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On a recent trip, I had a conversation with a man who learned I was from Vancouver. He had lived there years earlier, and after asking if a particular music shop was still in the city, he told me a story.

His wife was a piano major at the University of British Columbia. When they went piano shopping as newlyweds, the saleswoman led them straight to the entry-level models. "She had us pegged exactly right," the man told me. "We didn't have two nickels to rub together. We were going to have to borrow the money to get the cheapest instrument there."

Everything changed, however, when the name of the prospective buyer's mentor—a world-renowned master teaching at the university—came up in conversation. The saleswoman was panic-stricken. "Not these pianos!" she exclaimed, herding the couple away from the economy section and into a private showroom of gleaming Steinways. "I'm so sorry," she kept repeating, horrified at the thought of the teacher finding out she'd shown one of his students an inferior instrument. Try as they might, they couldn't persuade her to take them back to the pianos they could afford. Once the master's name came up, only the best would do.

"Hallowed be thy name," I said this morning, mumbling my way through the Lord's Prayer. I've prayed that phrase countless times. But today, I find myself thinking about the reverence a flustered piano saleswoman had for a teacher's name, and the prayer begins to change shape.

What does it mean to "hallow" God's name? I was raised to flinch whenever someone uses it as a mindless exclamation or, worse, a curse. I've heard about the extreme care taken ...

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January/February 2013

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