Hebrews 4:14-16 • July 31, 2016
Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Several times during the year, we have an opportunity in our worship life together to step away from the rhythm of the Revised Common Lectionary cycle of scripture readings and enter into a worship series that focuses our attention on a specific theme for a few weeks. These series might be about stewardship or our shared global mission work or faith education around a topic that helps us dig deeper into what it means to be a Lutheran Christian in the world today.
This is the last week of a worship series that has centered us on the Lord’s Prayer this summer. I’m grateful for the numerous pieces of feedback that you have shared with me throughout this series – positive and negative. I sincerely hope and pray that the past several weeks have been a time of growth for you and me in our relationship with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ and with our God.
“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.” are the words that we share at the conclusion of this most significant prayer that’s been the focus of our summer worship series.
A prayer that many assume all Christians know by memory and use daily in their faith life.
Like so many of the other parts of this prayer that we have walked through over the past 6 weeks, I wonder if you and I actually live out our life of faith in ways that reflect the Lord’s Prayer or this concluding section of it.
As I’ve thought about this, I’m reminded of one of the great President Abraham Lincoln stories that I’ve heard. Lincoln was arguing with one of his political opponents.
“How many legs does a cow have?” Lincoln asked his adversary.
“Four, of course,” came the disgusted reply.
“That’s right,” agreed Lincoln. “Now suppose you call the cow’s tail a leg; how many legs would the cow have?”
“Why, five, of course,” was the confident reply.
“Now, that’s where you’re wrong,” said Lincoln. “Calling a cow’s tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory. For thine. Meaning for God. Not for Pastor Craig or for the church or for a specific race or nation or time in history is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory. For thine. For God is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. For God.
This section of The Lord’s Prayer is called the Doxology. Doxology is one of those strange churchy words that I’m guessing you don’t use much in your everyday speech. Simply stated, doxology reflects an expression of praise to God. Again, not about us. About God.
Pastor Tom Harris states that, “This doxology with which we conclude the Lord’s Prayer answers three questions: Who has the authority? Who has the ability? Who deserves the credit?”
Think about that. What’s the leg and what’s the tail? in the Lord’s Prayer? Or may even who’s the leg and who’s the tail?
Who has the authority?
Who has the ability?
Who deserves the credit?
And furthermore, it’s important to note that answers to these kind of questions with regard to the Lord’s Prayer goes a lot further than thinking that the only “right way” to say this prayer is to say sins or trespasses or debts.
Frankly, brothers and sisters in Christ, I don’t believe that actually matters. That’s not the purpose of the prayer. I just don’t think God really cares which word we use as long as we are answering the questions about who has the authority, who has the ability, and who deserves the credit appropriately.
Martin Luther teaches us very directly about this part of the Lord’s Prayer in the Small Catechism by stating “That I should be certain that such petitions are acceptable to and heard by our Father in heaven, for God himself commanded us to pray like this and promised to hear us.”
In other words – the doxology or concluding words of the Lord’s Prayer are words of confidence. Words of confidence that we believe God is with us always, that we believe God hears us and that we believe that God does answer our prayer. And sometimes it takes the littlest of God’s children to remind us of that.
Take a look at this video clip that was texted to me during our summer worship series from one of Good Shepherd’s families.
The great 20th century theologian Karl Barth once wrote, “Prayer is not an undertaking left to chance, a trip into the blue. It must end as it has begun, with conviction.” I think that our 3-year old sister in Christ in that video clip is praying with conviction. Or better yet, with confidence and boldness.
In our New Testament reading from Hebrews today, we heard, “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (vs. 16)
The doxology of the Lord’s Prayer is not the culmination of our greatness or a call to action that guilts us into doing things in order for God to love us and finally pay attention to us. The doxology of the Lord’s Prayer is the culmination of the greatness of our God, the God of all creation. The culmination of the greatness of God that invites us to approach the throne of God’s grace with conviction. With confidence. With boldness.
Go, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you pray the Lord’s Prayer, pray it boldly. Pray it confidently. Pray it with conviction. And may you be reminded every single time that you pray the Lord’s Prayer that the God of all creation is with you always – in all times and all places and all situations – for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Thanks be to God. Amen.