Rev. Zerit Yohannes
This morning millions of us prayed “Hallowed be Thy name.” It is later in the day and I wonder if we thought about what we were praying – specifically, what does it mean to “hallow”?. Dr. Martin Luther thought about it. Rev. Zerit Yohannes, a missionary in America from Eritrea, showed us.
I assume you know to “hallow” is to “make holy.” But how does a human hallow God’s name? In his explanation of the Lord’s Prayer’s first petition Luther points out,“God’s name was given to us when we were baptized.” Then this: “it becomes holy when both our teaching and our life are godly…” (The Large Catechism).
In my understanding the petitions following “Hallowed be Thy name” explain how we do that, how humans “hallow” the Name of God. For instance “They kingdom come.” We hallow God’s name when we help to usher in the Kingdom of God. We hallow God’s name when we pray “Thy will be done” – trusting God loves us and His will for us is for always good. “Give ‘us” this day our daily bread;” not only me, but the “us” of those around us, especially those in need. When we pray “Forgive us our sins AS WE FORGIVE” we hallow God’s name, if we really mean what we are saying. As we pray “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us in the time of trial,” we are preparing to hallow the Name of God. We pray all these things because we know “Thine is the kingdom.” We do not rule ourselves – we want to live under the kingship of our Father in heaven. Which brings us back to the second petition.
Although never fully realized here on earth, the Bible has much to say about signs that God’s kingdom is coming.
When John the Baptist (Mathew 11:3) called out to Jesus,”Are you the Coming One?” In his answer Jesus enumerated signs the prophets used to describe the coming of God’s kingdom “Go tell John …the blind see and the lame walk; lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (see Isaiah 29:18, 35:4-6; Psalm 22:26; Isaiah 61:1; Malachi 3:1).
God’s name is hallowed when those in distress hear the good news of Jesus and see His love in action. Zerit Yohannes was an instrument God used to bring in the kingdom. At times it was harrowing.
Rev. Yohannes lived through “The Red Terror” in Eritrea. Through that time in the 1970s his faith held and grew; he was a missionary during the worst times, an instrument to usher in the Kingdom to a war torn people .
Missionary Yohannes graduated from the largest Lutheran seminary in Africa, in Tanzania. He spread the good news of Jesus throughout Africa as a missionary broadcasting over the radio in Nairobi, Kenya, and through mercy work. He began a ministry among immigrants arriving in Kenya fleeing war and famine, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked. An instrument to usher in the Kingdom of God. Zerit was hallowing God’s name as he made God’s kingdom real in that place and time.
The African Christians hallowed the name of God when they developed programs to aid victims of HIV, hunger and poverty: the church’s role as a servant of the people made lasting impressions in Tanzania and in Eritrea. Then, A door opened for Zerit and his family to go to Canada, where he began ministry to African immigrants in Toronto. He also attended Concordia Seminary in St. Catherine, as well as at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
The Kingdom of God was made concrete, the mission in Canada grew, the poor heard the good news and experienced it in the work the churches did. Then a call came for Pr. Yohannes to return to Eritrea to teach mission work at the Church’s seminary. For nine years he worked to equip new pastors and missionaries to usher in the Kingdom of God. He was hallowing the name of God.
Rev. Zerit was called back to North America, to St. Luke Lutheran Church in Lansing, Michigan, to train missionaries from Africa to the United States. When we recently spoke via Zoom, Rev. Yohannes with his fellow pastors of St. Luke Lutheran and Rev. Todd Jones, Mission Secretary of the Michigan District, were preparing to teach about thirty missionaries (men and women) who came from the Democratic Republic of Congo making God’s love real in Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Iowa and South Dakota. “Hallowed be Thy Name.” His insights on mission work are important for all who would bring the lost to Christ in America, for all those who hallow God’s Name.
St. Luke Lutheran Church, Lansing, MI.
Each petition of the Lord’s prayer is, finally, a way to hallow God’s Name. The next time you pray the Prayer – think about how you can hallow God’s name in the coming day – pray “Thy Kingdom come” -and then go out afterwards to heal and preach the gospel to a hurting world.
It is a a gift of His grace that you and I have been allowed to pray the Lord’s Prayer – and this day to hallow the Name of God.