger barns to store all their stuff – theirs is not the kingdom. And we who long for the heavenly Jerusalem know that ours is not the kingdom either. Christ has set us free to admit: “My kingdom, my every achievement, my every ambition, my wealth, my name, my legacy – [we] consider them rubbish, that [we] may gain Christ and be found in him.” (Philippians 3:8) We confess with saints and angels – “Yours, heavenly Father, is the kingdom, now and forever.”
Yours is the power. The military commanders, politicians and the lobbyists – theirs is not the power. The playground bullies and the office manipulators and the Islamic terrorists – theirs is not the power. The presidents and prime ministers and the global elite – theirs is not the power. Yes, their power is real, but God has set limits on the power of human rulers, as even Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:37) and Cyrus (Ezra 1:2) had to confess. Those with the most money, the best lawyers, the biggest mouths – theirs is not the power. And we confess that the power is not ours, either. In humility we recognize that it only takes one accident, one illness, one failure, one bad decision, one embarrassing sin to reveal how little power we have, how weak and helpless we truly are. And so our trust is not in any man, woman or movement, but in God: “The power – ultimate power over wind and wave, sickness and health, body and soul and time and eternity – that power is yours and yours alone, dear Father.”
Yours is the glory. The entrepreneurs and innovators whose vision and forward thinking ends abruptly at the grave – theirs is not the glory. The Oscar winning actors, musicians, and Olympic athletes who work their whole lives to achieve 15 minutes of fame – theirs is not the glory. The self-righteous who imagine that God will be impressed with their tales of good works – theirs is not and will never be the glory. Nor can we boast of our faith or our good deeds, for even they are a gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8) Jesus has taught us that the only way to heaven is to despair of our own glory (which before God is really more like filthy rags) – and to confess with Paul: May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Galatians 6:14) “Yours, not mine, heavenly Father, is the glory.”
Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. This is the church’s bold confession. But some days it’s hard to believe those things, isn’t it? Some days we mutter these words half-heartedly because we know that when we open our eyes and unfold our hands and walk out those doors the world will still contradict every word of this prayer. God’s Word is trashed and his people are slandered. His kingdom and rule are resisted. His will is ignored – and many seem happiest when they are intentionally living contrary to his will. It seems as though the powers of darkness are winning. We read the papers, watch the news, feel the winds of economic and political turmoil. We worry about our jobs, our children, the future. We track our health and our nest eggs as they both sputter and fail. We watch evil roll over the face of the earth and it doesn’t seem like the kingdom and the power and the glory belong to anyone in particular – especially not a good and holy God who only wants what is best for us.
If you ever feel that way; if it ever seems like everything we do here, say here and pray here contradicts what you see with your eyes and experience in your life…good, because that means you’re getting the hang of this thing called faith. The book of Hebrews defines faith as being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1) Having faith means having a perspective on life that is based not on what we see but on what God has promised. Faith means trusting that He holds the world and our fragile lives in his powerful hands. Faith testifies to the reality of God’s kingdom, the power, and the glory – even though we cannot see it. Like the towering cathedrals of the medieval church, this doxology lifts us out of the ordinary meaninglessness of daily life, it points us away from our troubled hearts and lives to eternal, invisible, indestructible things – the things of God.
That’s why the church doesn’t close the Lord’s Prayer with a question mark but with an exclamation mark, not with an “I hope” but with “I know”, not with “Amen.” but with “Amen!” You may think that pastors get to have all the fun learning and then reading the original Greek and Hebrew of Scripture – but you would be wrong, because every time you say “amen” you are speaking Hebrew. That word links you to the father of believers: Abraham believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) “Believed” is the Hebrew word “Amen.” (וְהֶאֱמִ֖ן) We end our creeds and sermons and prayers and hymns with this word. It means to be firm, sure, certain, unchanging. Abraham believed the Lord. He was absolutely certain that God would keep his promise to send a Savior, and the Lord credited that faith in the promise as saving righteousness.
When we say “amen”, we join Abraham in declaring our faith in God’s promises. Essentially we are saying: “Lord, I have heard your Word and promises and I live this life and stake my eternity on the certainty of you keeping them.” With “amen,” you confess your belief that God has credited everything Christ did to your account. His life is your life. His death is your death. His payment for sin is the payment for your sin. His resurrection is a foreshadow of your resurrection. We can’t prove any of this, we can’t hack into God’s accounting books to calculate the arithmetic of forgiveness, we can’t feel the cloak of Christ’s righteousness that covers us, we can’t peer through death to the other side of the grave. But, by faith, we know these things to be true. We pray “amen” by faith, not by sight.
Those without faith cannot pray. They cannot approach God or expect to be heard because no one comes to the Father except through [Jesus]. (John 14:6) Those without faith can only appreciate kingdoms established with borders and armies, not one established by Word and water, bread and wine. They cannot understand why we fall on our knees and confess “not my will, but yours be done.” They cannot help but grow anxious for the future, because they do not trust that God will provide bread for each new day. They are not motivated to forgive others because they have not experienced the sweet taste of sins forgiven themselves. They do not regard temptation as a danger to be struggled against but rather a “lifestyle choice” they are free to make. They cannot see that the real battle in this world is not between warring ideologies over political power but between the forces of heaven and hell over human souls. Those without faith do not believe and those without faith cannot say “amen.”
In his grace, God has opened our hearts to believe that the kingdom, the power and the glory are his. By faith we know that God’s kingdom is wherever Jesus is and that Jesus is wherever his Word and Sacraments are. By faith we lay these bold petitions before God’s throne and expect him to answer, because we know God’s promise and we trust that what the Apostle Paul wrote is true: no matter how many promises God has made, they are “yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 1:20)
And so, whether Jesus spoke these words or not, it is perfectly fitting for us to close His prayer with the church’s abiding doxology. We pray with confidence because Jesus has taught us to pray in this way. We say “amen” because we believe his promise to hear us. As blood bought believers it is our duty to make the clear confession that the kingdom, the power, and the glory belong to God alone now and forever. And it is our privilege to respond to God’s promises with the saints of old and the angels in heaven: “Yes, God, as you have promised – so shall it be.” Amen.