Both Genesis One and Two, not so different after all, teach us that naming light creates light and naming a tiger creates a tiger. When the breath of language is breathed into him Adam is brought from clay life to human life, becoming not an animal only but now the Image of Ha Shem. With this gift Adam also names things, creating as he was created.
The Name of our God is so holy that our Jewish brothers will not speak it and refer to Him with the words Ha Shem, which means
The Name in Hebrew. The Four Letter Name given to Moshe by the burning bush means the God who chooses what to do, the God who is free of any control or incantation, the God who initiates, decides, begins, and creates. He is the Instigator. In the Gospel of John He is called the Word, the Logos, by whom all things were made.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the Name which is above every name, that at the Name of Yeshua every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. Philippians 2:9
Like it or not, we carry His holy Name. When people see us they see Him. We are His Face and His Presence in this world. This is what it means to be the Body of Christ, that, for good or ill, His reputation is in our hands. He trusts us with His good Name. Hallowing His Name is our responsibility.
His Name is hallowed when we behave holy. When the world says,
See how they love one another! His Name is glorified. When we are martyred for the faith even pagans praise His Name. When we open our wallets for the poor of this world His Name becomes more beloved. When we bleed for justice and peace and freedom His Name is our flag that all can see and remember. Yes, sometimes evil people will come to fear and hate His holy Name because we protect the weak and the innocent in His Name. That too hallows His Name because holy is not always nice.
His Name is also exalted by what we do not do. We do not murder, we are not unfaithful to our spouses, we do not lie under oath, we do not kidnap or enslave, we do not shame our parents, we do not steal property, people, or livelihood from our neighbor.
If only it were always so, that we lived up to His reputation. Too often we break the commands, too often we break the contract of grace and gratitude He has signed with us, too often we sin. So when the world looks at us it sees not always a glorious record of love and generosity, of strength in character, but too often a sad history of selfishness, obsessions, and shame.
When we look at it this way our sins take on a whole new dimension of shame. Not just our good name is sullied, not just our reputation is ruined, but His reputation is tarnished and His good Name is associated with our evil. This is what the world means by hypocrisy, and every time we bend the rules or engage in our favorite vice we are dragging our God's reputation through the mud with us.
When we talk about favorite sins and secret vices, everyone knows immediately what theirs is. Maybe it is a harbored jealousy or anger, maybe some indulgence in the flesh of food or lust, maybe we buy a new wide screen or car without consideration of the rest of the family. Maybe the worst thing is to cherish that little demon of a flaw and not know it or admit it. Or, as a wife who excuses her habit of nagging by pointing out her husband's very real flaws, we blame somebody else. Sometimes we keep sins like pets, leashed and fenced but still fed and groomed. But let us not be childish. Others know. Don't we know, because of our own internal ways, that everyone else here today has a secret? Well, they know about us for the same reason. Perhaps not as intimately or detailed as we know our own sin, but often others know us well enough. And those not here, the whole world of humanity, are they not witnesses to our common guilt and universal flaws? The worst damage we do to the Name of our holy God is the pretense that we are without flaw even as we stand with egg on our face, cookie crumbs on our fingers, and lipstick on our collar.
Shame. The most shameful event in all of history is, in fact, the true glory and holiness of our God. One day, on a cross, in our material world of sins gross and petty, He took His holiness and perfection to the tomb, sacrificing Himself for us. He did not just sacrifice His life, He sacrificed His holiness, His good Name, His reputation. Not some mighty god above the clouds, but a dead man on a cross is how He shows His character and His essence.
And He is most holy when He takes you and I, poor miserable sinners that we are, and turns us around into sainthood. Our holy God increases His holiness when He accepts us, the unholy, into the Body that bears His Name. In baptism we, who are born in sin, are given His holy Name. This morning, as we share His bread and wine, His flesh and blood, we become His Body, the Body of Christ, the physical reality of His spiritual reality among us.
This holiness we are given is not magic, a trick we play on ourselves so we can go home feeling good about ourselves and pick up where we left off sinning. Sanctification is hard work and brutally honest. His covenant of grace with us, through His Word of wrath and promise, first brings us to repent of our sins. That does not mean apologize or feel bad. Repentance means doing an about face, turning our whole person around, and growing more holy, like He is. Now we use His gifts of Word and Sacraments to make us holy in practice as well as in His mercy. His greatest gift to us personally may be gratitude, grateful to Him for His grace, His sacrifice, His holiness given to us, and most of all grateful that we are known by His most holy Name.
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