Lecture 2: Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Your Name
Course: Basics of Spiritual Growth
Lesson 2: Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Your Name
In this session we want to just keep rolling. We have simply covered “Our Father.” This next little phrase, “…who art in heaven.” The good, loving, generous Father of us who provides some amazing siblings for us, both here and in heaven; and also points us to the fact that this Christian walk is meant to be in community, and places us in community with one another. That is the privilege of being a Christian. If we are going to have awesome siblings, we are to walk with them on a regular basis, meeting regularly with them. So this good, loving, generous Father of us is described by Jesus as being in heaven.
I. Where is heaven?
A. Close proximity.
The big question that immediately comes up, “Well, where in the world is heaven?” Since Jesus affirms that the father cares for us, that the father loves us, then we have to assume that heaven has to be in close proximity. It can’t just be way out there somewhere. Immediately we get this idea, this thought coming from Jesus Himself and he will spell it out, about nearness, nearness. The early church would talk about this, the nearness of God to us, the near neighbor in compassion. In other words, he is like a close neighbor that we can call on, and how we are to be as well, a near neighbor and with compassion to others.
B. Both transcendent and immanent.
Throughout church history the transcendence of heaven has been stressed. In other words, it is something that is beyond us in a way, a place that is beyond us, as well as the immanence of heaven. Get those two words, transcendent – beyond; immanent – close by here. It is both.
The reality of God’s presence is nearby, close at hand. Just read about what John says about the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John. John likes to emphasize the exalted nature of heaven when he wrote this, “…which art in heaven, high and lifted up, God over all, blessed forever.” Centuries before that, the first woman who wrote in English, the first woman to ever have a book published in the English language was a lady by the name of Julian of Norwich. She emphasized the whole increase of our personhood and the fulfillment of our lives, which will be fully completed in heaven. But did it actually begin here? She says it is the knowledge of his love, knowledge, not just mere intellectual, though that is part of it; but the actual experience of the love of Jesus. We want to look at this. What is it?
C. “Thin places.”
In the Celtic tradition, which is an early part of Christianity in the first millennium, in the Celtic tradition they talked about “thin places.” What is a thin place? A thin place was where they felt like the division between heaven and earth was really thin; and in that particular part of the world, or that space, that physical space, you really had an extra sense of God’s presence. I have experienced that.
I have experienced thin places when we go hiking and mountaineering and mountain climbing in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and New Mexico. I have experienced that in mountains around the world. I have experienced a thin place in the mountain overlooking the Sea of Galilee where Jesus performed so many miracles. That was his home. Indeed, that whole region of Galilee in Israel is a thin place. You just feel the presence of God there. I have experienced a thin place in the Scottish Hebrides and in the islands called the Isle of Iona. It was a launching pad where Scotland was evangelized from the Isle of Iona, and then north, evangelized from the Isle of Iona. It is a thin place. I’ll bet you have a thin place, too – a garden place, a mountain somewhere, the sea shore. You have experienced it, you know what I’m talking about. The presence of the Lord is very real to you. In truth, the presence of God is very real to us wherever we are , even if we descend into the pit. He is not going to let us go. He is not going to let us go at all.
D. Heaven and earth are different dimensions, not different locations.
What am I getting at? Intersecting points, intersecting points. I owe an immense debt to a New Testament scholar by the name of N. T. Wright for his thorough examination of this whole business of where is heaven? In his book, “Surprised by Hope” here is what Tom Wright writes: “Basically heaven and earth in Biblical cosmology - that means a Biblical understanding – are not two different locations. Wow. I tend to think I’m on earth, heaven is out there, it is just two different places. He is saying, No, that is not necessarily how Scripture looks at things. Two different locations within the same continuum of space and matter, they are two different dimensions, he writes, of God’s good creation. The point about heaven is two-fold. First, heaven relates to earth tangentially so that the one who is in heaven, that is Jesus, can be present simultaneously anywhere and everywhere on earth. There is nothing limiting about where the presence of Christ can be known is what he is saying.
The ascension, when Jesus rose, ascended to be at the right hand of his Father. The ascension, therefore, means that Jesus is available, accessible without people having to travel to a particular spot. While we may have our particular thin spot, I do not have to be there to feel his presence at all.
Second, heaven, as it were, is the control room for earth. It is the CEO’s office, Tom writes, the place from which instructions are given. “All authority is given to me,” said Jesus at the end of Matthew’s Gospel “…in heaven and on earth.” Is it really all out of control in your life? No matter what is going on in the political disruption of our day and time, in the international conflicts of our day and time, is it really all out of control? Not in the least, not in the least.
E. Transcendent nature of heaven.
I really appreciate how Tom writes, helps spell this out for us. He maintains the otherness of heaven, the transcendent nature of heaven. He is not going to allow us to reduce Jesus to mere talk or even to a mere example. That is not where we are going to go, to talk about his presence within his people rather than his standing over against them and addressing them from elsewhere as their Lord.
F. The “both/and” aspect of our relationship to our Father and heaven.
See what he is doing? Jesus is not necessarily buddy, buddy. He is close, he is nearby; but he is also Lord, he is Lord over us. He is close, he loves intensely and deeply; but he is not there for me to control. He is not there to give me everything I think I need in life, or to amass me with wealth. He is not there necessarily to do that at all, though God may bless you with wealth. He certainly then expects you to use it for his greater glory.
The greatest wealth, we are always understanding, is his presence, his lordship to guide us, his presence with us. Why do we say, hey, it’s a both/and situation? The realities of heaven are most certainly breaking into our lives during this lifetime. “Our Father who art in heaven.” It is not way out there, it is breaking in right now, it is breaking in during this lifetime. But the fullness that is heaven will only complete our lives and grant us the resurrected body when Jesus returns and the New Jerusalem is unveiled. We are talking both/and. The reality of heaven is there, breaking in. The fullness of it all is yet to come. When I die, where will I be? In the presence of Christ. No confusion there.
III. Implications that praying the Lord’s Prayer has in our daily walk with God.
Peter writes the definition once more. When the Bible speaks of heaven and earth, it is not talking about two localities related to each other within the same space/time continuum, or about a non-physical world contrasted with a physical one. Why can he say that? What kind of body did Jesus ascend with? He ascended with a physical body, but about two different kinds of what we call “space,” two different kinds of what we call “matter;” and also quite possibly, two different kinds of what we call “time.”
A. God’s space is invading our space.
The implications of praying the Lord’s Prayer then become enormous for our everyday Christian walk. What he is saying then is that heaven and earth, God’s space and ours, though very different, are not far away from one another. He is saying that God’s space is invading our space. We pray therefore with a certain and steady assurance that all God is within the Father’s domain in heaven is close at hand to us here on earth. Wow, think about it. The stability of heaven. The peace of heaven. The wholeness. The healing of heaven. The joys of heaven. I don’t have to get sucked into the chaos of this world. No, the heavenly realities are close by. God’s space and ours interlock, N.T. Wright says, intersecting in a whole variety of ways, thus enabling our Christian journey with those brothers and sisters in Christ who are walking with us, enabling our journey to be filled daily with what? With the steadfast love of the Lord, with the goodness of the Lord, with the faithfulness of the Lord. This is huge. It is huge.
Dr. Susan Muto from the Epiphany Association of Pittsburgh, writes: “It is as if we live simultaneously, simultaneously in two orders of reality: the invisible – in other words, that which we cannot see, they make it unreal, it’s very, very real – the invisible and the visible – that which we see.” She writes: “The infinite – which is heaven – and the finite, which is what we are a part of now. The eternal and the temporal. We walk in two orders. We do not have to be rolled by the powers and the principalities of this order.”
B. Heaven opens up to us as the Son enables us to come to the Father.
So heaven opens up to us as the Son enables us to come to the Father. In our gaze upon the Son we begin to behold all that the Father wishes to reveal to us about his nature. See, we gaze upon the Son, we do this through regularly diving into God’s Word. We are praying and learning how to pray continually, though most assuredly having set times of prayer; but living in an atmosphere and an attitude of prayer.
Then we also as Christians, which is key here, we regularly, faithfully, daily dive into his Word, absorbing his Word. That is how you gaze on the nature, the beauty of God. He has given us his Son, so that we can indeed see and know God’s nature when we contemplate – you don’t have to be afraid of that word. That means you just give your full attention to the Word, that is what that is talking about, specific portions of the Word when we contemplate who Jesus is. You are led into heaven’s bright and fair land, even as you are placed on the highways to Zion. Read about it in Psalm 84:5, the highways to Zion, the highways for us, home.
III. Hallowed be your name.
“Our Father, who art in heaven.” Now what? Make your name known, Father. Let us honor you. “Our Father, who art in heaven.” In other words, “Hallowed be your name.” For centuries the King James translation was a verb here. “To make holy” has been prayed, “hallowed.” Make your name holy. “Hallowed be thy name.”
A. Plea to our Father to make his presence known to us.
It is really the first of eight petitions that we are going to cover in The Lord’s Prayer. It is a very strong plea for our Father to make his presence known to us. Hallowed, make your name holy. Lord, help us to walk in the presence of who you are. In praying this way, we are asking, we are requesting the Lord to act. It is a petition. Hallowed. Let your name be known.
B. Reveal who you are.
I love how Eugene Peterson translated it in his work, The Message. He said this: “Reveal who you are.” I love it. Let us see who you are. There seems to be some sense of urgency here, I think, in terms of showing us this request. Reveal who you are. It’s like he is giving us permission to say, “Father, it is an absolute mess down here. Lord, we desperately need you to show up. We need your help.” Yet, I want to tell you, danger exists in such a request. Danger really does exist. A way to get hold of this is to get hold of the imagery of C.S. Lewis who talked about God being like an untamed lion. I get the sense, Father, make your name known among us and a tendency to awe comes upon me because we are not talking about a tamed lion. If you have read the Chronicles of Narnia, what do you read in the Chronicles of Narnia? Aslan, who is the Christ figure, is not a tamed lion. Jesus is not a tamed half-cat, to keep around for us to receive comfort from, necessarily. He is a huge, powerful, untamed lion. You think about a huge, powerful, untamed lion that suddenly shows up right next to you.
Yes, the Father is loving, of course he is loving. But he is completely other than us. His presence evokes awe and a holy fear, a holy otherness in us. Yet he may not necessarily always be comforting. There is a lot of what John Wesley calls “sleep- meet preaching.” What is sleep-meet preaching? It is where you are just handing out candy to the congregation and not really being faithful to the pure Word of God, that at times does confront us with love, for the sake of wholeness, for the sake of healing.
C. You are asking God to show you things as they really are.
So this prayer, make your name holy. We are asking God to help us see things as they really are. No deception, both about our lives and about anything else, to show us the true nature of things. Anytime you see the true nature of things, it confronts you, it confronts me with the need for transformation in my own life, a complete recasting of our nature.
That is kind of what it is about here. The showing of the Father’s nature presses us, it’s always the y’all, y’all. It is always plural. It presses us with the decision to seek him with all that we are and to respond in a way that honors his nature, that honors what has been revealed and honors who he is. I don’t want to take his name in vain. I want to honor who he is. Otherwise, the whole thing becomes a stumbling block. In other words, we love what we seek. We ask for help to embrace all of the implications. You see, you don’t love him without receiving his command, to be fully his, fully his; all that you have, all that you are, fully his. So, either we do that or our hearts get hardened and we just become religious people.
When we are praying, reveal the more-than of who you are, reveal your nature to us. Hallowed be your name. We are also implying the follow-up prayer and that is, Lord help us to live our lives accordingly, according to your nature that you are demonstrating to us. We pray that we can know him in every way that we can possibly know him and honor him in every way that we can possibly honor him, all the way straight into eternity, all of the way into eternity. Within the security of the first phrase of calling upon God as Father, there is assurance in the Christian faith, there is real assurance.
This petition to hallow his name is a request to be in such close relationship with him that our lives radiantly point others to the One who has made us all in his image and is seeking to redeem that image in us through his Son. So, we are called to die to narcissism, to egotism, to wrapping the world around how we want it to be. We are called to die to that. Throughout the day, we are given all sorts of opportunities to honor God, particularly when nobody is listening, particularly behind the scenes. How am I going to honor God here? How am I going to be faithful? For instance, I tell the pastors in training that want to be preachers that I work with, I say, “You need to be honest in all things. Don’t take even paper or pencils from the church. Everything is something that somebody has given for the glory of God and it is not yours. Use it well. Use all things well.” Behind the scenes, how are we honoring God? How are we allowing the interior working of his Word to help us stay focused?
I want to give you a beautiful Latin phrase. I’m a Texan and I was born right in the middle of West Texas in a town called Midland. West Texans don’t pronounce Latin all that well, so y’all forgive me ahead of time and no doubt there’s going to be a Latin scholar listening, so my apologies ahead of time. But I love it, I love it. It’s a way to honor God early on and a way to increase the church with this phrase. Many of us have heard the phrase, “Semper Fi,” right? You may know that phrase. Here it is, “Semper in ore.” Always on the lips, ore, lips. Always speaking. “Semper in ore.” In other words, always with my lips I am speaking the Word, I’m speaking a Psalm. In other words, I’m going to the Word. I spend enough time and I actually memorize, actually literally memorize the Word so that, in times of temptation, I can pray Psalms 70:1 without even thinking about it. “Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. O Lord, make haste to help me.” Whatever I’m facing, this is going to help me honor God. Let his name be known to me.
So, “semper in ore, psalmis.” Always in the heart, Christ. “semper in corde meo, Christus.” “In corde,” the heart, Christ, I am honoring. Hallowed be thy name. Throughout the day, speaking the Word of God, Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms. I am memorizing the Word and speaking it. You can be fully engaged in the affairs of the world, fully engaged in being a mother and being a father and being a businessman and being a businesswoman, in construction, in whatever work you are called to be about in law, in medicine; and be repeating Scripture in your mind and in your heart. “Semper in ore, psalmis, semper in corde meo, Christus.” May Christ Himself always be in your heart and may the Word of God richly dwell in you as you memorize it and follow it throughout your day. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Amen.
Transcribed by Shirley Taylor.