Last Sunday morning, we started a short series of sermons on the Lord’s Prayer by reflecting on the opening line of the prayer. We realised that as human beings in whom God longs to restore his image, we are called to reflect the holy nature of his name because we belong to his family. Now, that’s a challenge if ever there was one! So we also highlighted the need to find times and places when we can ‘shut the door’ on the world around us in order to enjoy spending time alone with God.
Reflecting on what the word ‘hallowed’ means, David Runcorn, in his book ‘Dust and Glory’, notes that ‘the twelfth-century saint Bernard of Clairvaux taught that there are four movements in the life of faith.
We begin by loving ourselves for our own sake.
Then, when faith awakens, we love God, but still for our own sake, as one who blesses us and meets our needs.
Thirdly, we must come to the love of God for God’s own sake—as gift, for nothing, for the hallowing of the divine name alone.
Bernard then identifies one more movement. It is too easily missed, though perhaps with the best of intentions. In the loving of God for God’s own sake, we come to love ourselves truly for God’s sake. There is no contradiction here. God is the life of heaven and earth: it is all sustained in the love that is God’s own being. When his name is truly hallowed, all things find their true place, hallowed in their own name and calling. So we pray those ancient words once more: ‘Hallowed be your name’. And, did we imagine it? The echo of the prayer returns to us: ‘Hallowed be your name’.’
This is not easy to understand, but it is worth the effort of trying. These words connect strongly with our recent teaching that the Hebrew word ‘shalom’ is a prayer that all aspects of life should be as they ought to be; and also with Jesus’ teaching that he came so that we may have life ‘to the full’ (John 10:10). So, as you find times and places to ‘shut the door’ and be alone with God, may he continue to restore his hallowed likeness in you so that you may enjoy fullness of life, whatever your circumstances.
With my love and prayers