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June 24, 2007

Hallowed Be Thy Name

Preacher: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: The Lord's Prayer Category: Biblical

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
First Petition of the Lord's Prayer

"Hallowed Be Thy Name"

All it takes is one letter to completely change the meaning of a word. Let me give you some humorous examples from church bulletin bloopers:

"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.
"Ushers will eat latecomers." What should have been "seat" became "eat." Fortunately, St. John's ushers are not cannibals.
"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. Our summer preaching series on the Lord's Prayer continues today as we look at the First Petition of the Lord's Prayer: "Hallowed be Thy name." May the Lord's rich blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word, so that by our words and our actions we may hallow God's name, not make it hollow.

To begin with, let's take a look at what Luther has to say about the hallowing of the Lord's name in his Small Catechism. At the back of the bulletin you'll find a take-away sheet, and I invite you to read together 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!" 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.

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 good. We fear the ridicule of people more than we fear the wrath of 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? Abraham Lincoln is helpful here. When he gave his Gettysburg Address just a few months after this important Civil War battle in 1863, Lincoln stood on the battlefield where so many men in blue and gray shed their blood. He said, "We cannot hallow; we cannot consecrate, we cannot dedicate this ground." Why? Because the Gettysburg battlefield was already hallowed by those who fought and died there. To "hallow" something is to treat it as sacred and holy, worthy of our highest respect. If that is true of Gettysburg where much blood was shed, isn't it also true of Calvary where blood was also shed - the blood of the Son of God? What Jesus did at Calvary shows us the meaning of his name. Jesus, Ye'shua in Hebrew, literally means "he saves." Jesus' name tells us who he is: Savior! This is what the angel told Joseph to call his son even before he was born: "You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). This is the Name which is above every name, "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2: 10-11). This is the holy Name we hallow, worship, confess, adore, and praise, not only with our lips, but with our lives.

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 the Lord. 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 we ought to get out of the army or change our name. Amen.

Almighty God, root out everything in us that is false and untrue. Set our feet to follow where you lead. May our words and deeds bring honor to your name. Help us to live so that others find it easy to believe in you. In Jesus' name. Amen.


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