The Presbyterian Pulpit
A sermon by the Rev. Dr. David E. Leininger


Delivered 4/3/94
Text: I Chronicles 29:10-13 (Matt. 6:9-13)
To read endnotes, click on the the note number, then click on the to return to your place in the text.

And so we come to the conclusion of our series on the Lord's Prayer: "For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, Amen." That is the doxology, the hymn of praise, the roll of drums, the clash of cymbals with which the church closes. Words which commit us, not to a great faith in God, but rather faith in a great God. The kingdom, the power, the glory belong to God and God alone. Easter PROVES it!

You may be surprised to learn (or you may already know) that this phrase is not a part of the prayer that Jesus taught. The best of the ancient manuscripts do not record it. We first run into it in a collection of instructions for early Christians called The Didaché ("The Teachings") compiled about 100 years after Jesus' earthly ministry. Scholars suppose that it came to be included in the biblical text when a pious scribe in the first century, while copying a sacred scroll, decided to add this doxology to the Lord's words. It provides such a majestic ending to the prayer that church has been using it ever since.

Of course, this closing phrase was not invented out of thin air. It had been around for hundreds of years where we found it in our Old Testament lesson. King David had finished assembling all the materials for the great temple that Solomon would build and was moved to a moment of praise: "Blessed are You, O Lord, the God of our ancestor Israel, forever and ever. 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..." As you can see, our scribe came by his prayer honestly.

But, honestly or not, if Jesus' did not teach "for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory," why preach on the phrase? Why? We need to hear it. This is one more way to affirm that of which the scribe of old and the church ever since have been absolutely convinced and of which we need constant reminder - that despite all that is wrong in the world, a day will come when every knee will bow in reverence and every tongue will shout with joy that this is God's world and that God alone should be glorified.

The church has done its best to faithfully teach and preach God's sovereignty through the centuries. Our own Presbyterian father John Calvin was particularly insistent that God is the unquestioned ruler of all things. He wrote,

Not only does [God] sustain this universe (as He once founded it) by His boundless might, regulate it by His wisdom, preserve it by His goodness, and especially rule mankind by His righteousness and judgment, bear with it in His mercy, watch over it by His protection; but drop will be found either of wisdom and light, or of righteousness or power or rectitude or of genuine truth, which does not flow from Him and of which He is not the cause.(1)
In our Westminster Confession of Faith we affirm "God...alone [is the] fountain of all being, OF whom, THROUGH whom, and TO whom, are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do BY them, FOR them, or UPON them, whatsoever himself pleases."(2) In modern parlance, God is the boss of bosses. The sovereignty of God has always been the bedrock of Reformed theology.

A little boy once offered up this simple prayer: "God bless mother and daddy, my brother and sister; and God, do take care of yourself, because if anything happens to YOU, we're all sunk."(3) A child's way of acknowledging the sovereignty of God.

In a way, it may seem like whistling through the graveyard to pray, "for Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory." We look around us and it certainly does not seem to be the case. This world does not acknowledge the sovereignty of God. God's law is not obeyed. God's purpose is not fulfilled. As Archbishop Temple wrote a generation ago, "We know that if our prayer were fully answered, God's name would be kept in reverence, His Kingdom would come, His will would be done - we know that all which embitters life would be gone from it and all it's perplexities would be resolved."(4) But none of those appears true at the moment.

Then how can we continue to make our prayer with any intellectual or philosophical or even theological integrity? I like the way Dr. Albert Winn, the former President of Louisville Seminary, answers that question.(5) He notes that at the heart of biblical faith we do not find air-tight arguments sealed with a "therefore" - all is right with the world, therefore let us have faith, therefore let us praise God. Rather at the heart of biblical faith we find things that do not logically follow at all, sealed with a "nevertheless." Much is wrong with the world, the mystery of evil is great, NEVERTHELESS let us have faith, NEVERTHELESS let us praise God. Perhaps we can better understand this final doxology if we remember NEVERTHELESS.

See how it works. "Thine is the Kingdom?" The world does not seem as if it is ruled by God. Volcanoes erupt in Japan and the Philippines; a cyclone whips Bangladesh. The Husseins and Khadafis are still in power. In human affairs that get less notice things are no better. I have a book in my study entitled The Day America Told The Truth. It is a survey of manners and morals complied by two executives of a major advertising agency who say they were able to get honest answers by urging people to confide their secrets with the promise of absolute anonymity. According to the book,

  • One-third of married men and women confess to having had atleast one affair;
  • One in seven people reports being sexually abused in childhood, far more than the government estimate of 2.5 per 1000;
  • Sixty percent of the respondents, 600 percent more than official estimates, say they have been victims of a major crime;
  • Twenty percent of the women in the survey said they have been raped by a date;
  • Ninety-one percent of the respondents admitted to lying at times;
  • And all these results come while ninety percent of those answering say they believe in God.(6)

It does not appear to be a world in which God is in control. But the Christian says, NEVERTHELESS, despite everything that would seem to contradict it, without God, we are "all sunk!" "Thine is the Kingdom."

"Thine is the Power?" There are times we wonder if God's hands have been tied. But then we affirm, "There are no dead end streets in life in which evil is the last word, no enclosures from which there is no exit."(7) True, at times we wonder why God does not act to correct injustice and do it according to our schedule. But then we humbly say, Lord, we do not understand, but we believe. NEVERTHELESS, "Thine is the Power."

"Thine is the Glory?" Right! If God is truly being glorified, why are there empty seats here today? Why are there ever any empty seats in any church in the world? Many see God as some sort of cosmic bell hop only to be called upon for an errand. At best, the world manages a slight tip of the hat toward God as some sort of honorary Chairman of the Board. No glory though. No, the glory in our world goes to the Madonnas and the Michael Jacksons, the Magic Johnsons and Michael Jordans. The crowds cheer the gladiators, the Mike Tysons and Razor Ruddocks. Occasionally, there are hopeful signs - here and there a few new faces in the church, a new baby baptized, a confirmation class that unites with the congregation - small victories in what appears to be a losing war. But we are convinced there will be more to the story. "The world appears to ignore you, O God. NEVERTHELESS, `Thine is the Glory.'"

One wonders why God puts up with us. Once in a fit of temper, Martin Luther shouted, "If I were God and the world had treated me as it treated Him, I should have kicked the wretched thing to pieces long ago." A little boy in Sunday School prayed fervently, "Dear God, please bless everybody but my brother Tommy." The teacher replied that God did indeed understand that little brothers are sometimes hard to live with, but that God LOVED Tommy. "Then He's a mighty funny kind of a God," the little boy said. In our own way and for our own reasons, we tend to agree.

"Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory." But the question remains: Are we just whistling through the graveyard? Are we like little children, trying to affirm what we know is not true by tightly closing our eyes and trying to make our dream real by endlessly repeating our hope? "Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory...Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory." Does the prayer end with a great collective self-deception? Not at all.

Perhaps we would do well to understand what we say in the way the Hebrew prophets understood things. Their ancient language uses strange and wonderful grammar. It speaks of the certain future in the present tense. The grammar says, what God says WILL BE already IS. The end of our prayer declares that in spite of those who presently appear to exercise the rule, have the power and get the glory, in spite of everything that appears to threaten us, this is the world's future: God's Kingdom will come, God's will shall be done! We cannot say how or when, but the promises of God stand sure.(8)

"For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory." This is an affirmation of confident faith in the face of all that is wrong out there. It is more than a mere doxology - it is a word of hope for you and me and everyone who has ever been drenched in the storms of life. It is a word of hope for this old world that says "the wrong shall fail, the right prevail."

Quietly now. Listen for it as we prepare to come to the Lord's Table. Faintly to be heard over the din of police whistles and fire sirens, the whine of fighter bombers and scud missiles, the anguished cries of the mothers of murdered children, you can begin to make it out. Slowly but surely it begins building to crescendo: "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. And he shall reign forever and ever." Yes! With the mighty chorus of Christians through the ages we join our voices and shout, "Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory forever. Amen." And AMEN!

Happy Easter.

1. Quoted by Eugene Osterhaven, The Faith of the Church, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1982), p. 165

2. "Westminster Confession of Faith," The Book of Confessions, (Louisville, KY: Office of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church, USA), 6.012

3. From the ABA Banker's Weekly quoted by the Joyful Noiseletter

4. William Temple, "The Sovereignty of God," Twenty Centuries of Great Preaching, Volume IX, Fant and Pinson, eds., (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1971), p. 189

5. Albert Curry Winn, A Christian Primer, (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990), pp. 79-80

6. David Gelman, "The Moral Minority," Newsweek, 5/6/91, p. 63

7. John Leith, The Reformed Imperative, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1988), p. 75

8. Winn, pp. 80-81

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