Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday

March 31, 2024 • Rev. Rob Fuquay

St. Luke’s UMC

March 31, 2024


The Lord’s Prayer

“Thine, Forever and Amen!”

Matthew 6:13; 28:1-10


Today is a special one in our family. 29 years ago today Susan gave birth to our second daughter, Sarah. It happened rather quickly. We walked through the doors of the hospital at 8:00 and Sarah was delivered at 8:30. Life happens quickly, which isn’t a bad thought for Easter. Life happens quickly, whether you’re ready for it or not! So for just the third time we get to celebrate Sarah’s birthday on Easter Day.


Of course, this is also the middle of March Madness. Let’s get to the important stuff, right? Later today NC State is playing in a regional final game for the first time since the 1980’s. The other night I saw a 30-for-30 documentary on ESPN called Survive and Advance about the 1983 NC State basketball team that won the national championship, perhaps the biggest underdog to ever do so. The late Jim Valvano was the head coach. He died of cancer ten years after winning. The documentary is about that team coming together to remember that championship run and their beloved coach.  In it the players recall a very unusual ritual the coach would have them do. Watch this…


The coach wanted his team to practice a ritual that helped them believe victory was their destiny. I may regret showing that to you since NC State plays my Duke Blue Devils this afternoon for that regional final game!


But I show you that, because in a similar way the Lord’s Prayer is like a ritual we practice, something we say often, that helps us believe important truths about ourselves and God. We’ve been studying the prayer all through Lent. Today we come to the last line in the prayer: “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” The ritual ends reminding us that victory is our destiny. We can cut down the nets.

Let me give a quick summary of the outline of the prayer:


Opening Address: Our Father in Heaven…


Three “Thou-Petitions:” Hallowed be THY Name…THY Kingdom come, THY will be done.”


Three “We-Petitions:” Give US…daily bread;” “Forgive US,” Lead US…Deliver US”


Doxology: “Thine Be the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.”


The doxology is the most controversial. This line was not in the original manuscripts of the New Testament. That is why Catholics do not say this line in the Our Father. Most Bibles today don’t include it, though the King James did. Why? Why is this line in one bible but not all? Why is it said in some churches but not all?

The answer is so simple a 4-year-old could say it: I don’t know. No one can say for sure just when this line was added to the prayer, but it does have biblical basis. In the Old Testament King David ended a prayer saying, “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our ancestor Israel, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty…”  (1 Chronicles 29:10-11) Greatness, power, glory. These attributes of God run through scripture and would be an appropriate way to close a prayer. Philip Hamer in his book on the Lord’s Prayer said, “It was a Jewish principle that a prayer had to end with something good.” Without the doxology the last word in the Lord’s Prayer is evil. Deliver us from evil.


Some scholars say Jesus as a faithful rabbi would have never intended to end a prayer with the word evil. However it came to be, by the end of the first century we see the Doxology in a Christian teaching called The Didache. It included the Lord’s Prayer and it had the Doxology. So within 50 years of Jesus’ Resurrection, Christians were saying the Lord’s Prayer and ending with “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”


I want us to think about a few important words in this last line of the Lord’s Prayer and how they tie in with the Easter story. The first I want to consider is THINE. We are reminded that while victory is our destiny, it is not our victory. This closing note of victory is not about God helping us win our battles. This is about God winning. The most important word in this closing doxology may be the first one, THINE. For THINE is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” It is God’s kingdom, power and glory that is victorious over the kingdoms, power and glory of the world.


We see this in the Easter story we heard earlier from Matthew’s Gospel. An earthquake occurs. Something beyond human power is at work. When the women arrived they see the stone rolled back and an angel sitting on it. Now that’s an important description. There’s a lot being communicated in that picture. In the Bible when it says someone is sitting or standing on something it communicated that person has authority over that thing, that person has dominion. That’s why the Bible often describes heaven as being above, over the earth, because it means God has authority and power over this world.


The prophet Isaiah said, “Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool.” (Isaiah 66:1) So the angel sitting on this stone means God has power over death. God has power over this world to kill, steal and destroy. Not only that, notice that the story compares the angel to the guards. The guards represent worldly power. The guards are there to make sure no one steals Jesus body. They are there to guard death. The guards represent the greatest of worldly power at the time, the Roman Empire. Yet, where are the guards. They have become so afraid they faint like dead men.


Matthew doesn’t want us to miss this comparison. All worldly authority is under God’s control. Presidents, Premiers, and Prime Ministers will not have the last word.


Bishop Ken Carter once wrote in an article, “Our conviction as Christians is that there must be an above. If there is no above, life is nothing more than a series of missed opportunities, failed relationships, and let downs. It is difficult to “seek the things that are above,” but the alternative is more challenging: to make our way through life as if there is no above. If there is no above, then it doesn’t all add up in this life, it doesn’t compute, the broken hearts, the grind of monotony of ordinary work, the passage of time.”


The angel sat on the stone. God is still in charge. We can go ahead and cut down the nets For THINE is the kingdom and the power and glory.


But there is another important word in this Doxology and that is the word FOREVER. God’s kingdom, power and glory are forever. Easter has brought forever into human reality. Forever means God is always going ahead. God is always out in front of us. When we feel God is not present it just means we have yet to experience something God is waiting to show us.


The angel sitting on the stone says to the women at the tomb, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here…and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.”


Twice, in fact, we read in this story that Jesus is not where the women and disciples are, he is in Galilee. He is ahead of them. There they will find him there.


Sometimes we feel as if God is not present. That doesn’t make it so. God is with us, but our present situation, our present circumstances, our present realities just keep us from being able to fully see God. But God is forever. God is not limited to being here and now. God is out ahead of us as well. God is where we are yet to be. And sometimes, we have to trust that our present reality won’t always be this way. We will experience God again. We will come to experience God’s power and glory again. Forever requires faith.


Helmut Thielicke said in his sermon on the doxology of the Lord’s Prayer, that “to praise God means to see things from the perspective of their end.” In other words, we praise God not always because of the way things are but because of how we believe they will turn out. So Thielicke adds to that thought, “We praise a (person) only when we have seen what (that person) accomplishes. But we must praise God in order to see what God accomplishes.” (Our Heavenly Father, p.155)


It's like cutting down a net. When we do it over and over again we begin to see what God sees, what God accomplishes. So we practice over and over saying “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, FOREVER!


David Owen was once one of our pastors here at St. Luke’s decades back. He passed away a couple of years ago. Charlie Richardson in our church collaborated with David’s wife, Dottie, to publish David’s sermons. One of them is titled, “Jesus Is Not Where You Last Saw Him.” He references how the angel told the women in three of the four Easter stories, “Jesus isn’t here.” David relates this idea to the way in which we can get stuck in our faith. We want to continue to feel God’s presence like we did in a previous place, but life has changed. A loss has changed us. A disappointment has changed us. It feels as if God is no longer there. But Jesus is not where we last saw him. He has gone ahead. He is waiting to give us new hope.


Owen says we can sometimes get stuck in our beliefs. We believe certain things about issues like human sexuality, the environment, or gun violence, and even use the Bible to support our position. Because we felt God was very clear. But Jesus is not where we last saw him. But then there comes a time when it feels like God may be moving, what we once believed to be true might be changing. Jesus isn’t where we last saw him. As Owen says, the message seems to be that we shouldn’t expect Jesus to be where we last saw him. Jesus isn’t stuck but is still moving. If we want to see him again, we’d better get moving.”


We pray “forever,” believing that when we feel as if God has departed from us or shifted on us, it just means God is out ahead and waiting to meet us. Sometimes we cut down the down not because we’ve won anything, but because we’re not going to quit believing we will.


But there is one last word of the Lord’s Prayer I want us to note this morning, and it is literally the last word, AMEN! Amen means “so be it!” “Truly!” “I agree.” But this isn’t passive agreement. This isn’t nodding a head as if to say, “I agree with that thought.” To say Amen means “I will live my life accordingly. I will line up my actions with my intentions. Amen! Let that truth happen in my life.


Glenn McDonald, former pastor of Zionsville Presbyterian Church, who will be preaching here at St. Luke’s July 14, says, “Every time we say amen we’re declaring, ‘This is how I want the world to be. Starting with me.”


Jesus is like a head coach who says to the team, “I am going to win.” But that winning, of course, must happen through the players who take the court. Jesus wins through us.


Again, we see this in the Easter story. The women hear from the angel who tells them, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples…” (Matthew 28:5-6)


The first experience of Easter is not an encounter with the risen Christ. It is an assignment. The women are given a job to do. Then the story says, So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them…” (Matthew 28: 8) They experienced the risen Christ as they carried out their assignment. They found hope as they went to give hope.


Twice in the Easter story we read that Jesus has gone ahead to Galilee. What was Galilee? That was their everyday world. That was where they lived and worked. That is where they started following Jesus. As we go back to our normal lives to serve and follow, there we will find him.


So let me share some stories of modern women who have experienced new faith as they followed through on assignments they felt God gave them…


Susan Peters has been a member of St. Luke’s for 25 years. After many years in an executive position with a large corporation, she was ready for a change. She was perhaps ready for a change in her faith as well, though she might not have realized that at the time. Getting in the habit of watching services online, she kept feeling drawn by promotions for Freedom School, a national program aimed at helping at-risk youth, sponsored by St. Luke’s. She felt her life and experience might be of benefit and even inspiration for youth to believe in the potential they have, so she volunteered. She said just being back in the building was like being in God’s presence again—reminding her of being a young girl going to church where her father was a pastor. She says, “I was blessed and broken,” but engaging with these youth and this program was for sure an experience in which God met her here. One thing led to another, and Susan is now on our staff at St. Luke’s as Assistant Director of Outreach and Justice.


Anne Gabbert is another St. Luke’s member with a similar story. She says, After a particularly rough several years during which I battled breast cancer, my job was eliminated, and my aging Mom and her husband needed increasing care and attention, I was streaming services every Sunday from home in my pajamas because I wasn't ready to face the crowds at church.” She learned about Hub for Hope, St. Luke’s Outreach ministries to combat infant mortality by coming alongside moms and  providing support in the form of rent assistance and diaper distribution to over 300 neighbors in our community. Anne helped from the ground up with this program and has been their leading Spanish language translator.

Anne found purpose and meaning and most importantly God. She had grown disconnected from church and her faith. This project put her back in company with others, and with God. It restored her faith to trust God is still directing her path and is always out in front of her.


One last St. Luke’s woman to mention is Kristen Kouka. She knows what it’s like to find Christ in Galilea. She regularly serves in our special needs/Mosiac ministry to help create a sense of belonging so that everyone is included in the church.

But her Galilee also includes being an influential member of the Carmel School District Board. She takes the values of her faith into her community work. When faced with a tough decision she finds Christ presence giving her strength to put aside her own concerns and remember the names and faces of others.

Even as a speech therapist, she encounters families and kids looking for hope and support.  And it’s when she hears child say their first word and complete their first sentence that she encounters God performing miracles. As she carries out her assignments she experiences God’s presence.  


So let me close this sermon by asking where your Galilee is? Where is that place God wants to use you? You may feel like, “I can’t be used. I am the one in need of hope today! I’m the one who feels like giving up!” But as we learn from the Easter story, God meets us to give us the hope we need, as we go, as we offer ourselves in some way to others. Is God nudging you to serve somewhere? Is God stirring in you an invitation to go and give hope to people in need? It doesn’t have to be far away. Galilee is often the place we are most familiar with. Your response may be a step in the direction of the hope in God you’ve been looking for. So what are you waiting on? Cut down the nets!


And as we’ve done throughout this series, let us once more, close the sermon today by joining together in saying the Lord’s Prayer. Let us pray,


Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.


Other Sermons in this Series