Holy Be Your Name.
First Sunday in Lent
The Lord’s Prayer – the prayer we pray every Sunday (and hopefully the prayer you pray every day), has 7 petitions. A petition is an appeal or request which we make of Our Heavenly Father. The very first petition in The Lord’s Prayer is this:
Hollowed be thy name.
Or, in today’s spoken language, ‘Holy be your name’.
This is a very interesting request. Why would we implore God to have His name be holy? As the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther states in his explanation in the Small Catechism, God’s name is certainly holy in itself. So what are we asking in this petition? We are not asking for God to keep His name holy, as if He could somehow not be holy or forget to keep His own name holy. What we are really asking is for Him to give us the ability to keep His name holy among us also.
The next question would be; ‘How is God’s name kept holy?’ The answer:
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. But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. [Luther’s Small Catechism: The Lord’s Prayer]
Certainly we can understand what it means to defile or vandalize an object. When graffiti is written on a monument or building that object or edifice is vandalized. When a person slanders another person’s name their reputation is violated. In this way, we may understand how God’s name can only be profaned in the hearts and minds of people, for God cannot debase His own purity and holiness.
This brings up another situation involving a group or body of people who share a common name. For instance, when a member of a professional sports team says or acts in a way which defames the name of that team, he or she causes the whole body to suffer. The reverse is also true. When an institution or corporate entity corrupts the brand, the individual members suffer.
Therefore, when a Christian profanes their own name, God’s name is profaned.
How is this done? You profane your own name when you do not live up to the name of Christ. When we steal, disrespect our parents, murder, or actively pursue in a deceiving manner that which does not belong to us (coveting), we are being disobedient to God’s commandments.
When a person, who calls themselves a Christian, rejects or doubts God’s Word, that person damages their own reputation and shows others the disrespect of God’s authority and power. We see this when people claim that the Bible is not inspired by the Holy Spirit (God) but is instead a manmade collection of nice stories and, sometimes, outdated teachings or lessons.
This type of defamation plays closely into the hand of false confession. When a ‘Christian’ does not follow the will of God as stated in the Holy Scriptures or tells others that Jesus Christ was not really God, they are stating that they do not believe that God is God. Denying God’s Word as truth, that is to say things like, ‘Not everything that God says applies to us today’ or ‘What God said in the past was only for the people of ancient times. We are smarter now and can understand better what is right and wrong.’ is confessing a belief contrary to God’s Word and thus profaning His name.
False confession of belief leads to the practice of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, simply put, is insincerity in one’s beliefs. It is the act of putting up a pretense and holding double-standards for oneself compared to others. When those outside the body of Christ see the actions of these type of ‘Christians’, they do not see God and His name as something to be revered and held in holiness. Thus, not only your name is held in contempt but also God’s name.
In this way you make God seem to be a liar or incompetent or weak or unloving. Are these the acts of a true believer? Do we show confidence in Jesus Christ when we sully the very name of our Redeemer?
It all begins with you. We deface the image of Jesus Christ with the graffiti that comes from our own hearts and minds. We wish to paint over or mark out the very essence of our true salvation with our sinful thoughts, words and deeds. In Matthew chapter 15, verses 10 and 11, Christ says: “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” [Matthew 15:10-11]
From your profaning of God’s name, those who know you are infected with your sin. They now learn to profane the name above all names, Jesus Christ. Like a cancer, the thoughts become words and the words become deeds to spread and kill God’s holy people and creation.
Many years ago, I visited a married couple who were friends of mine. They had a 1 year old infant. The mother was holding the child in her arms as we were all talking of inconsequential things. Both the mother and the father of the child would infrequently cuss or swear during the conversation. I was shocked and reminded them that there was a small child hearing everything they said. The mother’s reply was, ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter. He can’t understand what we’re saying.’
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I say to you that what you say and do, no matter in what company, is being heard and seen. We cannot be ‘Christians’ only on Sunday morning. We cannot speak and act in public differently than what we confess and believe because everyone does understand what we are saying. Everyone does remember how we act toward our neighbors. Everyone looks to you to see how you hold the name of God holy.
When you were baptized into the name of Jesus Christ, you became a child of God. His name is now your name. By giving you His name, He promised to hallow your name. How did he do this? He commanded us to be holy as He is holy, but we failed. Therefore, He sent His Only Son, Jesus Christ into our flesh to make you holy.
By taking your sin from you and putting it on himself, he fulfilled his Father’s will. Jesus Christ took your profane sin to the cross. There he suffered and died in your place. His death was the death you deserved but were pardoned for by his promise to redeem you.
Hanging naked, beaten and bleeding on the cross, Jesus Christ fulfilled God’s commandments to the end. Jesus Christ did not run from the cross and death as Peter begged him to do; to do so would mean that Jesus doubted God’s Word. To deny the cross would be to deny his Father in heaven. There was no room for hypocrisy in the confession of Christ when he said, ‘Father… not My will, but Yours, be done.” [Luke 22:42]
Praise be to God that His will was done! Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead guarantees that your name is now blameless and holy in the sight of God. Through Jesus Christ, your name is holy and now glorifies God’s name. Through Jesus Christ, we can live, walk and talk in true faith and hallow God’s name.
Today we now receive that holiness through the Word and the Sacraments. The Word of God, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ are the Means of Grace by which he delivers to you forgiveness and holiness. These are the physical signs that our God is faithful to his promises.
God’s name is hallowed when your name is hallowed. How is this done? By God declaring you righteous through the sacrifice of His Son, your name fulfills what he promised. You are His child and just as an earthly father can be proud and receive honor by the acts of his child in his name, so too can God’s name be hallowed when we are recognized as His true children.
When we, as His children, hear and do His Word in truth and purity, we are hallowing His name. When we live according to His Word, we are showing all those around us that His name is indeed holy and worthy of worship and praise. When we confess Jesus Christ as name above all names, our name becomes holy by God.
You have been given a great gift. The gift is more than eternal life with our Lord, although that would be a greater gift than for what we deserve or could ask. We have also been given the gift of being made holy through Jesus Christ right now!
The question now becomes, ‘What are you going to do with this gift?’ Are you going to reject this holy gift? Are you going to tarnish the holy name of God by what you say and do? Are you going to lead those who do not know Christ fully down a path of sin and condemnation? I pray your answer to all of these questions is a firm ‘No!’
God’s Word is in your mouth and in your heart.
‘…confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, [and] you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” … for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him… “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” [Romans 10:9-13]
Hollowed be his name!