Palm Sunday Sermon on Matthew 21:1-11

<i>By Rev. April Blaine, Delivered April 17, 2011 (Palm Sunday)</i> "For Thine is the Kingdom"

Today we are in our final week in a series on the Lord’s Prayer. We’ve been walking through one week at a time, phrase by phrase, exploring what the words of this prayer really mean and how they might connect to our own lives of prayer. I hope this journey has been an enlightening one for you – it certainly has been for me. Well today we are finishing with the last line of the prayer – “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”

If you look in your bible at Matthew Chapter 6, this is the one part of the prayer that you won’t find there. The earliest biblical manuscripts did not include the line. We see various versions of it appearing beginning in the year 100 and we find it in its present form by the year 400.

So, the words we are studying today may not have been Jesus’ words, but they are some of the earliest words of prayer written by the Christian church and there is a great deal of wisdom to be found in them.

And we can kind of understand why. This prayer was likely used as a corporate prayer. When Christians gathered together, this was a prayer that was a part of their gathering. Without this line, the last word of the prayer would have been “evil.” This is not the best closing line – the prayer needed a way to wrap it up, to summarize the importance and close in a way where evil doesn’t get the last word.

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

The first thing this line does is point us back toward God. In case we had forgotten, it is God who we are praying to. The kingdom that we prayed for earlier in the prayer, that Kingdom is God’s… not ours. The power to do all things – that is God’s power not ours. And the glory does not belong to us… It belongs to God. Our father, who art in heaven, whose name is holy.

The Lord’s Prayer in general is all about teaching us HOW to pray. And this closing line of the prayer ensures that we maintain the right perspective when we pray.

I have to confess that I really needed some perspective when it comes to prayer this week. Over the last 10 days, in partnership with the other 3 schools in Columbus, we interviewed 79 college-age individuals in order to find the right teachers for the classrooms. As we continue to wait on some of the money that is coming in for the summer Freedom Schools program and continue to struggle to ensure that everything we need is going to happen, I would find myself praying to God – saying How is this going to happen? What if everything falls apart? And by the way, here is my particular plan to make everything work out perfectly, so if you could just bless that and make it all happen… that would be great.

And so it was consistently helpful for me to say these lines over and over again. For THINE is the kingdom. And the power and the glory FOREVER. This school that we will be hosting this summer will be bringing God’s kingdom into the lives of 100 kids and their families. And there is no question and has been no question that God desires for this work to happen. And so the power to make it happen is not entirely up to me. This prayer reminds me that God is working, God is moving… and when God does – the glory will be God’s not ours and definitely not mine.

It’s about putting things in perspective. It’s reminding us what is true and what is real. And these lines especially speak to us about our need to put our trust in this God and in God’s kingdom, God’s power and to give God the glory.

I don’t know about you but I am more of a visual person. These Words of the prayer are helpful but if I’m going to put my trust in God – if I am going to really have the right perspective – I need to see a picture of what that might actually look like

So, I want to paint two pictures about the ways in which we as humans can respond to such an invitation. And I hope these pictures will help invite all of us to respond to the invitation we receive from the Lord’s Prayer to follow God more deeply in our life. To trust and truly be transformed.

The first picture is the one we see in our Scripture today – it’s a picture of what happened on Palm Sunday.

Here we have Jesus entering Jerusalem, and he is riding on a donkey or a colt. And Matthew points out to us that this riding on a donkey, was incredibly symbolic. Zechariah had prophesied that the king, the Messiah that they had waited for would in fact come. And that one of the signs is that this King would come – not with chariots or great horses – not in conquest with great adornments, but their king would come – gentle, humble and riding on a donkey.

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

God’s kingdom and God’s power do not come into the world the way that we might expect. When we put our focus and trust in God’s Kingdom and in God’s power – we are trusting in the kind of God who was first a servant, humble, and gentle. We are trusting in power that doesn’t come in force but that comes riding on a donkey. When we give our glory to God – it’s not like the ways that we give glory to celebrities or sports stars. This Jesus is content to ride in humility into the city on a donkey.

This is a picture of the God we are praying to – this is a picture of God’s Power and Glory and what it looks like when God’s kingdom is coming into the world.

And it is this God who we are invited to follow, who we are invited to emulate and focus on. This is the God who invites us to live differently in the world.

And here in this moment, the people get it right. They see Jesus for who he is. They shout Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

In this moment, they knew exactly who he was! They see the truth and they name it and they celebrate it.

But in the midst of this passage, there is also a deep sense of irony. Because we know that this is not the end of the story. We know that in just a few days, a crowd of people, many of whom were probably in this very same crowd would stand before Pontius Pilate and shout CRUCIFY him!

Sometimes knowing something to be true, sometimes saying something to true, doesn’t always translate into real life change. We can know what is true, we can say it, we can recite it, we can profess it – and then we can operate and live in the world as if none of it were true. This group of people were presented with an opportunity to trust in God and to truly be transformed, but their excitement for God wanes and their commitment sways by the latest and greatest other things.

The second picture comes from the production of Godspell that was here last night. Who managed to make it to Godspell this weekend? We were sold out both nights!

I loved the story of Godspell – you have this ragtag group of people following Jesus and seeking to understand what it means to live differently. And you see how hard it was for them. The funniest parts of Godspell are the times when Jesus is trying to teach them something and they just don’t get it. There’s a great scene involving our very own Mark Reed and Dane Chavers where they are acting out the Parable of the Prodigal Son. And Dane is playing the prodigal son who has come home after squandering his wealth and Mark plays the older, dutiful son who has stayed home and done his part and his not thrilled when the father throws a huge party for this no good younger brother of his. And there is this interaction between Mark and with Jesus where he is invited to not be violent and angry and jealous, but to show grace and love and forgiveness.

He is invited to bring the kingdom to that party in a way only he could.

And he grits his teeth and he says, “Oh Jesus, don’t make me!”

And that particular moment for me in the production was such a real picture of the kind of transformation that God desires in us. It’s tough and it results in very different behavior than we might have had otherwise.

The story of Godspell is the story of what it looks like for a community of people to put their trust in Jesus and to really allow themselves to be transformed both individually and as a community.

And I think that’s a picture of the kind of prayer that we are invited to in the Lord’s Prayer. A life that is truly transformed – where we actually look different.

And there is this song that they sing, led by our very own Sile Singleton that we are going to sing at the end of the service, “Day by Day.” It’s a song about how the transformation of following Jesus, the learning, the growing, it happens day by day, little by little. Trusting in God with one thing and then another and then another.

The Palm Sunday crowd was easily swayed by the excitement of the moment but they were equally swayed when the tides turned against Jesus.

But the disciples, made the choices to trust in Jesus, day by day, moment by moment, allowing themselves to be changed in the process.

So, with these pictures in mind, I want to invite you on this Palm Sunday to choose again the path of the disciple. To trust in God in ways that will actually result in something different in your world NOW.

The Prayer invites us to trust in God to understand our own lives in the perspective of what God is doing in the world.

And the picture we see on Palm Sunday reminds us that the God we are trusting isn’t just here to make our plans go through, he isn’t just here to give us a good and fuzzy feeling inside – he is here to bring the Kingdom, to show us what power looks like and to show us a VERY different way to live our lives.

And you know, that’s what the events of Palm Sunday and what this last line of the Lord’s Prayer challenges us in our own lives. If you know this to be true. If you say that God is the one with the power, if you claim this to be God’s kingdom, if you shout Hosanna to the King of David! What does that actually mean in your life on a daily basis? Where are you different – how are you transformed?

Does your praise of God on Sunday actually translate into different behavior on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday?

The truth is that this is the quintessential question of the Christian life. We will always struggle with this very thing and what it means to live it out. But that’s the call – that’s part of the invitation to follow Jesus. So, this week I want to challenge you to take these words into your life – the closing of the prayer – the reminder that all of this belongs to God that it is his kingdom, his power, his glory that is central – and that

Where is your encounter with the God of Glory and Power of gentleness and humility making you into a more loving and gentle person in the world in which you live? Where is your encounter with this truth and reality changing you the rest of the week? And where is it not? Where are the places you know that you are not putting your trust in this God?

The Lord’s Prayer has been all about teaching us HOW to pray. Sometimes the whole prayer is called for and sometimes you just need some of the lines – For THINE is the kingdom, and the power and the Glory forever. Amen.

Where do these words and the picture of Jesus on the donkey need to speak to you today?