Sunday, January 30, 2011

Something About That Name

We've been talking about the Lord's Prayer at the worship service I preach at occassionally.  This week I spoke about 'Hallowed be the Name". 
I go by a lot of names.  I’m ...
Mr. Murphy
Soon to be Grandpa
And Anita’s husband
Different people, depending on our relationship, call me by one of my names.  Those who know me well call me Dad, Mike, or Murph.  Some, wanting to show respect call me Pastor or Reverend.  I like Michael but it never caught on very well.  Of course, I’ve been called other things in my life.  Hurtful things.  But we don’t need to go into that I don’t think.
Several years ago I shared a speaking engagement with Michael Jordan’s mother.  Delores.  I wondered what I should call her.  I didn’t know her well enough to call her Delores.  I pondered calling her ...Mother of His Airness ...but settled for Mrs. Jordan.  That seemed to work.
I couldn’t fathom meeting the President and calling him anything other than Mr. President.  Nor could I be in Billy Graham’s presence and call him anything but Rev. Graham. 
There are times when I meet people and I wonder what the right protocol is.  And I usually just decide to go with the most formal and the less familiar.  For instance, if I ever met the Mayor of Chicago I’m pretty sure I’d say It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Mayor and not say ‘Hey, Richie'.   Probably wouldn’t go over well.  Not sure what I’d do with Bono and undecided about how best to address Lady Gaga.  Not sure Ms. Gaga works for me and just saying anything that involves the word Gaga kind of makes me laugh.
I imagine if I had a relationship with Mrs. Jordan, or Mayor Daley, or Rev. Graham over time I would be allowed to and would feel comfortable with using a first name.  But it would take time.
Names carry meanings with it.  Michael, for instance, means he who is like God.  I like it.  It reminds me of a bigger purpose for my life.  During my teenage years there was a guy we called ‘Wiener’.  Because he was.
In the Bible names are a big deal.  They carry weight. They are descriptive.  Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter which means Rock.  It says something about how Jesus viewed his disciple.  
Throughout the Hebrews Scriptures the people of God tried to name God. And as we read through the Old Testament we discover many names for the Lord. Up until the time of Abraham he was known as Elohim which stands for Creator.  To the patriarchs God was called El Shadai (perhaps meaning  “God, one of the mountains.”) God revealed to Moses a new name that appears thousands of  times in the Old Testament.  It was considered so sacred that the Jews never wrote the new name if full nor ever pronounced it.  They wrote only its four consonants YHWH. We say Yahweh.  Jesus revealed a new name for God, ABBA, which suggests an almost scandalous familiarity with the Creator. For ABBA speaks of a God who is as close as a Father.  A dad.  Throughout scripture the name of God is seen as holy. It has substance.  It stands for something. It is not meant to be uttered absent mindedly or flippantly.  The name has deep and rich meanings ascribed to it.
Holy indeed is the name of God. It deserves to be honored.
It’s good for me to be reminded of this.  I’m a pretty casual guy and sometimes I forget that I’m praying to a God who is holy.  Whose name is holy.  He is on one hand very familiar. Dad. And yet He is beyond the familiar.  He’s more than a cozy best friend.  He is the Lord of Lords, The Creator, The King of Kings,The Alpha and the Omega.  He is the bright and morning star. And to remind us of that Jesus tells us that Holy is the name. And holiness always deserves a response. Paul reminds us of that in Philippians when he says that that at the very mention of Jesus’ name someday “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus, Himself, is Lord.”
We all know that we live in a world that is habitually addicted to misusing the name of the Lord in violation of the commandment which tells us not to take the name of the Lord in vain. We use the words Jesus Christ as adjective and expletive in even the most casual of conversation.  Some habitually declare God’s surname as having only a damning influence.  And, most people, even though disturbed by such ugly use and abuse of the name of God do nothing to stand up for the holiness of His name.  We are too often quiet believing that our witness cannot be used by God to influence behavior.
But hallowed is His name according to Jesus. Throughout Scripture those who encounter the Living, Holy God stand in amazement at their encounter.  Just ask Isaiah.  Let’s turn to Isaiah 6.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
 “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;  the whole earth is full of his glory.”
 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
 And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
According to Albert Haase, in his book Living the Lord’s Prayer, adoration will almost inevitably lead to what he calls abomination ...where  we come to grips with the real us when we gaze into the eyes of a good and loving God. It produces in us a holy tension that produces in us a virtue called humility. Humility helps us to further see ourselves as we really are in light of the knowledge of the God who really is.  For Isaiah encountering the Holiness of God caused Him to see His sinfulness, to accept God’s forgiveness and then, and only then was He ready to live into His divine assignment.  He was humbled and then allowed to do God’s work.
Author Michael Crossly says:
If God’s name is going to be made holy on earth as it is in heaven, the consecration of God’s presence or name must begin in the ground of our being.  In the power of this name everything in our house – be it at the individual, interpersonal, and infrastructural level – must be honored; everything that profanes that name must be resisted.  Such is the task of those who belong to the household of that God whose holy name is revealed in the I Am. (Michael Crosby, The Prayer that Jesus Taught Us,  Orbis, 2002, pp. 61-62)
This means that God’s name is made holy, not just in our words, but in our very lives. We walk our talk.  But our talk does indeed mean something.  And when we say Hallowed is the Name, we are recognizing that although our relationship with God might be intimate in nature, it isn’t one of equals.   There’s a pecking order.  And in that pecking order one of our jobs is to look for all those things in our life that aren’t of the Lord.  And those things need to be put to death, resisted and fought against.  If we are  not committed to doing such things we will profane God’s name.    
When we make holy the name of God we should be driven to our knees, then to God's side, and then out into the world. And if that doesn't happens perhaps we have some soul searching to do.

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