“Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:2)
Hallowed means holy. And the reason God’s name is so holy is because of its meaning. It is not that the name itself is so untouchable as to make us afraid. Instead, it is that what God’s name means, the essence of who God is, is so important, that we should give the name deep consideration as an extension of God’s own self.
And where is God’s name actually translated in the Old Testament? If I come to them and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they as me, ‘what is that God’s name?’ what shall I say to them? It is from the story of Moses, as the deep whisper reaches out from a bush that is on fire but not consumed. Then God says to Moses, I am who I am.
The Hebrew can actually be translated a number of ways, including: I am who I have been; I am who I will be; I am that I am. God’s name is from the Hebrew word for “to be.” God’s name means being. It is the essence of existence. It is life itself.
If last week’s opening statement to our divine parent explains our relationship to God, this week’s phrase gives honor to who God truly is.
Now, God is described in a myriad of ways in scripture. God is giving – of so many things. God is a devouring fire. God is a merciful God. God is with us. God is faithful. God is the God of gods and Lord of lords, mighty and awesome. God is providing. God is bringing us through to promises. God is God in heaven above and on earth below. God is the God of our ancestors. God is our shield. God is our righteous judge. God is our refuge and strength. God is king. God is our helper. God is able to do greater things than these. God is the God of orphans and widows, strangers and aliens, the lost and the forsaken. God is salvation. And yes, God is love.
Those descriptions come from the whole of scripture, mostly from the Hebrew Bible. Because God is who God has always been – and God is the source of all life, loving wondrous variety and welcoming those that others want to forget. God has always shown a special place for those who have been hurt by others and even those who have hurt themselves.
Now, if God’s name means life… and God’s name is to be revered as the holiest of things… what does that mean for us?
That life is to be revered and blessed and honored as holy. All life. All lives.
As we make this confession every week, of God’s holy name, we do so even as we have also dishonored the very life God has created. From the moment we got dominion over the creation, we have taken the power to dominate and run with it. We have created division and segregated ourselves from one another. We have chosen to ignore pain. We have rejected people because of constructions we have made – like race, class, ideology, belief, gender. We have promised ourselves that we are right and cherry-picked scriptures to back up our world-view, and thought process, and belief system. We have dehumanized and dismissed those who were most in need. We have used excuse after excuse to justify our own cowardice and complacency. We have believed lies are truth and been silent in the face of hatred. We have idolized the powerful, the wealthy, the popular, the loud, the wrong.
In spite of this, all of us are people through whom God works, by undoing and remaking us every single day. Undoing those idols we have created for ourselves and of ourselves. Remaking us by restoring God’s image within and pushing us to create life beyond.
So yes, we are to honor God’s name every day. Not only by reiterating “hallowed be your name.” But, more importantly, by living out that name in our lives. Treating life as holy. Treating other lives as holy. All of them. Then we will become heirs of the great I am, who creates life, gives life, and empowers us to make life holy for all who walk this earthly way.