“Y” is for YHWH (March 19, 2013)

…Opening To…

Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new. (John Donne)

…Listening In…

The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The guard at the gate opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. Whenever he has gathered all of his sheep, he goes before them and they follow him, because they know his voice. (John 10:3-4; context)

…Filling Up…

This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “Y” is for YHWH. Collectively, these four letters (when written in their original Hebrew) are known as the tetragrammaton, which (conveniently) means “four letters.” But these aren’t just any four letters – these four letters when written in this order spell God’s name, the name that the ancient Hebrews wrote down but never uttered aloud.

This name comes from the Hebrew verb hiyah, which means “to be” or in the first person singular, “I Am.” This is what God says to Moses in the burning bush encounter when Moses asks God God’s name. God says, “I am who I am.” Thus, the word that the Hebrews chose to call God comes from the very word for existence itself. God is the great “I Am,” the great “Being,” who is the bestower of be-ing.

The ancient Hebrews did not say this name aloud, preferring to substitute the name Adonai whenever the tetragrammaton cropped up in the text of Scripture. The name stood for the One who is so holy that the name just wasn’t spoken. This makes sense. Names are powerful things. Naming something grants some measure of control over that something. Conversely, taking away a name does the same thing – think about the Jews thrown into concentration camps and branded with numbers during World War II.

When we keep silent where the name of God is concerned, we are confirming our position as God’s subjects. We are not the ones in power. We are not the one’s with a name on our lips. Rather, God is the one who calls us each by name, as Jesus says when he talks about the sheep: “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

…Praying For…

Dear God, your very name means “the foundation of existence.” Help me to find my place in that existence, help me discover my own being, which flows from the life you breath into me. Help me hear you calling my name. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, enlivened by your word, sustained by your grace, and filled with your love.

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