Hallowed Be Thy Name (Midweek Lenten Service – March 12, 2014)

Hallowed Be Thy Name

Matthew 5:13-16; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

Midweek Lenten Service (Lord, Teach Us to Pray)

March 12, 2014

St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI

Salt.  Seasoning.  That which makes a steak worth eating.  Or French Fries.  Or just about anything else, for that matter.  Food without seasoning is barely food at all.  No one wants to go to the restaurant that doesn’t season its dishes.  No one wants to go to the restaurant where you can’t tell the difference between the steak and the chicken and the fish.  No one wants to go to the restaurant where every bite is bland.  So we value the seasoning, that which sets food apart, that which gives it its flavor.

You can often tell a lot about a dish by the seasonings that are in it.  Basil and thyme and oregano give sauce an Italian flavor.  Cumin and chili powder and paprika have a Mexican flare.  Soy and ginger are common in Asian food.  Apart from the seasoning, there is little difference between lasagna and enchiladas, between General Tso’s chicken and boneless buffalo wings.  You tell dishes apart by their seasoning.  And if the seasoning goes bad, if the seasoning loses its distinct flavor?  Well, then you might as well throw it away.  It’s no good anymore.

We, O Church of God, are the salt of the earth.  We, O Church of God, are the seasoning.  Is our flavor distinctly recognizable, like Mexican food or Asian food or Italian food?  Or are we bland; do we taste just like everything else?  And if we do have that recognizable flavor, what is it?  Is it the one God intended, or like soy sauce on lasagna, have we misrepresented who we are?

Perhaps we ought to consider what the Christian flavor actually is.  What exactly is it that makes us distinct?  If cumin is a distinctly Mexican flavor, what is the distinctly Christian flavor?  Some wrongly assume that it is morality, or generosity, or chastity.  But while it includes elements of these things, it starts somewhere else.  It starts with the name that we bear – the name of Christ.  Anything that calls itself Christians bears the name of Christ.  You are a Christ-ian, for Christ lives in you.  We are the Christ-ian church, for we are the body of Christ on earth.  The name of God is the signature seasoning that sets us apart, for the name of God is always set apart, always holy, always distinct.  It is holy in itself, for God himself is holy.  We pray that it would be holy among us also.

God’s name is kept holy among us when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and when we, as the children of God, lead godly lives according to it.  Godly teaching and godly living are the seasoning that makes the Christian life Christian, just as oregano makes dishes Italian.  Is our teaching seasoned with the Word of God so that our confession has a distinctly biblical flavor?  Or does it taste just like the teaching of the world?  Are our lives seasoned with the Word of God so that they have a distinctly godly character?  Or do they look exactly the same as the lives of people in the world around us?  When people look at you, do they see something distinctly Christian?  Or are those seasonings absent so that you taste like nothing in particular?

What do we believe, say, and do with regard to marriage?  Is our understanding of marriage seasoned by the Word of God?  In Genesis, God instituted marriage before the Fall into sin.  It was part of God’s perfect design for creation through which he united Adam and Eve to live together in sacrificial love, not selfishly focusing on personal desires, but living in a relationship that produced an outpouring of love for each other and for their offspring.  Is our understanding of marriage seasoned with God’s Word?  Or does it taste just like the world’s understanding, where marriage is treated as a social contract between people seeking tax breaks, a mutual agreement to live together so long as it is convenient?

What about our view of sexuality in general?  Is our view seasoned with the teaching of God’s word?  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sina person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”[1]  Do we teach and live as if our bodies are not our own, but rather were bought by Jesus with his own precious blood and his innocent suffering and death?  Do we honor and glorify God with our bodies by living sexually pure and decent lives in what we say and do, leaving sexual contact for marriage between one man and one woman?  Or do we taste just like the world, treating sex as a type of play for grown-ups, as a means to self-gratification, a means to make myself feel good through the objectification of another?  Do we try to see how far we can go before technically breaking the 6th Commandment?  Do we treat sexual sin as if it’s no big deal as long as it’s between a man and a woman, choosing to object only to homosexual sin?  When the world looks at sexuality among us Christians, can they see a distinct seasoning?  Or do our lives look basically the same?

There are a host of other areas that we could consider, but the core question is the same.  Do we season our speech and lives with the truth of God’s Word?  Or do we find it easier to simply sound like everyone else?  Is our teaching and living seasoned with a distinctly Christian flavor?  Or do we taste just like everyone else?  Is the name of God being kept holy among us?  Because anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us.  To put it another way, “we deprive God’s name of its holiness among our fellow creatures when we distort in any way, by any kind of impression, who He is.”[2]

In any way.  By any impression.  What a monumental task!  What a huge problem for us, for we must admit that in our thoughts, words, and actions, we daily give the world a distorted impression of who God is.  We regularly give in to the temptation to gossip rather than explaining everything in the kindest way.  We regularly give in to the temptation to speak a quick and hurtful word rather than bearing with one another in love.  We regularly give in to the temptation to greed rather than thankfully supporting our Lord’s church with the money he has given us.  We regularly give in to the temptation to anger and hatred rather than forgiving as we were first forgiven.  We regularly dig in our heels and stubbornly demand the fulfillment of our own desires and so called rights rather than sacrificing for the benefit of others.

We certainly give the world a distorted impression of who God is, so we have a huge problem.  What do we do in the face of such a problem?  How will God’s name ever be holy among us?  Forgiveness.  Repentance.  We remember Paul’s words to Timothy that everything is made holy through the Word of God and by prayer.[3]  We immerse ourselves in God’s Word.  We continually come to him in prayer.  We take heart in Paul’s words to the Thessalonians: “To this end we pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling.”  We look again at the words of the petition: “Hallowed be thy name.”  A more literal translation of the Greek in this petition  would read, “Cause your name to be hallowed.”  The only way our teaching and lives will reflect God’s holiness is if God himself is teaching and living through us.

Thus, this petition is a humble confession that we do not keep God’s name holy, but that we daily drag it through the mud.  This petition begs our gracious Lord to cause his name to be holy on earth in spite of us – that our actions and words would not rob his Church of its godly flavor.  It is a prayer that our merciful Lord might “shine forth among us, become known in us, and be spread throughout all the world.”[4]

But this only happens through his Word. The salt, the seasoning, the flavor of God remains distinct only when our teaching and lives are faithful to the Word he has given us.  The seasoning of God’s Name remains distinct only when our lives reflect who we are as the children of God.  We are bought and paid for.  We are the redeemed.  We have been forgiven, so we live lives of forgiveness.  We have been loved, so we live lives of love.  We have been shown mercy, so we live lives of mercy.  As Luther once put it, “God’s children should be called and also be gentle, merciful, chaste, just, truthful, straightforward, friendly, peaceful, and kindly disposed toward all, even toward our enemies. For the name of God, in which we were baptized, works all this in us.”[5]

We can’t leave this to our government, for we live under a secular government in a secular nation.  The morality endorsed by our government has a flavor all its own, so we can’t wait for the laws of the land to regulate morality.  Neither can we blindly accept what those laws allow as if being legal was the same as being right.  We can’t leave this to our media and entertainers, for the morality endorsed by pop culture has a flavor all its own.  We must be aware of the morality that is constantly being taught in television, music, and movies.  We must teach our children, and ourselves, that what is popular is not always right.  We can’t wait for anyone else to flavor the world with the truth of God’s Word, for we are the salt of the earth.  We are the ones who taste different.  Our lives are the light on the lampstand.  Our relationships, our words, our actions, our attitudes shine before others, for we are the children of God.

Repent of living a life that tastes like the world.  Season your life with our Lord’s forgiveness.  Repent, and live lives of love, because Jesus first loved us.  Repent of fearfully hiding your flavor from the world, and live in the joy of deliverance.  Trust our Lord’s Word when it preaches his law, when it exposes our sin, when it illustrates for us what our Lord intended us to be.  Trust even more in the Gospel, in your redemption.  Live in such a relationship with the people in your life, unwavering in the truth of God’s Law, but even more firmly rooted in the joy of his Gospel.  Forgive as you have been forgiven, love as you have been loved.  That is the salt that the world needs to taste.

We may not have enough salt to season every French Fry on earth, but we have more than enough to season what’s on our own plate.  We may not be able to change Hollywood or the Internet, but our individual lives can still be seasoned by the Word of God.  Our families can be seasoned with the Word of God.  Fraser, Michigan can be seasoned with the Word of God.  Macomb County can be seasoned with the Word of God.  Every child who sits in one of those classrooms or in one of these pews can be seasoned with the Word of God. By the working of the Holy Spirit, we can live Law and Gospel in our families, in our jobs, and in our schools.

We are the salt of the earth.  We are the light of the world.  Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Herb Sampler


[1] 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

[2] Kolb, Teaching God’s Children His Teaching p. 112-3

[3] 1 Timothy 4:5

[4] Chemnitz, The Lord’s Prayer p. 43

[5] AE 42

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