First Petition – “Hallowed be thy name”
Midweek Service of Lent 1
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
In our midweek Lenten series this year we’re going through the Lord’s Prayer. Last week we were encouraged to pray the Lord’s Prayer not only when we gather for worship, but also throughout the week, and even multiple times a day. This week we’re looking at the first petition, “Hallowed be Thy name.”
Have you ever seen someone who you recognized but had no idea what their name was? Have you ever been in that situation and tried to do the nickname thing to get out of it? “Hey buddy!” “My name’s not buddy.” “Sure, it is partner.” When we meet someone for the first time, we introduce ourselves by our names. Why do you think we do that? We tell them our names so that they can get to know us and relate to us. Knowing someone’s name is important for our relationships, isn’t it? If your best friend never knew your name, you’d question how much they truly valued your friendship. “You’re my best friend Susan.” “My name is Debbie.”
It’s also important for relationships to use our friend’s names with respect. Can you imagine using your friends name as a swear word? Imagine if you stubbed your toe and yelled out, “DEAN BENHAM! / DICK SHULTZ!” As silly as that sounds, isn’t that exactly what’s happening with God’s name today? Instead of showing God’s name the same kind of respect we’d give to our friends, many movies and TV shows use God’s name as a curse word. So, when we pray this petition, “Hallowed be Thy name,” it implies that we know God, and that we have some sort of positive relationship with him, one where we get to know him.
God’s Name is His Self-Revelation
But a basic sort of question here is what is God’s name? God’s name is who he is. God and his name cannot be separated. You may not know this, but God has only one name. We call him Lord, Father, Saviour, God, the Most High, the Almighty. These are all titles for God, but they are not his name. God has a proper name. It’s used almost 7000 times in the Old Testament. In Hebrew, God’s name is Yahweh. Remember what God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” Yahweh means, I AM. At the first Christmas the infant Christ is given the name, JESUS, which means “Yahweh saves”. The Jews considered God’s name Yahweh to be so holy that they did not pronounce it, instead they called him “Lord.” So, when we call Jesus “Lord” we’re saying that Jesus is Yahweh in human flesh. The only way for human beings to know and experience God if he reveals himself to us. God’s name refers to his self-revelation. God has acted in history. He has made himself and His ways known to His servants, and especially through Jesus of Nazareth, who is Emmanuel, God with us. God has given us His name so that we might know who He is, and that we might tell others about Him.
If we think for a moment about how we use the word “name” today, it will help us get the point. There are several ways in which the word name gives the idea of something more than just a specific label which identifies us. A police officer can say, “Stop in the name of the law!” (Authority) You can say that someone gave the town a bad name or someone can make a name for themselves. (Reputation) You can refuse to name a suspect. (Identify) A lot can be done in the name of progress. You can see then, that the word name can be used in quite a whole bunch of ways. God’s name then refers to his person, his authority, his reputation. God’s name then refers to who he is, what he does, how he is regarded, and his presence among us!
Because God’s name refers to who he is, why are we asking for his name to be hallowed? To hallow means to treat as holy or honourable. You could say it, “may your name be holy” or “may your name be honored”. God’s is holy and if His name is just a term that refers to who he is, then his name is holy. We don’t make God’s name Holy. It’s already holy!
What are we asking?
If God’s name is already holy, what is it that we’re asking? We’re not asking about the nature of God’s name in itself, but we’re talking about our use of God’s name. There’s a connection here between this petition and the Second Commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.” We are not to misuse God’s name or slander his reputation. We’re praying that we may use it properly and that his reputation may not be slandered.
God’s name was given to us in Holy Baptism. Just like we put our names in our books to claim ownership over it, God has claimed ownership of us in Baptism. God has adopted us as his children so that we can call him our Father. God gives Himself to us in the Word and Sacraments. God cares for and sustains us. So, God’s name should have its proper honor and respect among us. We should treat it as a valuable treasure; as the holy thing it is. So how do we do that? How does Gods name become honored among us? Since we’re God’s children, we should act like it. That involves our doctrine. Doctrine is what we believe, teach, and confess about God, Christ, salvation, His word, and so on. We should teach what God says in his Word. We should believe the truth he has written there. It also involves how we live. Our lives as Christians can reflect on God. This affects His reputation in the world, that is, how God is perceived by others. So, we are called to live holy and godly lives.
Why is doctrine, that is, what we teach, important for keeping God’s name honored among us? How would you feel if someone went around putting words in your mouth and saying things you didn’t agree with? People like to use God’s name to decorate their false teachings. There are many people running around Christendom claiming to be teaching what God says when he clearly hasn’t. These are using God’s name for their own purposes. Some are even using God as an excuse to get rich! But it also happens when people don’t teach God’s word purely. If you mix a little bit of truth with a little bit of error, God is not honored. So, we are called to hold to the teachings which God has taught us in His word and which have been passed down in His Church from generation to generation!
Further, our sin dishonors God’s name. When we live like the devil and then claim to be Christians, people call us hypocrites and use it as an excuse to not believe in God. Consider an example: imagine a child or teenager who is just wild. Maybe they insult and disrespect everyone they see. Perhaps they care for no one else but themselves. They’re rude. They care nothing for other people’s thoughts, feelings, property. What does that say about their parents. When you encounter such a situation, isn’t your thought, “Where are their parents? Didn’t their parents ever teach them some manners? If the child is this bad, I wonder how bad their parents are? Wow! Remind me never to go over to their house for dinner. Some people’s kids!” How the child acts reflects upon the training, discipline, and parenting of their parents. How we live and believe reflects in a similar way upon our heavenly Father.
“Father, glorify your name.”
It can be daunting to think about what this petition is asking us of. But, we must remember, that the way God’s name has been honored and hallowed the most didn’t involve us. When Jesus taught this prayer, he was looking ahead to the cross. God sent him to earth for a mission, for a reason and Jesus glorified His Father’s name in his performance of that mission. Right after Palm Sunday, Jesus was in the temple. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and chief priests hated him so much that they wanted him dead. Jesus knew what kind of death was in store for him. He knew the pain, scorn, and agony that was on the horizon. Thinking about this gruesome future, Jesus prayed to his Father, “Now my soul is in turmoil, and what am I to say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Hallowed be thy name. “A voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it.’” God had glorified his name in His Son, who began his journey on this earth in Bethlehem’s manger. He was raised as a carpenter’s son in backwater Nazareth. He was baptized by his cousin in the Jordan river and preached repentance and the forgiveness of sins throughout the land. He healed the lame, deaf, and blind. He rid the temple of extortioners. He dared to call the religious leaders hypocrites and “sons of hell”. He raised the dead and proclaimed the kingdom. Through all of that, the name of the Father had been hallowed, honored, and glorified.
And the Father continued. “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” In the Upper Room, during the institution of the Lord’s Supper, in the dark garden of Gethsemene, greeted with the kiss of a friend’s betrayal, during a kangaroo court, with chilling and bloodthirsty cries of “Crucify him!” echoing through the chambers, on the Via Dolorosa, carrying the weight of the cross on his bloodied back, all the way to Calvary, “the place of the Skull”.
Through the cross, the name of God is made holy. Through this selfless sacrifice, the name of God is hallowed. Through the unbounded love of God revealed dramatically on that dark Friday, the name of God is honored. And because of that, you can be baptized into the Triune Name, made an adopted child of God, and can call upon God as your Father in any trial or need, pray, praise, and give thanks!
And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.