Let Us Be a Church that Hallows God's Name!
Dear heavenly Father, as I enter Your presence to worship this day, help me to hallow Your name. May I use Your name with reverence as I pray and sing Your praises. May I listen in awe as I hear messages from Your Word, which magnify Your name. May I greet and encourage my fellow believers in Your name. When I ultimately leave may I continue to rejoice in Your name, as I seek to serve You always. Amen.
God’s grace and peace are such great blessings! Paul marvels that the Galatians would give up those certain blessings for the uncertainty of their own works! May we as a Christian congregation always proclaim the one, true gospel of Jesus Christ!
Jesus rejoiced in the faith of the Roman Centurion whom the Jews of Capernaum commended. Jesus healed his servant. Let us welcome all who love the LORD into our congregation and seek through our prayers their blessing!
Text: 1 Kings 8:41-43 “Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for Your name’s sake(for they will hear of Your great name and Your strong hand and Your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this temple, hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this temple which I have built is called by Your name.”
In Christ Jesus, in whose name we trust and whose name we proclaim, dear fellow redeemed:
Sixteen years ago this Sunday I was installed as your Associate Pastor here at Immanuel. During the sixteen years that I have been privileged to serve as one of your pastors, I have heard many comments about our congregation. Some people have told me that Immanuel is the friendliest of churches. When they first visited, people greeted them, introduced themselves, and made them feel right at home. Other people have told me that Immanuel is such a cold church. When they visited, no one introduced themselves, but rather all seemed interested in visiting with other people and did not even acknowledge their presence. I suppose that on any given Sunday either of those comments could prove true. Both comments, however, give us pause to consider this question: what type of congregation should we be? We certainly want to be a friendly church, and yet we are not a country club, so we need to be more than that. A church, after all, is a gathering of believers living in this sin-filled world. We, therefore, need to support one another. Yet, even that is not enough, for there are all sorts of support groups out there to attend. No, we are a church—our calling is to share the gospel message of God that is intended for all people!
What type of congregation should we be? Our text is a portion of the prayer offered by King Solomon at the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem. Within these words we find our answer. Based upon Solomon’s thoughts LET US BE A CHURCH THAT HALLOWS GOD’S NAME! Let us do so, first of all, by welcoming all who come to God! Let us do so, secondly, by supporting all who pray to God! Let us do so, thirdly, by instructing all who know and fear God!
Solomon refers to God’s name four times in these three brief verses. God’s name surely involves all of His titles, but it also includes the entire revelation of His activities and works on our behalf. You might say that His name is His reputation. To hallow God’s name means to use God’s titles with respect and to accept and believe the truths He has revealed in His Word. To hallow God’s name then means to honor and respect God at all times by what we say, believe, and do.
Solomon first prays: “Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for Your name’s sake (for they will hear of Your great name and Your strong hand and Your outstretched arm).” Notice immediately Solomon’s reference to the “foreigner”—someone “who is not of Your people Israel.” Solomon recognized the universal nature of God’s kingdom and gospel promise. He welcomed all who would come to God to worship His name in the temple. God had told Abraham, after all, that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).
Throughout ancient Israel’s history, this universality of the kingdom and the kingdom’s gospel message was evident. Think of Rahab, the Canaanite woman of Jericho who hid Israel’s spies, and who later married into the tribe of Judah. Think of Ruth, the Moabitess, who married Boaz, Solomon’s great-great-grandfather. Think of the Queen of Sheba, who visited Solomon and returned to her homeland taking the truths of God with her. These women learned about the true God, came to believe in the true God, and were welcomed by faith into the family of the true God.
Unfortunately, there were many times, however, when God’s Old Testament people failed to embrace the universality of the gospel. Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh in spite of God’s command, for the Ninevites were Israel’s political enemies. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day considered themselves superior to all non-Jews, whom they considered unclean. If anyone wanted to draw close to God, they essentially had to become Jews and observe all of the Mosaic laws in order to merit God’s favor. Otherwise, they were not welcome. This did not hallow God’s name, but rather dishonored it!
LET US BE A CHURCH THAT HALLOWS GOD’S NAME by welcoming all who come to God! In the early history of our congregation, we were the German-Lutheran Church in Mankato. Germans were welcomed…others perhaps not so much. In part, it was a matter of language, but in part it may well have been a bit of cultural pride. After all, everyone knew years ago that “Gott spricht Deutsch!” [God speaks German!] When our CLC was formed, we were at times unfairly labeled “the Romans 16:17 church.” “Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17 KJV) was the key verse, a defense of which led to the formation of our church body, but it certainly was not our central focus as a church or congregation. To counter that image Pastor Radtke, Immanuel’s pastor at the time, emphasized this thought: “You are always welcome at Immanuel!” I hope that will always be the case at Immanuel! Dimas Vivanco certainly felt welcome here at Immanuel, and we are working with him now to establish a church in Peru. In recent years various Sudanese immigrants have visited Immanuel, taken instructions, and have become members of our congregation. Others have visited, and still others are involved in our English language program conducted two mornings each week. Part of that program is to help the Sudanese prepare to worship with understanding—in other words to hallow God’s name each Sunday by informed worship! LET US BE A CHURCH THAT always seeks to HALLOW GOD’S NAME by welcoming all who come to God!
Let us do so also by supporting all who pray to God! Solomon goes on with his prayer: “When he (the foreigner) comes and prays toward this temple, hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You.” Solomon’s prayer is interesting, because he is not praying for himself, but in support of others who will pray. He wants God to answer the prayers of all who come before Him. That is what we want to strive to do—to be a church not only that prays, but which supports the prayers of others!
Prayer is half of our essential communication with God—the other half being the hearing of God’s Word, through which He speaks to us. Both aspects are essential; both aspects enhance each other, but let us simply talk about prayer today. Through prayer we communicate our thoughts to God. Prayer is our conversation with God. We confess our sins and failures that disappoint Him. We seek His forgiveness, which He has promised to all who humbly confess their sins (cf. 1 John 1:9). We thank Him for His blessings. We praise Him for His goodness. We seek His protection, as well as His provision. We call upon Him for help when we are troubled. We intercede with Him on behalf of others.
Let us consider that final point a bit more closely. In our Gospel Lesson today we heard about a Roman centurion in Capernaum appealing to Jesus to help his very ill servant. One of the most interesting aspects of the account, however, is that the centurion himself felt himself so unworthy that he sent Jewish friends, leaders of the local synagogue, to intercede on his behalf. They appealed to Jesus urging Him to help this man. A strong church—a church that hallows God’s name is a praying church, but not a church praying primarily for itself, and therein, I am afraid, lies our weakness or at least certainly my weakness. Several weeks ago, for instance, our CLC Mission Board requested prayers on behalf of Pastor V.S. Benjamin, the founder of the Church of the Lutheran Confession in India. He is growing older and has recently undergone surgery. I remember voicing a prayer for him as I read the initial e-mail, but I must confess that until I was writing this sermon, no further prayers were uttered on my part. It is so easy for us to become so busy and wrapped up in our own lives that we can forget about the needs and prayers of others, but it is important that we exercise ourselves with such prayers also. Let us pray for the health and welfare of fellow believers wherever they might reside, for then we are truly hallowing God’s name—recognizing our dependence and that of our fellow believers upon Him. As we pray for others our relationship with God gains life as His presence is acknowledged and His help is received. Remember James’ encouragement: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16b). Therefore, LET USstrive to BE A CHURCH THAT always seeks to HALLOW GOD’S NAME by supporting all who pray to God!
Let us do so, finally, by instructing all who know and fear God! Solomon ends this portion of his prayer with these words: “That all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this temple which I have built is called by Your name.” God’s name involves everything that He has revealed about Himself in the Holy Scriptures. We hallow His name most highly when we proclaim His truths from this pulpit, in our classrooms, over the radio and television, through the various Bible Study forums at Keystone, Orness Plaza, Walnut Towers, Old Main, Pathstone Living, and Autumn Grace. We hallow God’s name when we as individual members of this congregation open our mouths in answer to questions people often have, or when we offer words of godly encouragement and advice to those who are suffering.
This, of course, implies that we are studying God’s Word, so that we are prepared to give such answers and provide such explanations and encouragements. Peter urges us: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV). Paul urges us: “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:2-4). We are living in an age of bold and blasphemous defiance of God’s will and Word. The temptations in opposition to our faith are great, but the opportunities to share our faith are even greater! There are many people in our world searching for truth, desperate to hear what God offers in His Word. My dear friends, we must be ready to instruct all who want to know and who truly fear, that is, stand in awe of their holy God. Let us, therefore, be conscientious in our personal Bible study, so that we are ready and can provide the answers to questions people ask us.
Jesus tells us that there is joy in heaven when even one sinner repents! (cf. Luke 15:7, 10) May we never hold at arm’s length anyone seeking to know the Lord, but rather welcome, support, and instruct them in the truths that God has revealed in His Word! What type of congregation should we be? LET US BE A CHURCH THAT HALLOWS GOD’S NAME, for then God’s kingdom will surely come within our midst and with it all of God’s richest blessings! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
Soli Gloria Deo!