Doug Talks Torah

Reflecting on all the ways Torah builds the world.

Month: January 2012

Hallowed Be Thy Name

Image by EJP Photo (via Creative Commons)

Some words cannot be said fast. Whether singing and speaking or thinking the Lord’s Prayer, it seems “Hallowed be Thy name” always brings pause. Ha-llowed. This odd word does not want to be rushed. We don’t say “hallowed” very often. This makes sense because the word has to do with otherness. Not the ordinary. Not the common. Rather, the set apart. Specifically, relates to things or places or even people set apart for Temple service.

The articles in the Temple cannot be used anywhere else. They are holy. Set apart. The priest goes through consecration process as he enters to serve in the Temple. He is set apart.

So I’m sitting back at the coffee shop, re-hearsing, re-membering, re-citing the Lord’s Prayer yet again. “Hallowed be Thy Name” almost always brings the prayer to a standstill. In the middle of the common, every day, secular space, I am uttering “Hallowed be Thy Name.”

The Lord dwells in unapproachable light, yet I dare approach Him in the midst of lattes and laptops. I’m aware of the warning from the third commandment, “Thou shall not take the name of the Lord Thy God in vain.” Yet here I am praying, “Hallowed be Thy Name” while voices chatter and the Beatles sing “Hey Jude” in the background,

Hey Jude, don’t be afraid
You were made to go out and get her
The minute you begin to let her under your skin
You begin to make it better.

The song reminds me of our longing for restored relationships, and our struggle to make that a reality. Even as the Beatles were singing a song about healing a love relationship, they struggled with their own breaking bonds.

The Beatles mirror the weakness of each one of us sitting here today. It is in my absolute weakness, I appeal, “Hallowed be Thy Name.” I’m lifting up the name, holding it up above me and above all those around me. I may actually be moving closer to the third commandment.

For this command is warning about “bearing the Name in an empty way.” But if we lift up the Name, acknowledging our Lord as the only refuge from ourselves, we might we be bearing the name faithfully. Lifting up our voices and our hearts to the only faithful and true One. Praying “Hallowed be Thy Name’ in the midst of the chatter and the music could be a speech-act of speaking, turning, facing, seeking, longing for His faithful Name to be revealed in our midst. I think of Jesus eating with the sinner Zacheus. The Word Made Flesh, the Holy One goes to eat, dwell, commune with an evil man. In so going, he may be enfleshing Isaiah 57:15,

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
(Isaiah 57:15 ESV)

So even as I lift up His Holy Name in worship, I am asking Him to remember us lowly humans. We cannot stand in a high and holy place. “We cannot come to you Lord. Might you have mercy upon us and come dwell in the midst of fretting and failing, our broken relations and wounded souls? Might you come and sup and heal us like you did Zacheus? Might this little coffee shop be a place of Your Presence and Your Glory for a just a few moments?”

I worship and entreat, “Hallowed be Thy Name.”

Who Art in Heaven

Image by ImageMD via Creative Commons.

After praying, “Our Father,” the words “Who art in heaven” slip out almost unaware as I say “hallowed be Thy Name.” I’m sipping on coffee, gazing at a room full of strangers. Each person in the room is facing something different.

A woman is apparently texting on her phone behind me because her husbands keep saying, “Who do you keep texting!” Each time he raises his voice slightly. After the third exclamation, she practically shouts back, “I’m checking on our daughter.” Silence. Then I notice both of them talking sweetly to a grandchild who sits between them.

People struggle.

Bound in relationships that intertwine love and anger. Searching for jobs. Trying to work up the strength to face the stress of an unpleasant work environment yet another day. Awaiting news from the latest round of medical testing. Finances, health, relationships, and beneath all the surface troubles a deeper anguish that lacks description.

So I sit drinking coffee quietly praying “Who art in heaven” in the midst of people who need a God that is here, present, answering their griefs and not off in heaven. Tom Waits moans,

God’s away, God’s away
God’s away on business

Praying “Who art in heaven” has an inherent tension. Our Father, our Creator is present in some way, but He’s also absent. We don’t always see Him. We often feel alone and thrust back upon ourselves to survive. We wonder why is He in heaven when people are suffering?

If I pause over “Who art in heaven,” I see the Grand Inquisitor thrusting his ticket to heaven back in my face, rejecting the God who is silent to his accusations. Dostoevksy doesn’t answer the charge, but he does not ignore it either. He confesses human doubt alongside human faith. Alyosha, the true believer, remains present to his brother’s story of unbelief. He continues to love unceasingly.

Remembering Dostoevsky’s story of faith and unbelief, I hold the confessions of those who doubt, those who struggle, those who grief, alongside my confession of faith. Even as I utter “Who art in heaven,” I cry out silently for those who feel abandoned in absence. I know that absence. I’ve lived in it and practically died in it. But I have also known the piercing light of our Father’s love in the midst of my brokeness.

Even as I mumble “Who art in heaven,” I am addressing the Lord who created this world, who relates to this world, who loves this world. He loved this world that rejected Him so much that He sent His Son into the suffering of this world to redeem it and us. He is well aware of suffering and struggle and pain. He understands depths that I cannot grasp.

And yet, He overcame and in the mystery of His grace, He promises that all the evil will be vanquished in the end. As I meditate on the story of the cross, on Christ who bears the evil of the world, who suffers, who dies and who is Risen even now, I have hope that evil does not have the last word. “Who are in heaven” becomes a promise that there is a hope hidden in some ways behind the veil of this life. But this hope is an assurance that death shall die.

The voices that question and struggle and search for God in darkness are not abandoned. Even as I pray “Who art in heaven,” I realize that by His Spirit, Jesus is already present in their cries and that He is inviting me to pray alongside Him.

He is inviting me to love and to enter a love that is not afraid of suffering or success. He is inviting me to embrace the world around me. He is inviting me to see and to hear and to love the people in this coffee shop, on the highway, in the store and even on the phone.

“Who art in heaven” is promise that there is a place where evil cannot enter. Love does and will conquer. Trusting in His faithfulness, I pray to Him and in Him and through Him, I love those around me even in this moment.

Praying "Our Father" in the Coffee Shop

Image by Andrew Griffith via Creative Commons

Some mornings I start my day listening to the hum of people in the coffee shop. Sitting quietly in a corner, I read and listen. The stir of people meeting, getting their morning coffee, greeting one another, and ordering drinks helps keep me alert. Recently, I’ve taken to quietly mouthing my morning prayers. Something about reading words aloud (even at a low, low-level) is different from simply reading silently “in my head.”

One day recently, I softly mouth the Lord’s Prayer. I feel the words change meaning. Lifting up these words in the coffee shop cause me to hear them as prayer in the midst of the earthi-ness of the world. The words leave my mouth. Step outside of me. Echo back to me. They seem to take in and take up the environment in prayer.

“Our Father” is present in this room. I am lifting up this simple prayer on behalf of every person standing or sitting around me. For this moment in time, we are present together, and I am saying, “Our Father.” Not simply “My Father.” “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). All people were created in and through Him. Even as I lift up my own weakness and needs, I am lifting up the beautiful and beloved people all around that have been created in and through the Word.

All of us were called by the Father above into existence. Even as the word “Our” rises, I hear the blessing of “Father” for the single mom struggling to contain her child, the rowdy businessmen behind me, the tired Barista leaning up against the bar. Now even as I continue praying, I realize that I am also praying in concert with the saints across the ages. In some mystery, we join together and pray “Our Father” in relation with and on behalf of a wounded and weary world.

Prayer cleans the eyes and opens the ears. A moment ago, I was sitting in the midst of chattering room. Now I am beholding light shining upon and out from these creatures of wonder that our Lord created for His glory. I catch but a momentary glimpse of “on earth as in heaven.”

To be continued.

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