Monday, December 2, 2013

For Thine is the Kingdom ...

What words may or may not mean makes all the difference.

But most words are defenseless against the imposition of meaning. They don't shout to us: "This is what I mean."

So we mostly do with them as we please … often by lifting them out of their context, and then telling them to behave, and like a dog, heel, or sit or roll over, at our pleasure.

Yet, some reflection and study can open the joy of a word beyond what we might think it means or even want for it.

So, I've been thinking about the liturgical end of the LORD's Prayer: "for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever."

More than likely crafted as a liturgical response early on, it's been incorporated into the prayer, and now for most Christians, it's simply how the prayer ends.

And for me, it ends well.

Yet careful thought, I believe, needs to be given to what these words mean.

So let me have a go at it.

"Kingdom" is a good word when read within the context of God's Kingdom so ably expressed by Isaiah's "Peaceable Kingdom" imagery in Isaiah 11. Within the stories of Israel, kingdom often meant what it might well mean for us, and how it's often been used throughout Christian History - kingdom by the sword, with mighty kings going out to battle with storming chariots and charging horses.

But not so for Isaiah, neither for Jesus nor Paul.

The Kingdom of God is one of justice and peace, wherein all have a chance at life, and no one is hungry or afraid. That's the kingdom for which we pray - thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Power demands some thought, as well. Again, not the power of the sword that brings death, but the power of God's creative energies that create life, sustaining and enlarging it … the creativity of creation, the bringing forth of light and life for the sake of a world wherein all creatures have their place, and the human creature, endowed with great capacity, is called to care for the vulnerable creatures and their habitat - for it's a matter of vulnerability. The human being, created in God's image, has the capacity to raise up or to bring down life and death. When it comes to the vulnerable, to do as God does - and that's to raise up, to protect and to save.

The last word, glory - a big word that encompasses fulfillment of purpose … a human being, fulfilling God's intended purpose in compassion and wisdom, brings glory to God, and like a glorious sunset, or a glorious piece of pumpkin pie, when something is just right, good and harmonious, it's glory.

The last word I consider is Thine - these words belong to God; they are not ours to define as we please. Rather, these words belong to God. Even the word God can mean just about anything we want it to mean; history makes that ever so clear. Yet within all of the stories and all of the history, there's been a consistent image of peace, and a constant call to live these words, not with the power of kings and armies, but in the power of faith, hope and love - that which neither takes nor demands, but gives and restores.

Measured by Jesus, who crafts the Prayer when the disciples ask how they should pray, the church rightly crafted the response to his words - a fitting end to the LORD's Prayer:

For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen!


Barbara Kellam-Scott said...

Sorry, Tom, seems mostly apologetics. I'd love to see some real challenge to the idea that the words that belong to God, as you say, have been correctly interpreted through tradition and there's little more to say.

Dennis Maher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dennis Maher said...

I am more inclined to want to discern what Jesus may have intended by the prayer. We would have to begin by acknowledging that these words of the ending are additions and were not the words of Jesus.