Hallowed Be Thy Name - Midtown

Hallowed Be Thy Name - Midtown

February 18, 2024 • Rev. Mindie Moore

 Feb. 18 (Hallowed Be Thy Name) 

Exodus 3:13-15, 20:7 

Today is the first Sunday of Lent, the season before Easter that we kicked off this week with our Ash Wednesday services just a few days ago. And this Lent, we are going to be looking at The Lord’s Prayer. Now I told those who were here on Wednesday, I said we are literally going to look at this prayer for a month and a half. Like that’s a lot of time! 

But I think it is so important that we understand what Jesus wanted to teach through giving us this prayer. So on Wednesday, and you can go back and find it on the podcast if you want, we talked a little bit about the background of this prayer—that it was first taught as part of the Sermon on the Mount, in the common language of the people...basically, Jesus used this teaching to make prayer accessible. He said it’s for you and you and you too! 

And so if the Lord’s Prayer is something you either feel a bit unfamiliar with, OR if it’s something that you could say on autopilot...I want to encourage you during the next several weeks, to let yourself be open to exploring this prayer in a new way. To really examine it line by line like we’re going to do in the sermons. To find new 

meaning, ask new questions, discover new possibilities for how these words of Jesus could shape your life. 

On Ash Wednesday, we looked at the first line of the prayer: (SLIDE) 

Our Father, who art in heaven 

And today, we’re looking at the second: (SLIDE) 

Our Father, who art in heaven 

Hallowed be thy name 

Now, hallowed isn’t a descriptor we use a lot today. But scholars say that if we translated this phrase most accurately it would go like this: (SLIDE) “God, make your name holy.” And when you put it like that, there’s a lot happening in this one line of prayer. What do we know about God’s name? What does holy mean? And what does it mean for God to make God’s own name holy? 

I have to tell you that the concept of holy was something that really caught my attention as I started studying this. I realized I was having some resistance to it. And I’ve had enough therapy to know that when we feel resistance like that, it’s worth paying attention to. What I realized is that that word, “holy” can be a bit off-putting depending on your particular theological baggage or church 

experience. I think about when I was in youth group, and the way we talked about holiness, and as I thought about, I realized, yep! That’s the trigger, right there! Because when we talked about holiness, it took on this lens of shame. It almost ALWAYS led to a conversation on purity. There was a lot of emphasis on sin, and what we lacked, and there was a lot of fear. The message was loud and clear: God was holy, sure. But we weren’t. And no matter how the well-meaning youth pastor tried to demonstrate it...I’ve seen markers on shirts that got taken away with bleach, paint on volleyballs that got washed away, you name the illustration—no matter how it was laid out, the bottom line a lot of us heard was that no matter what you do, you can’t really BE holy. You can’t really BE good enough. And God’s holiness isn’t something that you should be in awe of...it’s really something that should make you afraid. 

I’m not sure that’s what the concept of holiness is supposed to evoke in us. I don’t think that the fact that God is Holy is supposed to create a feeling of shame or a barrier between us and God. I actually think when we talk about the holiness of God’s name, we both get to have a glimpse of who God is AND also who God hopes that we will be. It’s not about focusing on our own deficits, but 

it’s about focusing on the abundance that God has for each of us. 

In fact, I wonder if holiness, when we really get down to it, helps us see what we really want to be about. We live in a word where there are a ton of expectations, things we can aim for, and ways that we can build our lives, and some of that stuff is really helpful and good...and some of it isn’t. Sometimes we can get a little off course and a little unaligned with who we really are and what God would really want for us. But if we come back to the holiness of who God is, it can help us have a clearer picture of where we want to go and what this world can look like. 

And throughout the Bible, God is constantly trying to help people understand these things—who God is, what God is about, AND what that means for them. In the Scripture we read today, we see the story of Moses encountering God on Mt. Sinai. And God tells Moses to do something kind of absurd. God tells Moses in this moment—your people have been enslaved here, I’ve heard their suffering, and I want YOU to go to Pharaoh, the guy in charge, and tell him that God told you to tell him...to let the people go. 

Now, Moses is understandably a little skeptical about this. And so he asks God, “how do I back this up? What do I tell people? What is your name? I need to know that you’re legit, I need to know that you have some actual authority to have me do THIS big thing.” 

So God says, “Tell them my name is Yahweh, which means, “I Am who I am.” 

I am who I am. Maybe, on the surface, this sounds a little cryptic. What does that mean, “I am who I am?” You’re not supposed to define a word with the word, right? I think what God is saying here is that Who God is...is who God will be. The fact that God is holy is consistent. It doesn’t ebb and flow, it doesn’t go away because things get tough. It just is true. Moses and the people can trust that God will not let them down as they get ready to go on this incredibly risky journey. It's like God is saying to them, “I will be there, as I will be there.” 

It’s easy to just sort of throwaway say, “well, God is holy.” I’m guessing Moses would have said that before this moment, it was just kind of a given. But what happens here is a shift. Because God moves the conversation from being philosophical to being really practical. When God shares God’s name with Moses, God 

is essentially saying, “I’m holy and I’ll prove it to you. These aren’t just words, this is who I am. Every single part of me, the way I love you, the way I show up for you, the way you can trust me...it all points back to the fact that I am holy.” 

And so when we think about our own lives and our relationship with God, when we think about who God is and what it means that God is holy, it raises some questions about how we let ourselves count on God. It makes us think about where we let God exist in the grand scheme of our lives. Because we can live putting ourselves at the center and have God revolve around us, or we can put God at the center and we revolve around God. Now, real talk—if I asked you which one of these is best for us in our life and faith, all of us are going to say, “well, putting God in the center.” I mean, that is the correct church answer. 100% A+. 

But look, when we get in the real world, I don’t actually think that this is that easy to live out. It takes so much intentionality because every message we get says that it’s all about us. That we can do whatever we want, if we just try hard enough and put enough work into it, whatever IT is will be ours. And it’s just so easy to let God be a convenient accessory, there when we need God, put 

away when we don’t think we do. It’s easy to forget that message that the message God has for Moses is also the same message God has for us. It’s easy to forget that as we pray for God’s name to be made holy...that we might actually get to live out this idea of holiness in our world. 

The challenge here is that there is a very real difference between KNOWING about holiness and actually LIVING holiness. I mean, we can know all the rules that we think faith makes up. We can recite the 10 Commandments or say a bunch of very churchy phrases. We can mark our attendance here every single week! But actually living in a way that shows the holiness of God’s name is a totally different story. 

You know, It makes me think about when I was in Driver's Ed in high school. And when I took Driver’s Ed, you had the classroom portion and then driving portion. Now, it is very comfortable and easy to sit in the classroom and watch the video that tells you all the things you're supposed to do. Your friends are there. You can bring a snack. You watch the videos, if you pay enough attention you can pass the tests, like you just need to KNOW the rules to make it through that part of the course. 

BUT THEN! Then, you get behind the wheel, and they put you on the interstate. And all panic ensues. Because now, it's not enough to KNOW the rules...you have to live into the spirit of what you've been taught. You end up encountering people who don't follow all the rules you just learned, in fact they do the opposite of what you were told; you have to make split second decisions; you have to become a driver, not just someone who knows a lot of stuff about driving. 

In our faith, Jesus wants us to be more than people who just know that God is holy...Jesus wants us to live like it’s true. Jesus wants us to live in a way that shows this holiness to the world. 

You know, you could say that this part of the Lord’s Prayer is essentially the other side of the coin for the third of the Ten Commandments, which is “Do not take the Lord’s name in vain.” Now there’s a lot of ways we can interpret this commandment. A lot of times we think of it was literally using God’s name in cursing or something like that. But thinking about what we’ve said about God’s name and character and what it means to 

live this out, maybe another way to phrase this commandment could be, “Do not call into question the character of God.” 

What’s really tricky for people of faith right now, for people who use that word Christian to describe themselves, is that often the people who call the character of God into question the most...are found right inside the church walls. We don't have to look far to find examples of this happening in our world. It feels like every week there’s a new scandal of a church leader who has done something that is illegal or at least really offensive. And when that happens, God’s character gets called into question. People give up on church and faith, real wounds and trauma get created. As I pastor, I feel really helpless when I see this because I just think, “I get it.” Maybe we think, “God, you said you’d be who are. You said you’d show up like you do. But what do we do with this?” 

Maybe we start with this prayer. In Adam Hamilton’s book on The Lord’s Prayer, he says, (SLIDE) “When we pray for God to hallow God’s name, we are praying, ‘May your name be hallowed in and through us—in our lives, in our words, in our thoughts, our actions.” 

This can happen in the way we just show up, where we are, and live in a way that reflects who God is. My son just got done playing basketball at TAB. (SLIDE) And look...this is first grade basketball. I thought 1st grade soccer was chaos, and then basketball showed up and said, just watch. But these kids, they are so excited, they are just running around, they don’t know what they’re doing. My favorite moment of the season was when this one kid just got so annoyed with how long it was taking to dribble the ball down the court and took it football style under his arm and just sprinted to the basket. 

But in the middle of this chaos, there was this one ref. And every time I watched him at a game, I was just amazed. Because I can’t imagine a more patience-testing job than refereeing 1st grade basketball. I cannot. But this guy. He was so patient. He was SO kind. He would blow his whistle, and call them out for whatever they were doing, but then he would always have this mini-pep talk with the kid to teach them how to do it right...and he would do that like 5 times in a row with the same kid! Not the coach, the ref! And every time he did this...it was kind. It was patient. It made these kids feel loved and taken care of as they played. 

Those are the kinds of glimpses of God’s character that we need to see and we need to create. And when we pray this part of the Lord’s Prayer, we claim the call and responsibility we have as people who follow Jesus to show the world what God is like. Because when we get overwhelmed or discouraged by the negativity and the brokenness in our world... we also need to understand that we get to create something better. We can’t fix everything, but we get to tell a better story. We get to say that the God of Moses, the God that Jesus points people toward in the sermon on the mount...that SAME God is still at work. That same God is still holy. That same God still has a name worth worshipping and following and taking out into the world. 

We get to pray like this. And we get to make this prayer real with our lives.