Our Father in Heaven,
Hallowed be your name.
I write this eight days past Halloween. “Hallowed,” “Saints,” and “Holy” are all in the same family. Let the name of our Father who is in heaven (see October’s newsletter) be hallowed, holy, set apart for special use and purposes. This addresses taking the name of the Lord in vain, but it is much deeper than your word choices after you smash your thumb or witness careless driving.
It goes back to Genesis 1, where the human family is created in God’s image and Genesis 2 where humanity is asked to share the creative process with God by naming the animals. A creature helps the Creator create. It recalls Genesis 3 where those creatures deny the shallowness that God gave them and try to seize it for themselves. And as they seize it, they break it. They break it on their way to the flood and on their way up and down the Tower of Babel until the hallowedness of that family that God created in the garden is shattered and scattered across the world. But God graciously marked out a people who are called to live a hallowed life under Torah. And that hallowed image is fully restored in a baby born to a virgin under a Middle-Eastern star and raised in a little town called Nazareth. This boy, Jesus, is the restored hallowed image of the God to whom we pray and who then teaches us to pray these exact words.
So what should we do with it? Why do we pray these words? If we misunderstand the Father’s identity (“name” is about identity, not just what we call him), we misunderstand who we are and how we are to pray. If we get the first part right, the rest comes a lot more easily.
For us to pray “hallowed by your name” is to say that not only do we want to see the Father’s name honored and respected, but all who bear that image. When I pray these words, I am bound to honor and respect as holy the image of God in everyone I meet and deal with. Our children, families, neighbors and even strangers and enemies bear the image of God. And we are responsible for acting like it. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is not just a way to assure that everyone gets along. It is for us to respond to the image of God in each person, whether that is something that they see in themselves or not. Christians are people who look at the mess in front of us and say, “Can you believe that God humbled himself to take up flesh and bone and live in this crazy mess? That he calls that confused, rude, angry or ignorant person over there “image of God?” It transforms us for a life of love.
You are reading this in December. Preparations for Christmas are in full swing and we have an opportunity to renew our commitment to the Holy One who humbly left his Father’s side and demonstrated how divine holiness can reside in, through and with a human being. May we pray over this truth this month and live holy lives in response to the Holy One in whose image we have been made.