Friday, October 14, 2011

"What's in a name?"

"Hallowed be Thy Name" -- Matthew 6:9

"What's in name?" Shakespeare penned in Romeo and Juliet.

To be truthful in our culture today, there's not that much in a name.  You can name your kid pretty much anything and few people would raise an eyebrow to it. In our culture, names are but labels which help us distinguish one person from another. That's it.

But in Biblical times, a name meant much more.  A name reflected something of the very essence of a person, a reflection of their character, and miniature snapshot of who they were.  So when we come to this second line in the Lord's prayer, we need to keep this perspective in mind.

The first line brought us close to God as our father, a loving father, a good father who welcomes us with open arms and continually cradles us in the fullness of His fatherhood.  The second line rounds out the image or gives us the other side of the same coin when it says, "hallowed by Thy name."

God is our intimate loving father, but he is also God (Jehova, YWHW, El Shaddai ...). Here we are called to take a step back and recognize how holy and sacred His name is -- to meditate a moment on our Lord's very character.

It is a moment of sheer and complete reverence where we gain perspective on who He is and who we are. And we should be a bit blown backward in awe.

Lord's Prayer in Greek from wikipedia
Have you ever been in awe -- really, genuinely in awe about anything? For me it was when I first came to Europe and could walk the streets where so much history took place, knowing the only thing that separated me for those climatic moments was time. As I spied bullet holes in Budapest buildings dating back to WWII and the 1956 revolution, it was both thrilling and terrifying.  I felt so close to it.  And it awed me. Yet that is a pale comparison to what my awe should be when I come into the presence of God.

The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, described the purpose of this line well when he said, "Understand what you're taking about when you're talking about God. This is serious. This is the most wonderful and frightening reality  that we could imagine, more wonderful and frightening than we can imagine."

To be honest, when I recite "The Lord's Prayer," I tend to skim over the "hallowed be Thy name" part with all the excitement of a dull yawn.  I've missed the message of it, the fundamental lesson Christ was teaching through it when the disciples asked Him to teach them to pray.

Lord, awaken me the the proper awe due Your Name, as Your name is truly Your Essence.

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