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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Thine is the Power and the Glory (Revelation 5, Psalm 145, John 1)

Sermon by: Robert Austell; August 23, 2015
Text: Revelation 5:11-14;12:10; Psalm 145:8-13; John 1:14-18

:: Sermon Audio (link) ::
Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 

:: Some Music Used ::
Gathering Music: "Flight Attempt" (Mark Kroos, guest guitarist)

Song of Praise: "Of the Father's Love/Love Shines" (arr. Austell)
Offering of Music: "The Demons Were Gone" and "Amazing Grace" (Mark Kroos, guest guitarist)
Song of Sending: "Revelation Song" (Jennie Lee Riddle) 
Sending Music: "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" (Mark Kroos, guest guitarist)

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf)::
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.

We are closing in on the end of our summer series on the Lord’s Prayer. Last week we looked at the phrase, “For thine is the Kingdom.” Today we look at the rest of that phrase, “[thine is] the power and the glory.” Like last week, we have several biblical texts to look at to help us understand what “power and glory” means. Once again we are in Revelation, at the scene of eternal Heavenly worship. But then I want to work backwards and look at how God has revealed that eternal power and glory in this world and to us.

Eternal Power and Glory (Revelation 5, 12)

11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” 13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” 14 And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped. (Revelation 5:11-14)

Let’s start in Revelation 5. We were there last week and looked at a scene of heavenly worship involving angelic beings, humanity, and all creation in a kind of massive choir of praise. The overarching theme was worship, of God on the throne and of Jesus, the Lamb of God. We talked about the worthiness of God to receive this kind of praise and worship. When we say “Thine is the Kingdom” we acknowledge what is true – that God is King over all. In the words of that heavenly chorus, God has all “blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever.”

The words power and glory come in v. 12, when Jesus the Lamb is recognized as worthy. (He was already worthy; this is like singing “Hail to the Chief” or “God Save the Queen” – it is a formal recognition of Jesus’ authority – that is, his “power and glory.”) He who laid down all the rights and privileges of divinity to walk this earth and suffer and die on our behalf, is being recognized (universally! eternally!) with God and as God, as the one to whom all power and glory rightly belongs.

If the depiction of God on the throne and Jesus also present confuses your conception of the Trinity and one God, that’s okay. It does me too! Remember that this is an apocalyptic vision of John; the Lamb has just been described as having seven horns and seven eyes – explained even as it is described as a vision trying to teach us something. Not unlike the guidance we give in reading a parable, it would miss the point (and even the reality) to focus on the logistics and layout of this scene… it is trying to teach us about the worthiness of God and the reason we worship God through Jesus.  We will see, when we turn to the texts from Psalm 145 and John 1 how this is explained and reinforced elsewhere in scripture.

To that, let me add what is in Revelation 12:

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. (Revelation 12:10)

There worship is again offered: “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come…” And the reason given is the demonstrated victory of God over the accuser. Satan – the “accuser of our brethren” has been thrown down, defeated once and for all. Not only is God worshiped eternally for WHO He is, but also for WHAT He has done.

If you can wrap your mind around even a bit of that, it can be awe-inspiring and comforting, even if it is mysterious. But can we know or experience any of that heavenly worship or see the power and glory of God any more directly or presently than reading that apocalyptic vision? At least two other scripture texts say ‘yes.’

The God of History (Psalm 145)

8 The Lord is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. 9 The Lord is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works. 10 All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord, And Your godly ones shall bless You. 11 They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom And talk of Your power; 12 To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom. 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations. (Psalm 145:8-13)

Psalm 145 helps us understand that last bit from Revelation 12, that God’s power and glory are known through what God has done. In Psalm 145 we read the words of King David – ancient history to us now, but nonetheless a record of how a leader and a people here in this world and time and history experienced the power and glory of God. Both David and his people had periods of obedience and disobedience to God. At times they were faithful and trusting and followed God’s Word; other times they went far astray. When David wrote, “The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness,” he knew that firsthand. He was the “good king” but committed adultery and murder.

He recognized that in the course of human life and history that God’s “works shall give thanks to [God].” David and his people saw and experienced God at work – a here and now experience of God’s “mighty acts and the glory of the majesty of [God’s] kingdom.” It gave them the faith and vision to see that God’s “kingdom is an everlasting kingdom” and that God’s dominion or rule “endures throughout all generations.”

David understood what we can also understand: God is on the throne NOW and our experience and worship of God is not limited to a distant far-off heavenly reality, but is available now.

Seeing God (John 1)

14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ ” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:14-18)

If Psalm 145 helps us understand how God’s power and glory are known through what God has done, John 1 helps us understand how God’s power and glory can be known through who God is, particularly through Jesus, the Lamb of God.

John opens his Gospel with the memorable words that in and from the beginning, the Word was with God and the Word was God. John slowly reveals to us that the “Word” is Jesus of Nazareth, adding numerous other descriptive titles along the way, like “Light of the World,” “Bread of Life,” and more. What John notably tells us in v. 14 of his first chapter is that in Jesus, God “became flesh and dwelt among us.” And he adds that in Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, we saw the very glory, grace, and truth of God the Father. Jesus not only embodied the WHO of God, he took the Law, grace, and truth of God – the WHAT of how God has acted toward humanity – and embodied that! Jesus made it possible for us to encounter and experience God in ways we can comprehend as human beings. John summarizes in that last phrase, “He [Jesus] has explained Him [the Father].”

Have you heard the term ‘exegesis?’ That’s the process we learn in seminary to read scripture in context and ‘unpack’ it for folks to understand. That’s the word here that is translated ‘explained.’ John says that Jesus “exegetes” or unpacks who and what God the Father is to us in terms we can understand and experience.

Praying the “Power and the Glory”

When we pray, “For thine is the [kingdom and the] power and the glory…” we join our voices with the eternal heavenly chorus. But if we are attentive to God’s Word and to Jesus Christ, we will have the opportunity to experience and give thanks that God is involved and active in human lives in the here and now. God’s power does come to bear in our lives. God’s glory is something – through Christ – that we can see and know and be a part of.

There are questions/prayers/postures that open us up to experiencing God’s power and glory…

God, what are you doing?
God, where are you leading me?
God, how may I follow you?
God, what choice or action before me would most honor you?

If we are willing to seek and follow God in those kinds of ways, the “power and the glory” part of the Lord’s Prayer will take on new significance, as I believe Jesus’ intended. Amen!

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