What's In A Name? - Hallowed be thy name

What is a name? Why are names important?

A name is a word that carries with it concepts and ideas. These concepts and ideas vary depending upon our own experiences. If I type the name Larry, we will all think of different meanings of the name. We all know different Larrys. The name carries with it different meanings because of the different encounters we have had because we know different Larrys.

Company names are similar. Companies give themselves a name in order to create brand identity. Certain thoughts and ideas are conjured up when we hear company names like Coca-Cola, Disney, Walmart, or Enron. Company names carry with them a meaning that is usually based upon the actions of people who work for that company, our thoughts of experiencing the product, or advertising images the companies want us to have. Companies can change their name and appear like a new company when the image their name brings about has been tarnished. Phillip Morris changed its name to Altria to distance itself from the tobacco scandals. Bell Atlantic changed its name to Verizon. The Washington Bullets changed their team name to the Washington Wizards. AT&T changed their wireless name to Cingular and will be discarding that name in the next year to go back to AT&T wireless. Sprint just recently changed its name to Embarq. The corporate name changing dance will be something we observe our whole lives. When a companies image gets spoiled or out of line with the image they want to convey, they will just change it.

I've been able to go through life being the only Regan that many people know. When people mention "Regan" among people who know me the name carries with it a certain meaning derived from the way I've treated them or stories they have heard about me. The meaning isn't cluttered by other Regans. But even getting their impression of Regan from only one Regan, people have all different sorts of opinions about who Regan is, what he believes, and what he does when they hear that name mentioned. Those opinions are caused by the way I have acted, and I haven't had a consistent life. Some will know the Regan that was around prior to becoming a Christian and that Regan would bring about different thoughts than the current Regan.

In this culture of changing names, people sharing the same names, and the inconsistency of the actions of people with unique names, it becomes difficult to understand that names have any value. Names are disposable in our culture; they really have no meaning. But not so with God.

Jesus began his instruction on how to pray with the following phrase: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name."

Daniel prayed out of concern for God's name: "O Lord, hear; O lord forgive; O Lord, listen and act and do not delay! For your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people bear your name!"

When God inflicted Egypt with the plagues, he had Moses tell the Pharaoh: "But this is why I have let you live: to show you my power, and to make my name resound through all the earth."

The prophet Joel made a statement that the writers of the New Testament repeated: "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."

These are just a small sample of the many the biblical passages that deal with the name of God. To God, a name isn't something meaningless. Nor is it that way in other cultures.

There was and is a worldwide belief that the name of an object, man, or higher being is more than a mere label only incidentally associated with the one who bears it. The name is an indispensable part of the personality. One might say that a man is constituted of body, soul and name. Various rites are use to seek, find and give a name to a child. If a man has the name of an ancestor, he represents this ancestor in his social group. When a child receives the name of a deceased person, he fills in his clan the gap caused by death. Often a new name is given in puberty rites, for the man himself is made new by the rites. 'The name is not just a designation but an expressed essentiality.' Experience of power and will is reflected in the name. The name is not abstract; it gives clear form and solid content to the will.

Only when the gods have names do they acquire personality, history and myth. Only when men know the name of a god can they call upon him, or bring him into play by magic. Men can have this magical power over the god only because in the case of the gods, too, the name is essentially linked with the one who bears it. Of both men and gods it is finally true that the name contains mana. When the name is invoked or pronounced, the one invoked appears or works whether desired or not, or the one who invokes affects the one invoked. This explains the reluctance to state or give a name, and the corresponding desire to know a name, which is a desire to enjoy the protection or help of the power linked up with the name. Associated with this, of course, is the exact knowledge of a name, or the knowledge of all names. This is important when gods or demons have secret names. Possession of these ensures their freedom, but when other gods or even men learn them, they come to be fully dependent on them.

The name is thus a power which is very closely associated with the bearer and which discloses his nature. Pronouncement or invocation of the name sets in operation the energy potentially contained in him.

This is the cultural context (as expressed in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament) in which the biblical statements on God's name take place. God's name is important to Him, and he wants it to be hallowed.

Hallowed is a state of perfection. One could almost say, "Our Father who is in heaven, perfect be your name." God Himself is perfect, but here on earth his name is not always so. Just like a bad experience with an employee of a company can tarnish a person's name, God's name is tarnished at times by the actions of those who claim to or actually do follow Him. If I didn't all ready know God, it would've been through my recent interactions with the "Christian" telephone company. At other times God's image is tarnished because of our failure to truly see things in the way God wants us to see them. It is to be our prayer that His name becomes perfect as he is perfect.

As is the case with most of the Lord's Prayer, we can have an affect on what we are praying. We are key instruments in making God's name hallowed here on earth. Through living out our lives as loving brothers and sisters in His kingdom, we help to hallow His name. When we bring about His will into our world, we help hallow His name. When we forgive others, we help to hallow His name. When we resist temptation, we help to hallow His name. When we help establish His kingdom in the here and now, His name is hallowed.

God is perfect, but to many his image and the concept of Him is not so. His name is not always in tandem with His own perfection. We have a lot of prayer and work to do in helping His name to be hallowed.

Happy Halloween. I pray it is the evening of God's name being hallowed.

Watch out for the potholes.