Sermon: The Kingdom. The Power. The Glory.

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Preached on 18th November 2007
by Reverend Keith Harbour

"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered."

In one short passage, Luke moves from the centre of the Empire, from the Big Boss, the Top Man, to an insignificant backwater, a young couple, doing what they'd been told to do, register; and the young woman is heavily pregnant, and there's nowhere, in doors, for her to give birth.

Augustus was Monarch of all he surveyed and had been in charge for about 25 years.  One word from him and everyone did as they were told, or faced the brutal consequences.  From Gibraltar to Jerusalem, from Britain to the Black Sea, Augustus had done what no one else had done, he'd brought peace and stability and prosperity to a vast Empire of different nationalities, cultures and creeds.  But there was a price, Augustus gave peace as long as it was consistent with his rule and his authority.

Here was Kingdom, here was Power, here was Glory the like that had never been seen before.

Luke paints a wonderful picture, he says, watch, see what's happening.  Stand amazed at Augustus?  Now stand amazed at something far greater and far grander!  With two lonely travellers?  In a cow shed?  In Bethlehem?  Revealed to humble shepherds?  This is all the Glory of God!

The Emperor lifts his little finger, makes a decree.  And God smiles as he watches history unfold, perhaps saying to himself, "Thank you, that'll do fine, just watch this space, 1500 miles away, it really is going to happen.  THE TIME IS RIGHT!"

It had already been predicted, of course Augustus didn't know that, in Micah 5 vs 2.  The usually public reading about Bethlehem being the place often stops too early,  vs 4 reads "And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace."

Caesar Augustus shows us ‘The best that the world can do'.  Not just for himself, he represents all time, all places, all peoples: ‘This is the best that the world can do'.  And God gently smiles and says "Let me show you the best that I can do!"

God in Christ shows us ‘The Best'. God in Christ reveals to us the real Kingdom, the real Power and the real Glory. 

From Bethlehem to Baptism, the Itinerant Teacher, the Challenging Preacher, the Compassionate Healer.  Contrast this with Caesar Augustus' Rule.  Watch as God in Christ moves into Jerusalem, on a Donkey, in peace, with his rag-tag band of followers.  The Upper Room, Gethsemane, Mockery of Trials, Calvary.  Where are we going?  Where is the Kingdom, the Power, the Glory?  And it unfolds in the Garden of Resurrection, the Glorious Ascension, the Coming of the Holy Spirit. 

Now, Caesar Augustus, the great ruler is gone, his Kingdom, Power and Glory, finished.  Is that all the world can do?  BUT ‘Christ is alive, his spirit burns through this and every future age' - God's is The Kingdom, God's is the Power and God's is the Glory!

If you read the Lord's Prayer in Matthew, then in Luke, you may notice a few changes in wording.  You may notice that we are told the BEST ancient manuscripts do not have the Doxology.  Perhaps if this is seen as a quiet, reflective, prayer of Jesus, then maybe, just maybe, there wouldn't have been a doxology.  But if this is seen as a Teaching Prayer, offered to his disciples and through them to the future church, then it would most certainly have had a doxology.  For prayers in the Jewish tradition, always concluded with a doxology.

In the doxology we have the full circle.  Jesus says, in prayer, we must  begin with God, and we must end with God.  God is the beginning and the end.  His Kingdom of Peace, His Power of Peace, His reign of Peace is the Ultimate and Absolute Glory of Peace.  That is where we must be going!

We are invited to take this final doxology of the Jesus Prayer and  let it breathe his message, his agenda, his life into our lives.

First.  The Lord's Prayer is a prayer of Mission.  Jesus is King, we acknowledge and accept that his cradle, his cross, his garden; redefines what kingdom and power and glory are all about.  We accept in our living God's alternative kingdom-vision, we submit our lives to that vision and we work for it in the world.  Mission!  We cannot honestly pray the Lord's Prayer and then acquiesce to the power and glory of Caesar's material, worldly kingdom.  If we submit to the kingdoms of this world then we may as well stop praying the Lord's Prayer.

Second.  The Lord's Prayer is a prayer of Incarnation.  Jesus prayed his prayer because he was rightfully king, he could refer to God  as his Abba, Daddy.  When we pray it we look for the Spirit to ANNOINT us, so we to can be bold to pray to God as our Abba, Daddy.  We, the Church, should be anointed by the Spirit so we can, as God's Royal Family, make real in the world just what it means to have Jesus as our true king and our real brother, and God as our one and only Abba, Daddy.  Are we really living out our royal, anointed, status?

Third.  The Lord's Prayer is a prayer of Commitment.  The prayer rounds off, or seals, all other prayers.  It has its rightful place following our prayer time in worship and even following the Great Eucharistic Prayer in Holy Communion.

When we read the Gospels we come across many wonderful promises about what really can happen when people pray in the name of Jesus.  Archbishop William Temple wrote "When I pray coincidences happen, when I stop praying coincidences stop happening."  Not that it is some kind of superstitious magic.  But when we pray the Jesus Prayer we are invoking the name that is stronger than anything else, or anyone else, in the world.  We are asking for him to be with us who has defeated worldly power with the power of the cross, who has outshone worldly glory with the glory of the garden of resurrection.

Are you ready to put all your human plans on hold?  All your material dreams to one side?  All your worldly hopes into the background?  Are you ready and willing to serve in God's Kingdom.  For when you say, ‘Thy Kingdom Come' you are saying just that.  And when say ‘Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory' you are making a deep and powerful act of commitment, invoking God in Christ to come into your life, here and now, and asking the Holy Spirit to anoint you.

Yea, amen, let all adore thee,
High on thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for thine own
Come, Lord Jesus!  Come, Lord Jesus! Come, Lord Jesus!
Everlasting God, come down!
THINE IS THE KINGDOM, THE POWER AND THE GLORY!

  1. In what ways have you personally experienced (a) The Power of God and (b) The Glory of God - in your life?
  2. If God is all glorious, how can we, mere mortals, give glory to God?
  3. How is the Kingdom of Peace established?
    1. Through individuals?
    2. Through the Church?
    3. Through the political process?

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