Christianity 201

July 20, 2013

Hallowing the Lord’s Name

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain. (Exodus 20:7 NASB)

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God. (same vs. NRSV)

Since I’ve been writing I have taken The Lord’s Prayer as a theme for several blog posts.  One looked at the prayer in Aramaic which is quite different from the one we know. Another was much more lighthearted; an imaginary dialog wherein as an individual is ‘talking’ the prayer to God, who is interjecting questions and comments.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches on prayer:

Matthew 6:9 “Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.

One chapter later, he continues this theme:

Matthew 7:6:“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

I wrote about that passage just a few months ago, when I talked about trivializing important moments in worship or times on the Christian calendar.

What got me thinking about all this is a quotation from the book Tell it Slant by Eugene Peterson.

Tell It SlantFor several years I was part of a group in Baltimore called the Jewish-Christian Roundtable.  Twenty of us met monthly, ten orthodox rabbis and ten pastors and priests.  We basically conducted a Bible study alternating the leadership between Jew and Christian.  The rabbis always brought a handout of the Hebrew text that we would study together.  And they always collected the pages afterwards – meticulously.  I observed that they always counted the pages to make sure they had them all.  One day I asked the rabbi in charge what he did with the pages afterwards.  He said that he took them home and reverently burned them.  He told me that it was a tradition with them.  They were not permitted to leave the holy name in the hands of gentiles, lest it be inadvertently used or treated irreverently, or even blasphemously.

My immediate but unspoken reaction was negative.  Wasn’t this being a bit over-scrupulous?  But as time went on I began to feel the weight of their reverence, this hallowing of the name.  The experience continues in my memory as an implicit rebuke of the glibness in which the name is often tossed around in the circles I frequent.  And it often enters my mind still when I pray “Hallowed be your name.”  (p. 173)

When I read this story, it reminded me of an experience I had, also with a group of Jewish people, but a group of Jews who had accepted Jesus as Messiah. Our church youth group had been invited to visit a youth group of a Hebrew Christian church. I should explain that there are two streams among converted Jewish people, one is the Messianic Jewish style of worship that continues to meet on Fridays and follows the order of service of a typical Shabbot meeting. The other adopts the forms familiar to Evangelical Protestants, with a church building and worship style that is similar to Baptist.

Our group had brought musical instruments and taught them some songs, and several from our group shared their salvation stories. Up to that point, I thought we were doing a reasonably good job.

However, when we turned the youth meeting back over to their leader, he basically said, “These stories and testimonies are all well and good, but we need to focus on what the Bible actually has to teach us.” He then launched into a highly focused, very sober Bible study using a catechism type of teaching format (i.e. question and answer) which proved very quickly how well his group of teens knew their Bibles… and how much our group didn’t.

The contrast between “serious faith” and “casual faith” was striking. We were good kids. We attended youth group. We attended a church renown for the excellence of its programs, speakers and teachings. But we did not have the same reverence or thirst for the things of God in the same way as the group we visited. You could feel the difference. It was for more pronounced than simply the ability to answer Bible questions. It was humbling.

Someone has said that “a fanatic is someone who loves Jesus more than you do.” That said, could something also be said of someone who takes seriously, and more deeply reveres the things of God that you or I?

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