Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sermon for 3/12/14--Midweek of Lent I (midweek series)



Hallowing the Father’s Name
John 17:4, 6/First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Most of us are proud of the family name we bear. We try to uphold it and defend it. We promote it and hold it high and try to bring honor and glory to it. This is true also of that eternal family name we bear, the name of Christian, children of the heavenly Father. That our heavenly Father intends this to be the case is seen in that the first assignment He gives us in prayer is to pray, “Hallowed be Thy Name.” God’s holy children will hallow the Father’s holy name. This is something foreign to our self-centered, sinful human nature. Nonetheless, there it is; our Father’s first expectation of us. When we pray this prayer, we ask God to help us to go contrary to our nature. We admit to Him that we have not been successful at making His name holy, and that we need His help.
But do we even know what it means to hallow God’s name? God’s name is more than any individual term by which we may refer to Him. His name is actually the sum total of everything Scripture tells us about Him. It is that by which He makes Himself known to us. In that sense His Word is His complete name, and Jesus is at the very heart of that name. God’s name is not a mere sound. It is God Himself revealed to man. And to hallow God’s name means to set it above everything common and profane; to esteem and honor it. The name of God is among the greatest treasures we have!
And yet, have we not been more concerned about ourselves and our own names rather than God’s? Left to our own devices we pray like that Pharisee who was seeking approval. Have we been guilty of that kind of conduct? Or do we find that the names of certain people on earth mean more to us that God’s holy name: names in the news, star athletes, the latest movie sensation, good friends, or even our loved ones at home? Compared to them all, God’s name plays only a small part in our lives.
It's true that we use God’s name. We call on Him in desperation and panic when the bottom is falling out of our lives, when we do not quite know where to turn anymore; when all else fails. But do we think to use His name when all is well, and we have so much for which to be thankful? We use God’s name on Sundays, at worship, but are we determined to keep God’s name out of the rest of the week? Have we failed to speak to someone who needed to hear about the Savior, either in defense of Him when His name is misused, or in applying the healing comfort of His name to a searching soul crying out to be saved? As God’s children we are to hallow God’s name, and yet we know that we have failed to do so. And so we pray this petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be Thy Name,” as a cry of confession and repentance, without which we cannot pray at all.
While we confess that we have failed to make God’s name holy, Jesus, the God/Man, came to this earth to do that perfectly for us. Indeed, every word that came from His mouth hallowed God’s name. He who taught us to pray, “Hallowed be Thy name,” performed this prayer perfectly. Indeed, He was on His way to the cross to pay the final and full punishment for our sins, including our failure to pray this prayer faithfully, and to carry out its meaning in our own lives.
In doing this, Jesus makes us able to hallow our Father’s name. By His suffering and death we are made children of God, through faith in Him. He prays along with us when we say, “Our Father… Hallowed be Thy name.” Knowing full well that we never have nor ever can pray this prayer perfectly, He has already paid for our unrighteousness and has offered to the Father in heaven, in our place, His own perfect righteousness. And He assures us, as well, that our prayers will be heard and answered by our Father, who has forgiven us, and loves us, and wants us to pray, and is anxious to be a Father to us!
And so, this prayer from the lips and hearts of God’s children is sure to bear fruit. Worship of the Lord becomes more meaningful. Praying, searching the Word of God, and receiving the blessed Sacraments will not be restricted merely to frantic moments of personal need. Since we bear the name of Christ in Holy Baptism, we will avoid doing and saying those things that would profane God’s name. We will use that name daily to pray, to praise, and to give thanks to God. We will commend ourselves, our spouses and children, those whom we work for and with, those who govern us, our friends, and even our enemies, to the careful and loving hands of God. In trouble, we will the more readily pray, “Have mercy, O God!” And in times of good fortune, we will more faithfully pray, “Praise be to You, O Lord.” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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