Lord, how am I to understand the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer when I confess, “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, amen.”[i]
Can I really state with confidence that the governance, dominion and rulership of the world is yours, Father, when I consider the fact that Robert Mugabe is one of the world’s most notorious dictators? He rules with an iron grip over a Zimbabwean population suffering 85% unemployment and was elected with the help of thousands of dead voters whom he scraped up to fix the election.
Is yours really the power God when the wealthiest 2% of this world’s people control half of everything that might be considered an asset, and when fourteen year old Yacouba, made in your image, gets trafficked to Ivory Coast to earn 4 cents a day in a cocoa plantation?
God, how is yours the glory when a New-Hampshire-sized swath of rain forest is destroyed every year, or when the Niger Delta chokes on the 13 million barrels of oil spilled out onto its verdant beauty because of the greed of oil compainies?
Is yours, Father, really the kingdom and power and glory when so much of the variety of this world’s cultures are drowned out by the sound of a well-honed media machine calling tribal people to abandon their indigenous dress and food for a pair of Levi’s and a Coke?
How am I to understand the reality of your governance, your power and your glory in such a world?
Yours is the Kingdom
There are numerous passages that affirm the reality of God’s kingdom now (Matt. 12:28, Mark 1:15, Luke 9:27), while others suggest there is also a future completeness to God’s kingdom yet to come (Rev. 11:15). I liken this paradox to the Emancipation Proclamation. This declaration of liberty to slaves was real and binding as soon as it was announced, it just took a civil war and a civil rights movement to bring it into reality.
I am not suggesting we need to wage a bloody war in order to bring God’s kingdom into reality. If Jesus taught us anything it was that the mustard seed, the grain of wheat, and the little bit of yeast ushers in God’s kingdom not with violence and power-mongering, but with obscurity, servanthood and child-likeness. But even though there is a counter-intuitiveness to God’s reign, do not be fooled. The government of God which rests on Christ’s shoulders (Is 9:6) is here today and will come in even greater completeness in the future. But while God is the Prime Mover in bringing about this dawning kingdom, there is a responsibility weighing upon us as well.
Jesus told parables that sometimes involved masters and servants, or a land owner who rents his vineyard to tenants, or a king who leaves his servants in charge. The land owner has not given away his land nor has the king abdicated his throne. These are parables about stewardship, governance, and management being entrusted to subjects who have a measure of authority over the domain of the true ruler. Some exercise that authority well and others squander it or abuse it. The existence of abused authority does not reflect upon the goodness of the king. In fact there will be hell to pay upon the return of the king when he finds his kingdom is being mismanaged, oppressed, and exploited for the personal gain of the stewards.
The existence of injustice, poverty, oppression, ignorance, food shortage, and environmental decay is an indictment of our role as stewards, not God’s role as king. We have real power, albeit on loan, but it is an authority to see God’s kingdom established. Here’s how Jesus advises us:
"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” … And the Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.” Luke 12:32-43
Lord, may the doxology we repeat after the prayer your Son taught us to pray, move us to see all situations which do not reflect the beauty, grace, and glory of your rule brought into conformity with that cosmic reality.
[i] This text does not appear in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13. It is thought to be one of the oldest doxologies of the church and is consistent with the sentiment of God’s rulership expressed in I Chron. 29:11 and Jude 1:25, as well as passages referring to “all things” existing under Christ or the Father placing all things under Christ's feet.