Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Christianity isn’t really about trying to do the right thing and to live a good life, because it’s first a matter of what God in Christ has done. We can’t really know what good lives and deeds are until we first know who God is. So when we pray, “hallowed be your name”, that is what tells us how we ought to live.
The Lord’s Prayer is like a bomb, ticking in church, waiting to explode and demolish our temples to false gods. When we pray, “hallowed be your name,” we’ve made a revolutionary claim. In the face of all that is at such variance with God in our world today, praying God’s name be hallowed is to challenge so much.
In praying, “hallowed be your name,” we’re both asking God to make his name holy, and pledging ourselves not to misuse God’s name. This is what the Ten Commandments meant when they talked of not taking the name of God in vain. Yet, we can be formed by praying, “hallowed be your name” so as not to think that we can control God, or appropriate God for our purposes. When we pray “hallowed be your name” we’re protecting ourselves from all that is destructive in our world.
When we pray “hallowed be your name”, it’s also about who we are, a reminder that we are not our own because we belong not to ourselves, but to God. The Heidelberg Catechism asks, “what is your only comfort, in life and in death?” The answer is “that I belong – body and soul, in life and in death – not to myself but to my faithful Saviour, Jesus Christ.” Each of us has been named by the God whom we name in prayer, forgiven, loved, and free.
Lord, when we try to look and listen to you, your light beats on our blind eyes. Your word vibrates the air around our deaf ears. Not light, but a sort of warmth on our upturned faces. Not sound, something stirs around us, through us, in us. Something is being transmitted ill defined in words, even words like joy, hope, and love; a sense of being present that reaches out making our hearts real. Amen.
The Rev’d Michael Hopkins is Minister of the Spire Church, Farnham, Elstead URC, and serves as Clerk of the General Assembly.