Bible Reading From Malachi 1:1-14
“I have loved you,” says the Lord... you will say, ‘The Lord is great and shall be magnified beyond the border of Israel!’ A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is the reverent fear and respect due me?” says the Lord of hosts to you … who despise My name. But you say, ‘How and in what way have we despised Your name?’ ... “By thinking that the table of the Lord is contemptible and may be despised. When you present offerings that are less than your best, is it not wrong? Would your governor accept such a lame gift? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you graciously?” says the Lord of hosts. So why should I show favor to any of you? Oh, that there were even one among you who would shut the gates so that you would not present this empty, worthless pretense on My altar.” I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of hosts, “nor will I accept an offering from your hand. For from the rising of the sun, even to its setting, My name shall be great among the nations… but you profane it when you get tired of giving and you offer ill-gotten gains and sub-par gifts when you could do better. Should I receive that with pleasure? For I am a great King and my name is to be [reverently and greatly] feared among the nations.” (Adapted from AMP)
Message “The Hallowed Name”
C.S. Lewis commented on a high school English text book. The authors quote a story about Coleridge at a waterfall. Two tourists are there. One says it is sublime. The other says it is pretty. Coleridge mentally endorses the “pretty” comment but rejected the “sublime” comment.
The textbook authors explain why: When the man says “the waterfall is sublime”, it sounds like he is talking about the waterfall, but he was really commenting on his own emotions, he might as well have said, “I have sublime feelings”. The authors add, “This is a common way we confuse language. We appear to be saying something very important about something (the waterfall), but in reality, we are only talking about our own feelings.”
Lewis says that even if what these authors claim were true, (and it isn’t) it would be incorrect because the conclusion that something is sublime is not based on feelings of sublimity, but on feelings of veneration. If the statement were really about the speaker’s feelings, it would be – “(in view of this great waterfall), I have humble feelings”.
But worse yet – the student who reads this sentence that “We appear to be saying something very important about something, but in reality, we are only talking about our own feelings” will cause the student to believe two things. 1) That all statements that propose a value statement are statements about the emotional state of the speaker and that 2) all such statements are unimportant.
Young students will not resist the implication of that word “only”; for the student believes he is only doing English and has no thought that ethics, theology, and politics are all at stake. Ten years later, he will never realize from where came his rejection of objective values and the insignificance of feelings.
(Ideas extracted and adapted from The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis)
Put it into today’s context where
L: Jesus taught us to pray
P: Hallowed be thy name (Matthew 5:9)
The student who has subconsciously adopted this, perhaps unintentional, influence of the text book writers will hear the prayer that God’s name is hallowed, holy, sacred, revered, honored; and they will see it not as a declaration about God, but the pray-er’s unimportant feelings.
The Hallowed Name
But the request “hallowed be thy name” is not a meaningless subjective opinion of the pray-er. It is both an objective statement that God’s name, his personality, his reputation is in fact powerful, wise, holy, just, above and beyond – he is more than us, and yet also fills us with a sense of intimate presence and mercy – and that is an important feeling.
It is not only a statement, it is also a request -- that we feel the reverence of his name, his person -- as the sublime being he is -- rather than being profanely dismissed as it so often is today...
I like the way monk J. Augustine Wetta puts it in his book. He recalls visiting a church where he noticed a boy in line for Communion wearing a T-shirt that read “Jesus is my homeboy”. He acknowledges the value of the message that breaks down barriers helping us to discover or rediscover our dignity as a brother or sister of Christ. [Many in our world is clamoring for self-esteem]. We like, [even need] to think of Jesus as a [friend, a] facilitator, a group therapist. Wetta writes that genuine self-esteem begins with self-respect, and because we are made in the image of God, that means we begin by respecting God. [Therefore, in our valiant effort to draw close to Jesus as a companion] we also must never forget that he is the Lord who sits at the right hand of God the Father – enthroned over the world, ruling as Judge of the nations, the Lord of lords and the King of kings. While his love drives out fear, we must also be careful that in our movement toward comfortable intimacy, we do not drive out respect… (Ideas extracted and adapted from “Humility Rules: Saint Benedict’s Twelve-Step
Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem” by J. Augustine Wetta, O.S.B.)
This was the issue in Malachi’s day. People and priests alike lost their fearful (respectful) reverence for God but continued to go through the motions of the rituals that God had commanded. Their commitment and effort were haphazard, lackadaisical, and meaningless for both worshiper and God. God wished that one of the Temple workers would lock the doors because his name is honorable throughout the world and they were making it mockery by their profanatory actions…
In the play “Our Town” young Emily has just died and now speaks: "Oh earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?...” The answer comes: "No." Pause. “The saints and poets, maybe -- they do some."
Then Emily says, "That's all human beings are! Just blind people!" We blindly go through life, never grasping how great it is. Like those in the days of Malachi, sometimes we go through the motions of religion by habit or routine, and never grasp how powerful, how wonderful, our life is, and how wonderful our God is. We need to recapture the grandeur of God and heaven and earth and life. More specifically for today, How do we avoid profaning God’s name and continue to honor him?
1) Speak the truth in love
God’s name is profaned (misused, despised, disdained made common or vulgar) when people use God’s name to teach things that are false and misleading, to justify actions and attitudes that are less than honorable. His name is honored when we lovingly speak and teach and guide others deeper into his love.
2) Take his name seriously
God’s name is profaned when people throw his name around nonchalantly, or even abusively, calling on him to do bad things to others to satisfy our momentary disappointments. His name is honored when his name is called on to express his forgiveness and acceptance and grace, not only for us; but for all people.
3) Live as godly children
I mentioned last week that we who believe in Jesus are granted the privilege of being called the children of God, and it means we take on God’s characteristics. God’s name is profaned if we insist on living in a way that misrepresents God’s character.
His name is honored when people see our lives, our good deeds, our acceptable attitudes, our encouraging words, and praise God for it. The purpose for our existence as God’s people is nothing more and nothing less than to glorify God. (See Matthew 5:15-16, Isaiah 43:7, 1 Peter 2:11, 4:11, 1 Corinthians 10:31) And this is what we mean when we pray “hallowed be thy name” – that by our words, our attitude, and our lives, we do not take God’s name in vain but strive to keep it as revered and holy as it God is.
Max Lucado writes of a rabbi who illustrated this concept beautifully by telling this story….
Imagine a skyscraper. Everyone in the building works for the CEO, whose office was on the top floor. Most workers never see the CEO, but they have seen his daughter. She works in the building -- and she selfishly exploits her family connection at every opportunity. She approaches Bert, the guard. “I’m hungry, go down the street and buy me a Danish.” Bert is on duty. Leaving puts the building at risk. But his boss’s daughter insists. What option does he have? He leaves. He says nothing but thinks, “If the daughter is like this, then what does that say about her father?”
Munching on her muffin, the daughter bumps into a paper-laden secretary. “Where are you going?” “To have these bound for an afternoon meeting.” “Forget about that. Come vacuum my office.” The woman has no choice. This is the boss’s daughter speaking, and the result is the secretary questions the wisdom of the boss.
And so it goes. The daughter makes demands. Calls the shots. Interrupts schedules. She may never leverage the name of her dad. “My dad said so, so you have to…” There is no need. She is the boss’s child. Doesn’t the child speak for the father? Therefore, Bert abandons his post. An assistant fails to finish an important task. And more than one employee questions the wisdom of the man upstairs, “Does he know what he is doing?”
This child dishonors the name of her father with insensitive living. Keep this up and the whole building will second-guess the CEO.
“But what if the daughter acted differently?” What if, rather than demanding Bert leave his post to retrieve for her a muffin, she gifts him with a muffin because of what he does for the company? What if she helps the assistant bind the armful of documents? What if she engages with the people, asks about their families, offers to bring them coffee. New workers are welcomed, hard workers are applauded. Through kindness and concern, she raises the morale of the entire company.
She does not necessarily mention her father’s name, “My father says so and that’s why I...” There is no need to. Is she not his child? Does she not speak on his behalf and reflect his heart? When she speaks, they assume she speaks for him. And because they think highly of her, they think highly of her father. They’ve not seen him. They’ve not met him. But they know his child, so they know his heart... [She has honored his name].
The rabbi concludes -- “Do you know how the story ends? The daughter takes the elevator to the top floor to see her father. When she arrives, he is waiting in the doorway. He’s aware of her good works and has seen her kind acts. People think more highly of him because of her. And he knows it. As she approaches, he greets her with six words from Jesus. “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
(Abridged and adapted from: God’s Mirror: A Modern Parable by Max Lucado).