In good times and in times of trouble, Jesus connected to God through prayer. It was a powerful source of strength for him. So much so that the disciples said “Teach us to pray as you pray.”
Here’s the way Jesus began that prayer. You know this, but I’ll remind you:
“Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
Man, there are so many nuggets to find even in that first line. But before we start panning, let me be clear about something. Because some of you are thinking ‘we’re in the midst of a situation here. Maybe even a catastrophe. For us, for our country. For the world. Shouldn’t we be talking more about focusing on life on earth than some distant afterlife place that Jesus called ‘heaven’?
Well, when Jesus was in trouble, these are the words that he started with. And I can assure you, by the time you get to the end of what he taught, you’ll see that this life today is just as important to Jesus as the next life is. If not more.
Let’s start with the end of that line first. The word “hallowed”. God is “hallowed”.
Not long ago, we had the scouts come to our worship service. I asked the people gathered if they had any memories of when they were scouts or guides. And one gentleman whose name is Bill stood up and said “I remember learning about the majesty of the universe. Camping, under the canopy of the stars, I was filled with wonder and awe of the creation.”
When we pray, the first part of our prayer is that we remember this majesty of the universe. The word Jesus used is translated into English as “hallowed”. Hallowed becomes real when we look at the stars on a clear night. Somehow, we understand that there's a bigger picture here. There is so much more than what we can see in the little corners we live in. We confess that it’s hugeness is so big we can’t understand it. But in the same breath, we know it’s real, because we can see it.
What “hallowed” does is really simple. It gives us a perspective on our lives. There’s us. And then, there’s something that has no end.
Wayne Gilbank, a friend to many of us and a member of our church family, passed away just last month. Wayne’s two main hobbies were flower gardens, and then, looking at the stars. And not just standing in a corn field looking up. He had a real live astronomer’s observatory, up on the mountain, with a couple of monster telescopes right off the cover of Popular Science.
With the flower garden, Wayne would say “I tune into the beauty of our small world.” Some of you might remember how beautiful his garden made our church look. Calla lilies and daffodils that would gush colour into the darkest day.
“But”, he’d say “every fall, the flowers would fade, and then die for the season. As much as I love them, they are a reminder of how temporary this life is. For us too, in season, our bodies fade and then die.”
And then his eyes would sparkle, and he’d say “But when I look at the stars, I’m reminded that there is a beauty that is eternal. I am reminded there’s more to the picture. So much more. There is a vivid sense of beautiful mystery, because we are so small, and infinity is so huge.”
“It’s a holy thing for me”, he said.
“Hallowed be your name”. In the midst of your world being turned upside down, believe that there’s a bigger picture. God’s intention for you is more than your eyes can see now.
And believe that God cares deeply about what you’re going through and will help you through in real ways. That’s coming a bit later in the prayer.
For tomorrow, we’ll dig up the two nuggets that come before “hallowed”. “Heaven”, and then the parent who lives there.