Thursday, March 5, 2015

"Pray in This Way" - A Lenten Exploration of the Lord's Prayer

For the season of Lent we will be focusing on the Lord's Prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer – “Hallowed by Your Name”
By Julie Posth
As I was preparing for Preaching this weekend, I came across proof that one little letter can change the meaning and intent of a word. Just one little letter. Let me give you a few examples I found:
  •"The choir invites any member of the congregation who enjoys sinning to join the choir." What should have been "singing" became "sinning" - big difference!
  •"Pastor is on vacation. Massages can be given to the church secretary." What should have been "messages" became "massages." I don't advise this.
  •"The church potluck supper will be held on Sunday evening. Prayer and medication will follow." What should have been "meditation" became "medication."
  •"The agenda was adopted, the minutes were approved, and the financial secretary gave a grief report." What should have been "brief" became "grief." Depending on the financial picture, "grief" might have been a better choice.
  •"The congregation will join in singing 'Crown Him with Many Crows." What should have been "crowns" became "crows."

Despite our best intentions, bloopers like these happen all the time - not only at church, but everywhere. That one letter difference can make all the difference. Let me give you one more example: "Our Father who art in heaven, hollowed be Thy name." What should be "hallowed" becomes "hollowed." Instead of honoring God's holy name and holding it sacred, we often dishonor that name and empty it of meaning. 

This morning we will continue with our series on the Lord’s Prayer by looking at the First Petition of the Lord's Prayer:
                                            "Hallowed be Thy name.”
First, let's take a look at what Luther has to say about the hallowing of the Lord's name in his Small Catechism.
Listen to Luther's explanation of this First Petition.
 "Hallowed be Thy name. What does this mean? God's name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be kept holy among us also. How is God's name kept holy? God's name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God's Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!”

The First Petition of the Lord's Prayer ("Hallowed be Thy name"), like the Second Commandment ("You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain") is a call for us to take seriously the name of the Lord. It goes without saying that this name, which is above every name, is misused and abused terribly in our culture. It is socially acceptable to say, "My God," or "Jesus Christ," "Good Lord," or other profanity, and more often than not, no one will say a thing. When is the last time we challenged a family member, friend, or colleague who took the Lord's name in vain? Our silence is consent, and we are guilty of the sin of omission - of omitting, not doing, the right thing. Seems like we fear the ridicule of people more than we honor God.

That word "hallowed" is one we don't use much outside the Lord's Prayer. The word means "holy" or "sacred." But how can we make God's name any more holy or sacred than it already is?

The story is told of a soldier in the army of Alexander the Great who deserted his post in battle. Later, when he was found, he was asked his name. The terrified soldier replied, "Alexander, my lord." Whereupon Alexander the Great said, "You have three choices: fight, get out of the army, or change your name."

We bear the name of Christ. How others know him and understand who he is depends to a great extent on us. We honor that name when we speak up for him before others. And if we're not going to get into the battle, then maybe we ought to get out of the army or change our name.

It may come as a surprise that honoring God's name is more than just the words we use. It is the witness we give through words and actions, through values and priorities, through preaching and teaching, through what we do and don't do, that either gives praise and glory to the saving name of the Lord, or drags that name through the mud.

To "hallow" means to greatly honor or treat as holy. The Lord's Prayer teaches us to pray that God's Name will be treated with the greatest of honor: "Hallowed be thy Name."

I heard the story of a college student who is the first person in his family to go to college. When, someone offered this student some drugs saying, "Go ahead, try it. It'll make you feel good," the student replied, "No." The kid with the drugs says “ah, don’t worry, no one will know, it’s fun.”
"That's not the point," said the student. "The point is that my mother cleaned houses and washed floors to send me to this college. I am here because of her. I am here for her. I wouldn't do anything that might demean her sacrifice for me." 
This college student was honoring his mother's name by being faithful to her expectation that he would respect what she had done for him. "I wouldn't do anything that might demean her sacrifice for me" he was "hallowing his mother's name.”

There are people who haven't come to know anything in life that they call sacred - they have nothing which they hallow or treat as holy.  I saw an article on Facebook about people searching for something, but not sure what it was they needed.  One of the examples said…
"I am a 58 year old woman looking for something meaningful, interesting, and fun. I like C-span, Bill Moyers, Times crosswords, Mario Cuomo, Nevada. I don't like George Will, R.J. Reynolds, computer talk, fundamentalists or California. I have limited stamina and resources, and I’m looking for ideas for my life."

Totally missing from her list is anything that has to do with God. It's a rather sad plea to find something to give her life meaning. She is missing a sense of the holy -- that which we hallow. She holds nothing sacred, nothing hallowed. Part of the training procedure for Air Force pilots is to learn about the condition called hypoxia or "oxygen starvation." Students are paired off in an altitude simulation chamber. With oxygen masks on, they are taken to simulated conditions of 30,000 feet. Then one student removes his mask for a few minutes and begins to answer simple questions on a sheet of paper. Suddenly, their partners force the oxygen masks on the uncovered mouths and noses of the people who are writing. After a few gulps of normal air, each writer is astounded at what he sees on his paper. The few written lines are unreadable. One minute earlier, the participant was absolutely sure he had written his answers in perfectly legible script. In reality, he was no longer able to manage his writing or thinking. Remarkably as soon as the mask was back on and oxygen was given, everything right returned. His writing and thinking and doing and acting and speaking and seeing, you see where I’m going here.  You see he had in a very physical sense felt the holy.  The thing that was absolutely what he had to have for his body to continue.

Emmet Fox, one of the great scientist, spiritual leader and philosophers explains it like this:
“In the Bible, as elsewhere, the “name” of anything means the essential nature or character of that thing, and so, when we are told what the name of God is, we are told what His nature is, and His name or nature, Jesus says is “hallowed.” And if we tract the word back into Old English, we will discover a most extraordinary interesting and significant fact.  The word “hallowed” doesn’t just mean “holy,” it also means “whole”, “wholesome,” and “heal,” or “healed”; so we see that the nature of God is not merely worthy of our veneration, but is complete and perfect - altogether good.  Some very remarkable consequences follow from this.  We have agreed that an effect must be similar in its nature to its cause, and so, because the nature of God is hallowed, everything that follows from that Cause must be hallowed or perfect too.  Just as a rosebush cannot produce lilies, so God does not cause or send anything but perfect good.  As the Bible says, “The same fountain cannot send forth both sweet and bitter water.” From this it follows that God does not, as people sometimes think, send sickness or trouble or accidents - much less death - for these things are unlike HIS nature. “Hallowed be thy name” means “Thy nature is altogether good, and Thou are the author only of perfect good.”  If you think that God has sent any of your difficulties to you, for no matter how good a reason, you are giving power to your troubles, and this makes it very difficult to get rid of them.”

I have the honor on a regular basis to witness very meaningful times in family’s lives.  Sometimes joyful and sometimes heart breaking, but it’s always an honor to be included in the family.  Just as we need to remember we must have certain things in our lives to live, the oxygen to breath, clothes for warmth, food for strength. We also must have something that is hallowed in our life. Something that is special, whole and holy. These are the things that will guide us each day and help us make decisions.  Sometimes when I’ve seen a miracle occur, I’ll say “God Is Good All the Time.”  But what I must remember is not to wait to see the miracle, not to wait for a baby to be born, or a good medical outcome or a job to be found.  But remember all the time, during the quiet and mundane, during the scary and fearful, that, “God Is Good All the Time.” and “All the time God Is Good”.   Go in Peace, Worship your God.

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