First United Methodist Church
March 6, 2022
Rev. Dr. Byron Kaiser, Pastor
Our Father, Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name
Today we begin our Lenten Study of the Lord’s Prayer. Why spend six weeks on these small utterances of Jesus? This is the only time Jesus gives us word for word what to pray. Jesus says, “pray like this.” For some of us, this will be like peeling an onion, we will peel back the layers of the prayer to find the deep meanings. For some of us, this will be a reminder of what we know. For some of us, this will be exploring new territory and perhaps create a new practice.
As we explore the prayer, we shall find that each of the utterances present to us a yearning of our heart and a call to action for our brothers and sisters. To pray the prayer, the prayer does not simple allow us to recite its words, the prayer calls us to invest our time, talent, and resources into a work of grace for others.
Let’s look at a little background before we begin. The prayer comes to us primarily through the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The traditional form of the prayer reads much the same as the King James translation of the Gospel of Matthew. However, two other forms of the prayer exist.
Many scholars believe the root of the prayer is in the ancient Half Kaddish. Kaddish is a hymn praising God that is recited during Jewish prayer services. The central theme of the Kaddish is the magnification and sanctification of God's name. The Half Kaddish is used to punctuate divisions within the service and following readings from the Torah.
The prayer also appears in an early Christian document called The Didache, where the prayer is accompanied by the instructions, “Pray thus three times a day.” For this season of Lent, consider praying this prayer with me, morning, noon, and night.
That’s a lot of information. Come to the fellowship hall on Wednesday at noon. Bring your lunch. We will be unpacking this information further. For now, I would like to turn our attention to the first utterance of the prayer, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hollowed be thy name.” As we think about this utterance think with me how we make God’s name holy by the way that we live. Let’s begin.
Some folks count 950 names or titles given to God within the 66 books of the Bible. Jesus uses, “Father”. The Gospels record Jesus’ use of “Father” to address God just about every time Jesus prays. Some suggest that Jesus used the less formal form, and called God, “Daddy.”
Either way, for some people, Jesus could not have used a more painful title to address God. Some folks have experience with men being awful fathers. Some have experienced incredible abuse at the hands of the one person they should have been able to count on to protect them. The title father brings the memories back. These memories become a barrier between the person and God.
Please know this. God wants for you a full and abundant life. The pain in your life is not from God. However, given to God, God can use your pain to create something wonderful and complete. This is the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. Even Jesus’ torture and death, becomes beauty and life. If Jesus’ torture and death can become beauty and life, so may yours.
Jesus calls God “Father” and gives us a human way of understanding God. As we think about fathers, we may be able to think about attributes that may apply to our relationship to God. Here are somethings that fathers reported about being a father to Emily Page Lockamy, writing freelance she records:
- "Being a father is a huge responsibility. For people like myself who never worried about much of anything, that goes out the window when a tiny little baby is born. To watch your baby cry or be in pain is like sticking a knife in your heart. I wait for a little smile or wink every minute of the day. After five hours straight of holding her cause she won't stop crying and my arm is throbbing, it is more than worth it."
- "Trying to set an example for my children with humor, dedication, kindness and love, for themselves and others. Being loving, understanding, nonjudgmental, open to change. Believing that all things are possible is important to know and live."
- "Responsibility. And joy!"
- "Being a teacher, friend and guide. But mostly you just make it up as you go."
Here is my favorite,
- "Always being there for my son, no matter what. Oh, and letting him do things Mommy doesn't let him do."
God gives permission, shares joy, teaches, guides, be friends, understands, withholds judgement, believing all is possible, and cradles.
It’s more than my personal experience of being a father or being fathered. Jesus says, “Our Father.” Here Jesus draws us all into a relationship with God. Jesus did not pray, “My Father.” He never said, “That’s my dad.” Jesus gathers us as an elder brother gathers his siblings under the protective care and guidance of our shared father.
Size of family, time, or place have no limit on Jesus’ family. Jesus spoke to his day, his age, his friends, his disciples, his mother, his brothers, his sisters; yet the “Our” collects every day, every age, every friend, every disciple, every mother, every brother, every sister in every land and in every time. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we acknowledge that our faith, though personal, our faith is not individual. Our faith is a community faith.
Lynne Forrest, Transforming Victim Consciousness, wrote her experience of the prayer this way,
“Our Creator and the Source of everything, you are the Divine Parent that responds to us in the same way a good earth parent would, who, recognizing their child crying out in need, responds immediately. You are the ever-benevolent parent who does not attempt to control, coerce, or scare us into doing the right thing, but who loves, protects, and guides us, without mollycoddling us, or imposing your Will upon us because You “know our needs better” (even though you REALLY do!) Instead, you allow us to learn from the consequences of our choices. Even when we choose to separate from you, you simply wait for our return with open arms.”
Heaven so often is thought of as the “Pie in the Sky when I die.” In Jesus day and age, heaven was the place beyond the dome of the sky just beyond our vision. We think of heaven as the realm of God. In heaven, everyone knows God’s will. Everyone does God’s will. To say, “who art in heaven” is to say that our current circumstances veil our eyes to the completeness of God.
C. S. Lewis puts it this way, “In the act of prayer God unveils himself to us and so we are to unveil ourselves to God. We begin prayer where we are. If we are sad, we begin sad. If we are angry, we begin angry. There is no use trying to pretend we are not these things and to begin by adoration if we are not in that place.”
Again, from Lynne Forrest,
“Your Being emanates the highest vibrational frequency possible and invites us to join you in that state of existence that we call ‘Heaven.' To consciously abide in your Presence is to experience Heaven, which is the state of being at one with you, Father. Living in the present moment, in Reality, in your good & merciful company, we experience only Love; in the shadow of your protective wings we are exempt from fear and suffering.”
The only time in our culture we still use the old-time word “Hallowed” is on the last day of October. “Hallowed” slams up to “eve” to make “Halloween.”
When you say, “hallowed”, think “holy”. Halloween means “all hallows eve” or “all holy eve” or “day before all holy day” or “day before All Saint’s Day.” What a swirl of words. Let me complicate it one more step.
The Latin word for “holy” is “santos”, as in sanctuary. A sanctuary is a place set aside for the purpose of holy things. A sanctuary is a room set aside for the purposes of God. When we say, “Hallowed be thy Name” we say we set aside God’s name to be “Holy”. The problem being many followers of Jesus give God a bad name by their actions and by their words.
Our prayer life and work life come together here. If we truly commit ourselves to this prayer, we will strive to be a faithful witness to God’s goodness and love, so that God’s name might be sanctified through us.
Again, Lynne Forrest,
“You are so great that even to call your name, Father, brings instant manifestation. That is why the ancients refused to say your name out loud. Your name, Oh Creator, is unspeakable because you cannot be reduced to mere letters; to attempt to label your Immensity is useless, for to reduce your Limitless Nature cannot be done. You cannot be contained. You are the Manifesting Power of all creation that holds and directs the Life Force and to use your name is sacred, for holy indeed is the Name. “I Am That I Am,” you said when asked what to call you. The vibrational frequency accessed when calling on your name proclaims as real whatever thought or belief follows the universal mantra “I Am _________” and so becomes, in Reality, what is.”
Praying the first utterance of the Lord’s Prayer,
We acknowledge the communal nature of our faith.
We acknowledge the loving care of God.
We unveil ourselves before God as God unveils before us.
We strive to live so that we make God’s name holy.