Hear How I Think, Then What I Believe

misunderstandingRECURRING KEY TERMS

Five years ago this fall my world got rocked.  I flipped through the channels one night and stumbled on a show called Genesis to Jesus.  It was an interview show focused on a theologian and his book about God’s covenant approach to humanity that is shown up as a family.  I was intrigued and kept watching that show.  I then bought one of his books.  Then another.  The attempt at approaching these subjects were not new to me but were in my experience where I thought I had “figured out” things by my comfortable Protestant experience.  What was new here is that I could see God’s divine plan for saving the world through the heart of the Catholic Church.   I revealed to my wife where my discernment was drawing me and after a month of prayer and study of both the Bible and history I was received into the Catholic Church.  In the words of former Pentecostal pastor turned Catholic deacon “I had to.  How do you look truth in the face and say, ‘No, can’t do it’?”  My wife joined me after her own discernment process in 2014. 

But it was not always smooth.  There was tension in my household.  Tension with my friends.And tension in my mind.  I would watch Youtube debates between Catholics and Protestants and found myself disturbed with some wording of Catholics not rightly put in context and anecdotal stories from ex-Catholics who “know by experience”.  Below I list some of the fine points that were helpful for me to consider in the intellectual part of my journey. 

Homecoming versus conversion- – I prefer to say that I am not a Catholic convert.  That is like saying I am an immigrant from Oregon to Arizona.  I would be demeaning Oregon and I would really be not be speaking to the nature of those two subjects accurately.  If someone was Catholic and became Protestant they left one Christian fellowship to another and did not “get saved out of the Catholic Church”.  I consider my journey as one of coming home to the spiritual soil of what was founded and kept from error by the Lord Jesus Christ.  I want to stress those last two points as something I have seen through my study of scripture, prayer and research of the early church writings. 

Both/and instead of either/or- – One of the chief attacks against the Catholic Church and also Protestant communities with traditional theology of morals with human affairs is that things have to be seen as one thing or another.  Frequently this is a false dichotomy.  Either you support gay marriage or you want the gas chamber for gays.  Either you want people free to know Jesus purely or you want to talk about sacraments.  Either you go to Jesus to forgive your sins or you go to a priest.  I would suggest that the answer to these emotional dares above is both/and or neither.  False dichotomies end the conversation before it gets a chance to breath.  There is a great need for the Holy Spirit to illuminate where two seeming paradoxes can coexist. 

“with” instead of “through” in a derogatory sense- This goes a bit with the both/and but I bring this up because the Catholic Church is misunderstood to have saints who usurp the centrality of Jesus Christ in Christianity.  I often consider being a very comfortable airplane passenger knowing that the captain is in charge and that there is a co-pilot.  The co-pilot participates but is not in command and that is alright.  “There is one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus”.  I can still say amen to that knowing that all Christians are called to raise up petitions to heaven for each other, the world and specifically even civil authorities.  Christians can do that informed by the scriptures and as co-laborers with Christ and co-heirs in Christ. As for celestial beings in heaven being involved in that, there is scriptural precedence where it says in Revelation “When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones” (Revelation 5:8).    

“ancient and enduring” instead of old– – – A common argument in modernism that newer ideas are better.  Along with that, since new ideas may have a fresh car smell then the old ideas can be emotionally dismissed and may err in suspending their critical thinking skills. 

But some ideas that are old and maintained for hundreds or thousands of years are still believed because they work.  The Catholic Church has not only endured past the 2,000 while empires have lived and even opposed them but while ideologies would come and go.  This includes ideologies that were supposed to eclipse the Catholic Church into the dustbin of history. 

faith versus reason. There are too many ludicrous assertions to count that I alone have heard on this one.  One example I have heard a year ago was that the more religious one is the lower their IQ is and vice-versa.  That’s a worthy debate one could have hypothetically with Pope John Paul II in one of his 14 languages.  He casts a wide net that sees the beauty of faith and reason in an integrated point of view. 

Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves (John Paul II, Fides Et Ratio, 1998). 

Later in his encyclical he calls out several scientific disciples including the social and the physical that are integral to the development of mankind.  He expresses hope for informed consciences and not any supposed shackles of religion dictating like a micro-manager.  Has all religion been so nice?  Not even time but the high majority of the Catholic tradition is actually good at picking their battles on what is a big deal.  As to my Protestant brothers I can assert that the Catholic Church greatly fosters critical thinking. 

What does the Catholic Church actually teach rather than what you have heard? – – Someone close to me that was angry that I went from Protestant to Catholic quoted a narrative that he heard second hand that proved that Catholics worship Mary.  When someone hears something outlandish of what is infallibly or even authoritatively taught by the Catholic Church they are better served by going to the Catechism of The Catholic Church.  Frankly, deciding what the Catholic Church by some layperson comment account or even ones childhood memories falls short of inquiry fitting Christian conduct. 

Community balance instead of either individualistic or collectivist- – When I was a new Catholic I met with the second highest deacon in my diocese regarding formation of future deacons.  I mentioned that it seems like I now need to go from an individualized experience of Christianity to an collectivist one that resembles something not of western culture.  He kindly corrected me and informed me that it is really a matter of community which is neither extreme. 

Language of theology and language of love.- – My early discernment into the Catholic Church nearly was stopped in its tracks when I saw a debate on Youtube on Marian devotion.  The quotes used by the Protestant certainly seemed worded like Mary is an object of worship.  Over time I came to realize that in Catholic expression of truth there are metaphors that I can call the language love.  An example I use sometimes is that if I was doctor in astrophysics and said that the sun rises and falls on my children it would be interpreted as my devotion as a father and not my estimate on solar events. 

As I begin to write this it is a few month from what my Protestant brothers and sister will celebrate as the “Reformation”.  Debates may spike even more for awhile but I pray that cooler heads will prevail and the Catholic Church can be taken in context rightly for how it thinks and talks rather that stereotypes. 


Bag of Goods, Not So Good

Idol Examples

Fidelity is a loaded term and maybe more in a world of gossip where one hears of infidelity.  In the spiritual life there are subtle temptations that can come where we give affections meant for God alone and give it to the things that are passing way.  Occasionally those temptations can be quite blatant.  Here is an experience where Jesus experienced the latter.

Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written:‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’”Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him (Matthew 4:8-11).

Here is the temptation of material gain as an end in itself and of unfaithfulness.  If one ponders idolatry in all its forms one will see how so often in this world a giving aways of ones self to gods of this world happens.  This is why after so many profound devotional and theological statements in 1 John it ends with “little children guard yourselves from idols”.  This was not a distraction from what was shared but an encouragement to guard the beauty of knowing God’s love in an ongoing way.

Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain- – This is ironic because in a casual read of the gospel one can see many times that Jesus liked “getting away from it all” for teachable or pivotal moments of his ministry.  A lesson is that Satan may tempt us with an isolating way to bully us and make us feel alone.  With God, we are never alone.  In ongoing conversion as a Christian, it is good to take our own initiative to have a retreat with God for intentional reflection. Further, if we are finding ourselves alone in adverse circumstances we can pivot to God whose love is always there.

all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence– – There are three things that are considered transcendentals in the history of Christianity.  These are beauty, truth and goodness.  Beauty, when shown correctly, can draw the heart of someone to heavenly places.  As Christians, we are blessed “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens” (Ephesians 1:3).  If one continues to be grounded in the beauty of the divine beyond any beauty of our eyes we will not be shaken from the reflection of where we are truly seated.

All these I shall give to you– – Quite the salesman, Satan shows forth a counterfeit of grace.  This reminds me of someone who is a “loyal customer” of their drug dealer and he generously gives a “gift” on their birthday literally on their doorstep.  True joy is not for the drug dealer to give nor true power.  Satan is just one other kind of dealer.

The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve– – This is a gateway commandment of sorts and can be shown to have meaning in ones ongoing journey in Christ.  To worship God alone is fitting as the right boundary for mortals to the God who is not a type of species but just is. He is the I AM which is like “Something Other Than Being”.  God is not a genus of species that can be subjected to our mortal classifications.  The fidelity of worship based on this knowledge lends to a holy life with “these three things that abide” (1 Corinthians 13:13).  This is expanded on below.

The first commandment embraces faith, hope, and charity. When we say ‘God’ we confess a constant, unchangeable being, always the same, faithful and just, without any evil. It follows that we must necessarily accept his words and have complete faith in him and acknowledge his authority. He is almighty, merciful, and infinitely beneficent. Who could not place all hope in him? Who could not love him when contemplating the treasures of goodness and love he has poured out on us? Hence the formula God employs in the Scripture at the beginning and end of his commandments: ‘I am the LORD’ (Catechism of The Catholic Church, para. 2086).

To be rooted in ones life like this has a subsequent overflow.

The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity (CCC 1813).

Then the devil left him- – The formula on ones simplest means to deliverance from the devil is simple.  It is to “Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).  There are some who consider themselves believers in Jesus Christ but feel that the devil is after them.  If one believes that is really true, then it bears consideration on how much one is submitting to God in their daily living.

angels came and ministered to him– – Again, one is not truly alone if one is in relationship with God.  Even then, it is not God alone who accompanies you but angels of a celestial kingdom. In fact, if we let him, God can send us “angels” in the sense of human beings who make a catalyst for change.

One example I saw was in the area of addiction recovery.  As an intern in a substance abuse recovery program at the intensive outpatient level, there was a new member of a process group who was ambivalent about going to a 12 Step group that night. He cited  how “maybe I’ll go, maybe I won’t” due to feeling alone doing that.   The group leader, who was in recovery himself, said asked, “are you going to [expletive] go or won’t you”.  One volunteer after another in the group assured him that they would go with him.  He went with four new friends and engaged in recovery before the Higher Power of his understanding.  We commonly come to faith through community, abide in Christ in the context of full community and go towards a great gathering in the end before a loving and holy God.   When we restrict our worship to God alone it does not rob us but frees us.  The ministering of one to another is to reaffirm the greatness of that fact and the angels who come to Jesus serve as reference points of it.

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12:22-24).

So to say no to Satan and all his empty promises is to say yes to God who is above all the darkness of this world.  This is God who is Love that we can always say yes to in continual conversion.  And with God and his kingdom properly factored, we are never alone.

History Unlearned and Repeated

Worship Through The Ages

It has been a while since I have posted any of my homework.  The assignment asked me to write about the lessons among the people of Israel God did from Joshua to Maccabees and what was revealed about his character.  I welcome any comments or questions.


The people then nation of Israel had a recurring pattern of gaining and losing ground in proportion to their faithfulness to the successive covenants of God through the Old Testament.  Particular foci discussed in this paper will be right worship and fidelity of worship to God.  Through the events of the latter part of the Old Testament God prepared his people through miraculous signs, discipline, prophecy and restoration in respective eras.

Period of Conquest and Judges

From Joshua through the Judges period God was showing of His character that he was purposeful in covenant by kinship.  They had kinship with God through his covenant with Abraham which included the land of Canaan.  His character is displayed by going before them in helping make the victories happen.  Just as we see how God “sevens” himself when he swore by himself to Abraham, he has them circle Jericho seven times before the victory blast of trumpets happen and the walls that stood against covenant blessings came down.  God shows in here as a shadow of things to come that his kingdom is to be advancing and not be static.

A misconception that could be made regarding this period would be that things were alright with God in not having a central authority since this period went on for a long time.  In a western, individualistic society where the “personal” of faith or “spiritual but not religious” is overemphasized then the societal structure here would seem to be a good norm.  However, if one reads the recurring phrase in Judges “everyone did right in their own eyes” then one sees it is in the context of many kinds of sins.

Period of the Jewish Monarchy

In this period God is preparing the kingdom for the ultimate King of Kings in Jesus.  The essential elements of God’s character here of intimacy and holiness with an elevated liturgical worship. Through the temple of Solomon his presence in the cloud inaugurates with those of holy orders and laity present.

In how God is preparing Israel for latter parts to salvation history it is in how the temple that stands as a witness to the nations.  There is both an outer court instituted for the gentiles as well as a partnership with kings like Hiram so that they are a part of what God was doing.

A misconception that could happen for this period is kingship as central authority is a great end in itself for a nation and especially one appointed by God.  But in the actual text with Saul and Solomon there was much exploitation of workers and oppressive taxation.  Power can corrupt and for that God chooses Jereboam to split off with a northern kingdom.

Period of the Divided Kingdom

Right worship with true fidelity is an important other feature of God’s character and preparation.  The spiritual revivals that happen with the kings of Judah who come back to God had at least some levels of repentance in refurbishing the temple and/or demolishing the Ashtoreth poles in the high places.  God’s zeal for worship was a virtue

towards his preparatory ways for the New Covenant when the true worshipers would “worship in spirit and truth” (John 4) in Christ.

But the lessons along that way would be discipline, true to the boundaries he expressed in Deuteronomy 28, as part of the curses of the covenant.  God has healthy boundaries as a character and discipline through the increasing incursions by the gentiles not despite his hesed, covenant love, but because of it.

A misconception could be that any breaking from the standards of right worship is inherently good.  Though Israel, as the northern kingdom was called, broke from oppression they did not carry on right worship with a valid priesthood and were more vulnerable to infidelity with other gods.  They were the first of the kingdoms of the promised land to be conquered.

Period of the Exile

This period was a rebuilding time for God’s people spiritually so they would later be ready for a return to their land. In this period a major means of preparing his people was through the prophecies of reversing the exile back to their land and also for coming Messiah which built on that which was prophesied by the pre-exilic prophets.

God’s character that was unveiled was largely a combination of his jealousy for being betrayed by Israel like an unfaithful wife (e.g. Ezekiel 23) but also his compassion and promise to restore them, again, due to his covenant to their fathers.

A misconception would be that salvation history was paused since they were not in their land.  This can be countered by the fact that the prophetic words were spoken to give hope but also in miracles like the three faithful Jews in the fire and Daniel in the lion’s den being preserved.  In a sense, contrary to a pause, it was another means of discipline and edification for Israel as a people of faith.

Period of the Return

This period was a time for restoration and perseverance.  In this way God is showing something of his character that is a balance between thankfulness for what one has but holding on to hope and “hunkering down” (Ryan, personal conversation, 2015) while under persecution like with the Maccabean era.

Holiness as a part of God’s character is also depicted here in the return where the non-Jewish wives had to be put aside because the covenantal faithfulness of the Jewish husbands was compromised.  In this there is a preparation to be in the world but not of it since they would not see a Davidic line king ruling their land again.

A misconception could be that God was not faithful to his covenant to Abraham since the Jewish people did not reclaim complete autonomy.  This can be countered with the fact that God’s promise to Abraham was that all the nations would be blessed through his seed giving the promise an international fulfillment.

An anchoring point of this blessing starts in Maccabees with the alliance the Jews made with Rome. We see the beginnings of their next oppressor: The Roman Empire.  But if one can see how pivotal a role this future oppressor has in salvation history we see again that God does indeed “write straight through crooked lines” and prepares Israel and the world for the “one, holy, Catholic and apostolic church” in Rome which is the new Israel.


The pattern in the scriptures as described above is one with a recurrent tension of grace, free will of man that God respects and natural consequences in a covenantal context.  Particularly the emphasis of right and fidelity of worship to God has merit for Christian application because this issue is a tie that binds God in relationship with his people throughout salvation history. This can be seen from Abraham to the new Israel of the Body of Christ today.

For People Seeking Wholeness


To think of goodwill from God to the world is to think universally.  I remember fondly from my old church in Portland, Oregon called Imago Dei (Image of God) how the slogan was “to take the whole gospel to the whole world”.  That summed up much of what is intended in the brighter spots to Christian history.

But Christian history has to have a template and God gives one in the gospel.  As wonderful as it was for Peter to be the first person to preach the gospel post-resurrection that is not the first example touched by the presence of the Divine.

And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:9-11).

These magi were spiritual seekers.  They had a mixed bag of what had been figured out before discerning the star of Bethlehem but it seems clear that they had humility going for them quite well.

They were overjoyed at seeing the star—- Why does it say they were overjoyed at the end and not at the beginning of their journey?  It is is simply because there was a sense of fulfillment in that the star had taken them to the fulfillment of all their desire to see this great king.  This fulfillment, like any true spiritual fulfillment, is in the discerning of Jesus and his will.

on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother—- With the perspective we have now of semitic peoples for centuries leading up to that time we can apply what we know of the role of the queen mother.  The recognition of hierarchy in the royal courts of those people had a place for the queen mother that was higher in distinction than the king’s wife.  Joseph was not chopped liver but they knew that the infant was a fully endowed king and thus no figurative crown on his head.  Mary, however is named because she would be the gaberah (great lady) as the queen mother would be know.  Matthew had the proper theological hindsight to note it this way.

They prostrated themselves and did him homage— This is where discerning how Jesus is Lord turns into action.  Seek him.  Find him.  Worship him.  In prostrating they lay themselves down on the ground in vulnerability and surrender.

opened their treasures and offered him— Recall the words of Jesus where he said where your treasure is there is your heart also.  This is their gateway action example for us on going from servile fear like a slave to relationship.  Relationship is the heart of the gospel.

gifts of gold—- St. Ireneus stated in Against Heresies that gold is a symbol of royalty, frankincense is in the latria (worship) of God and myrrh Jesus’ humanity.  It is also noteworthy according the Ignatius Study Bible that myrrh was used to anoint levitical priests for service.  In summary, this interpretation could point to those symbols of speaking of Jesus as God incarnate and as a royal priest.

I began this commentary about the whole gospel to the whole world.  It is fitting to point out two things that we learn from this passage.  If one were to take away one element of the three gifts of the magi you would have an incomplete teaching of the completeness in Jesus being Lord and Savior.  No divinity means that his atonement has a limit to at best a year since his priesthood and sacrifice would be of a finite being.  No royalty means that Jesus cannot reign in our hearts much less the world.  And if one were to take away Jesus’ humanity we would not be seeing a chance of adoption in Christ through the gospel.  All of Jesus must be presented by his Church and it must be unwavering.

The second thing I would point out that just as there is a holistic vision of Jesus to be appreciated there is a holistic treatment by God to the world that is implied.  These magi were easterners but they were led by a miracle and the rays of truth in their hearts to encounter Jesus the Son of David.  On the first day that Jesus drew non-amniotic fluid breath there is a chance for the world to come and adore him.  He is always the same and never changing.  The invitation each day, each season is there to give him our all as he gave his all.  It is no coincidence that Bethlehem means house of bread and Jesus described himself in the bread as broken for all who would have salvation in him.

What is stopping us in turn from the chance to come and adore Jesus?  If we see him as distant, who moved?  And if you see a star guiding you out of your comfort zone towards Jesus, even if it is that small voice in your heart, what is lost and gained if you go with that?  These are the questions worth the asking in all ages.

It’s A Wonderful “Wasted” Life

Old Woman SmileNobody wants to waste their life.  By wasting ones life I mean not grasping those dreams that are natural to the gifts you have and of the desire of the heart.  For some people they see their life as wasted because a tragedy has come upon them.  For others they see their life as wasted because they gave up time for someone or something that was not worth it in the sense that there was no return on the investment.  This could apply to toxic relationships or to addictions that for too long are on the same day to day level in priority as eating, sleeping, breathing and shelter.

But sometimes there is a perspective from the outside in when observing someone that has lived below their means and far from the gifts and amenities that could so be grasped.  Someone goes to jail for months or years because of a righteous cause in standing up for the oppressed.  I heard of a monk who did not have the money to redeem a slave along with the slave’s brother and so took the slave’s place.  What “a waste” if one looks at that with classist values.

But what about God’s point of view looking at unselfish sacrifice?  Is it a waste or an investment with a return far above earthly riches?  Such is the case for an old widow named Anna.  The view of the author and, by extension God, becomes quite clear and beautiful in shedding light on the subject.

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,  and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.  And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

There was also a prophetess—  As the story pivots from old Simeon, who prophesied, to Anna it is mentioned that she is a prophetess.  I perceive this as an emphasis for several reasons.  One is that Luke frequently writes with narratives that create gender balance.  If you see the resurrection of the son of the widow of Nain you must also notice the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus.  Second, Anna seems to have provided  a testimony of the nature of God and his plan of redemption by her past lifestyle of dedication that then launches her to declare things in words.  It is like talking the talk is worthwhile only when you have walked the walk.

She never left the temple— By the time we get to this line, we see her life in the temple as all she had.  For her to be widowed after seven years and then go into the temple implies that she was barren and without children from that marriage.  There was no law against her being remarried and I am not aware of a practice of kidnapping women and being forced to live a nun-like existence against her will.  She chose God’s temple to be her all in all.

but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer— And here we see the beautiful note of her will and where she chose her will to be centered.  She was a worshiper.  As I contemplate the infancy narratives which drawn open hearts to worship God in Christmas, we should remember that worship to God is best in simplicity.  Though not everyone is called to live a dedicated religious life, those who do it shine a light to God that illuminates his glory and in the hearts of those who see it and are open.

And coming forward at that very time— This makes the scene very much church though they did not know it as such.  She steps in on the coat-tails of Simeon’s  prophesy that carries with it glory and suffering.  She comes in as a second prophetic speaker in this spontaneous congregation of Jesus and is a second witness (like the Pauline pattern of 1 Corinthians 14) to confirm that this was far more than a circumcision of baby boy but the sneak peak of the Messiah.

she gave thanks to God—- If we blink we will miss it.  If she did not have an attitude of worship of those years it would be “Thanks for nothing!” but instead it is a matter of knowing that all those years of service to God mattered and she knew supernaturally what for in someway as she saw the New Temple held by parents in the Old Temple (cf. John 2:18-22).

and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem—- This is rich too.  God’s message is one of hope but is to be discerned supernaturally.  Once discerned and internalized how does one not declare it to those who you are in contact with?

The message of this story is that God care about you.  He wants to be your hope but to experience the superabundance of grace one needs to be where God has called them, worship with all of life and leave the payoff to God.  It could be five years in, at the age of 84 or in heaven.  But the point is that if you gain Christ, you gain everything.  Anna’s five minutes in the presence of Jesus was enough.  Is it yours?

What The Name CAUSED–PART 3


For this final post centering on “hallowed be Thy name” from the Lord’s prayer, I would like to start by pointing out how this is appropriated beyond the conversion experience.  We have seen that God is too much of love in covenant community to not allow atonement.  God, while a mystery, is too universal to not grant accessibility to our response.  What is it like “knowing Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior” in the purest sense?

God knew salvation would come to the world if His name could be called upon rightly in the context of sacrifice worked beyond that in Moses. God chose His plan to release the light of the gospel very much out of the box like a temple in Jerusalem.

“For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 1:11).

There are many who would interpret that passage as implying that the incense offered to God’s name would be the acceptance of the gospel.  Although to accept the gospel is essential to ongoing Christian living, the incense assumes sacramental grace as the material used to God’s glory would have to be liturgical in nature.  With that in mind Malachi must have been confused—one would think.  Proper liturgy that was according to proper succession was through the bloodline of Aaron of the tribe of Levi and tied to the temple in Jerusalem.  And this offering would have to be only in connection to the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem.  Such incense in God name would be improper under the covenant then.  But not in a new covenant.

E for Eucharist

In the night before the cross, Jesus lays out what is happening but not for the first time.  He had spoke about the engagement of God’s people in this purest way to connect to His sacrifice a few years before.

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them” (John 6:54-56).  Remember the point I made a few posts ago about the burning bush with God and not being lessened? The Son makes himself accessible that way every time there is a Eucharist.  His holiness is internalized and actualized but never downsized.

“While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:26-27).

We can not have called on the name of the Lord without acknowledging all God is, what He has done and now does in the new covenant.  This is not lost on Paul.

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4: 6-7).

Interesting to note is that the word for thanksgiving is eucharistia.  This is the word related to Eucharist as Catholics call the Lord’s Supper.  In this context God’s name is most hallowed because everything He is is absorbed sacramentally by the partaker as one absorbed into sacramental life.  The prayer and petition that is shown in the verses above is a sacramental meal.  In fact, the most common setting for an epistle to be read when it was first delivered and years later was in the mass and verses above from Phillipians speak rightly to the prayer culture of the Church at that time. So as a Catholic do I know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?  I know Him in personal prayer times and I know Jesus when I receive Him Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  It is a both/and rather than an either/or.  But the mass gives a divine layout for the believer to press in.

D is for Dedication

But now to call on the name of the Lord in light of Jesus brings back to offering up a sacrifice like Abraham but different.  Where Abraham offered up common materials unto God, we are called to offer up ourselves joined to the sacrifice of Jesus in true worship that hallows God’s name.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1).

So that is bringing the hallowing of God’s name to the real place of here and now.  I was formed for many years in prior faith communities with the rhetoric of accepting Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior.  The wording can be pregnant with truth or dry rhetoric depending on the heart of the believer.  But in a call to holiness that truly makes room for God to be all He wants to be in us, offering ourselves up to the God is always applicable.

 I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Colossians 1:24).  My hope for my walk with Christ is that as my sufferings come up I would learn to integrate my sufferings in His purposes when needed.  With my sufferings added to those of Jesus it is a matter of wholeness in spite of suffering lending to holiness.  To share in His sufferings having been touched by full gospel that is eucharistic, we get to “know Him in the power of His resurrection and in the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).  This is holiness not in our name but His.

But what about calling out to God as something more in a grand scale?  As an amateur theologian, all I offer is what experience I have had the recent years that I have been a Catholic at the beginning of each mass.

In mass we pray “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  These words have mystery but are not unaccessible.  I guess you would have to be there.

Hallowing God’s name can have context of outreach in this world and fulfills most rightly the words of Malachi. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Matthew 28:20-21

Where shadow is fulfilled in substance…..

“Hallowed be thy name”.

What The Name CAUSED–Part II


God is bigger than our boxes.  I see boxes all the time in prejudices like race, income, gender, age and so forth.  In this post I want to continue on the theme of “hallowed be they name” from the Lord’s Prayer.  What we saw in the last post is that early in salvation history God revealed Himself as one being but community.  And from the paradox of both, God gives way for redemption through a way of atonement with the patriarchs like Abraham as imperfect as he and the sacrifice of his day was.  But how much more the priest and sacrificial victim we now see in Jesus through the cross?

What I would like to highlight here is how God next shows Himself as so hard to pin down to common pragmatic ideas of what a person, much less a deity, is.  Ironically, from God being prone to being a mystery, He is all the more accessible.  We see that in the encounter with Moses at the burning bush.  We have seen that His name can be hallowed in the midst of human ignorance.  But it is better known to be hallowed.

U is for Universality

God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.”’ God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”: This is my name for ever, and this my title for all generations (Exodus 3:13). 

God is  always happening.  God is always related in covenant to His people whether they are alive or dead.  God presented himself through a work of agriculture that burns but is not lessened in consumption.

Things developed in knowledge by the people that follow God.  To call on His name already had a context of sacrifice before the law of Moses if one were to just look at the patriarchs.  Before in the patriarchs they had no name. Calling on the name of the Lord was implied because they were petitioning His hand to be on the earth.  With Moses and the levitical priesthood it was explicit to call on the name of the Lord but first in the individuals who were the chosen few.

“According to Jewish tradition, it was on the Day of Atonement that the high priest – and only the high priest – could pronounce the name of God, the sacred Tetragrammaton YHWH. When he entered the Holy Place with the blood of the goat set apart to the LORD, he would utter the name.” (Enduring Word  http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/0316.htm).

One might interpret the status quo of God to be first-class citizens versus the non-priestly.  For the privileged few to call upon God and speak for God is the epitome of criticism against the Christian faith but it is not well-founded.

Such a criticism is found to not be well founded if one looks deeper into salvation history shown in Sacred Scripture.

So with that in mind God the Father sent God the Son and named Him “God saves”—Jesus.  And Jesus in many points recapitulates this point in the many “I am statements”.  At one point Jesus has a set up context that makes an impression that is without a doubt.

“Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.’ Then the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’ So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple” (John 8:56-58).  So here we see that God has a name and a face.  It was the name of a finite context but still above all other names.

“Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).  It is by the name of Jesus that we enter into the communion laid down as the original intent.

But before the fundamental quest for hallowing God’s name can be understood in its purest expression, it is needed to see where Jesus values the transcendence of God’s glory for that to happen.

S is For Spirit

For God’s name to be hallowed universally, the unveiling of God’s nature behind the name would need to be magnified by the Spirit of God.

“Then afterwards

I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;

your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

……    in those days, I will pour out my spirit” (Joel 2:28-29).

The lynchpin person for this to happen must be Jesus. He comes and shows the accessibility of God to the marginalized of society like the Samaritan woman at the well.

 “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’  Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’  (John 4:21-25)

Per society there are great divides but in God’s plan there is not.  Jesus predicts worship that is spirit and truth.  It is is to be a truth by which all would worship in the context of atonement fulfilled in Christ on the altar we know as the cross. The spirit Jesus refers to is the life of God and truth He refers to could be translated as all-encompassing reality.  And this truth is Jesus (John 14:6).

The Father did this as the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and gave us Jesus.  And He does this when believers are gathered. In The First Council of Nicea they laid out the extension of Jesus through His assembly like so: “one, holy, Catholic [meaning according to the whole] and apostolic church”.  Ideally, access to those things which are heavenly is to be understood as through Jesus not despite the visible Church but because of it.  This is where the universality that goes beyond such things as race or ethnicity is implemented by the Holy Spirit which proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Where shadow is fulfilled in substance…..

“Hallowed be thy name”.