For thine is the Kingdom… June 10th 2017

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

This is our response to the Lord’s Prayer – the bit we added to what Jesus taught. It’s called the doxology, which means “word of praise”. So we respond to all that Jesus taught us to pray by praising him. To praise him in these words is to recognise that Jesus’ kingdom, for which we pray, is powerful, glorious and eternal. And the word we use to end the prayer, Amen, means ‘truly’, so we also recognise that Jesus’ kingdom represents truth.

And Jesus’ Kingdom is powerful. To forgive others is to stand above whatever wrong they have done you and to be free of it. To recognise your own need of forgiveness is to be truthful, and truth always gives us power over those who hide behind falsehood and self-delusion. To acknowledge God as your father is to say a great deal about your own value as God’s child. And even beyond the confines of the Lord’s Prayer, the Sermon on the Mount, which perhaps most fully encapsulates the law of this Kingdom, is full of counterintuitive advice that, if followed, gives us great strength and power in our dealings with others and in our own inner conscience. It is, perhaps, the earliest (and still the best) advice on how to win friends and influence people.

But the power of God’s kingdom goes much deeper than merely wise practical advice. And in saying that, I do not in any way denigrate the value of its wise practical advice – it is truly glorious – it’s just that it’s so much more than that. The power of God’s kingdom lies in the person of God himself. Ultimately to pray the Lord’s Prayer, and to bless his name with this final doxology, is to open our lives to God’s power and glory. It says, “Take me and live through me. And let me live through you because you are simply the best, the most powerful and the most enduringly wonderful thing in all existence.” To pray this prayer is to lift our heads above the troubles of today, the weakness of our own power, the mistakes and muddles of our lives, the blindness of our sight and the incomprehension of our minds and open our minds to new possibilities made possible by God’s power, because “with God, all things are possible.”

And ultimately this ‘word of praise’ brings our attention back to God himself. ‘‘For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory’. It’s all his. In the end, important as all the other things are – our daily bread, our family relationships, our faith, our treatment of others, our outreach to the lost, even the kingdom itself – what really matters is the person of God himself. It’s all by him and for him. And ultimately it’s all about him.

Our lives finally find their correct orientation when we are facing him, when we are travelling towards him, when we are becoming part of him and his life. We were made for him and, as St Augustine put it, our souls are restless until they find their rest in him. Or as our communion liturgy puts it, Jesus himself is ‘the living bread in whom all our hungers are satisfied.” Ultimately the purpose of prayer is to bring us face to face with God. That is not to say that it is not also about asking for our needs – Jesus makes it clear that it is, and that God is not only powerful to answer that prayer, but delights to do it. Nor is it to say that prayer is not about offering ourselves in service, or about listening to God, for both of those are also true – and important. But above all these, prayer is about facing God himself, just for who he is. And when we do, we find that he is gazing at us, with ravishing love, just for who we are.

Ultimately we belong to God. St Paul explains that “all things were created through Jesus and for him.” In God we find the person for whom our souls were made. This is itself a counter-intuitive idea to modern minds. To belong to another person doesn’t sound very free to our ears. Even within marriage, these days we prefer to see ourselves as individual free spirits, rather than souls that belong to one another. But in God’s kingdom, belonging to one another is precisely what true freedom is. The whole story of the Bible is of God’s people being set free from slavery (in various forms) and finding freedom in God’s kingdom. But God’s kingship, power and glory are all expressed in love: a complete ravishing love that is expressed most supremely in Jesus giving his life for us. He gives his life for us on the Cross to save us from sin and death. But he also gives his life to us in pouring the Holy Spirit into our hearts, for in doing that, he pours his own self into us, so that he belongs to us and we to him. True freedom, according to God’s kingdom, is found not in being individuals set free from each other – that is just isolation and death – but in belonging to another being who loves us and values us above all things – even his own existence.

To realise that God values us above his own existence is a truly mind blowing concept. From the dawn of time, human beings have considered the existence of God to be the most important question of all, yet to God himself, his own existence is entirely secondary to his love of us. In submitting to the Cross, God showed himself quite willing to risk not existing, just in order to express his love for us. What can make us more valued than that – that God values us more than his own existence? What can set us more free than belonging to the being who gives us life and self-worth? Beside that vision, freedom really has no meaning. Neither does power nor glory. In the end it’s all about God himself and belonging to him.

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.