Jan 15 - Behold the Lamb of God!
Jan 6 - Who is Jesus, Really.
Jan 1 - God Delivers
The Name of Jesus - The Eighth Day of Christmas - January 1, 2017
Lou Kolb, Certified Lay Minister
Throughout history, Jesus has been described in many ways. We heard several of those descriptions from Isaiah a week ago on Christmas Eve. Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. But those are titles or descriptions of who he is and what he does. Today, we're going to talk about the holy name of Jesus. Each of us has a name, given usually by our parents. The significance of that name may be as simple as being a favorite of mom or dad. Or it may, as in my case, be the name of someone else in the family. I was given my dad's name. I was Louis Jr. Of course, sometimes, choosing a name is not so simple. Parents-to-be deliberate long and hard over potential names. There are even books filled with suggestions if you need some prompting.
Mary and Joseph didn't have that problem. They had been given clear and explicit instructions by God concerning what they were to name their baby boy. Jesus! It would be the most important name in the history of mankind, given that it would be the name that is placed above all other names. But when it was given by the angel as the name they were to use, it probably caused no raised eyebrows. Jesus, or in Aramaic, Yeshua, was a rather common name in those days. It's very possible that Jesus might've had friends with the same name. It works that way even today. If your name is John or Jane, you probably know others who also bear that name. Then too, a name develops significance as its bearer lives out his or her life.
Probably no one in Tupelo Mississippi, except for Vernon and Gladys Presley, thought there was anything significant about the name Elvis Presley. They would've thought it a fine name indeed as it belonged to their son. But to everyone else, it was just a means to identify him. To tell him apart from all the other kids in Tupelo at that time. It wasn't until he had left his mark on the world of entertainment that his name was recognizable to everyone else, or, as we like to say, a household word. Indeed, all one needs to say now is his first name, Elvis, and you know exactly who is being talked about, even though he's been gone for nearly 40 years.
And consider the name of your spouse. It carries many, many more associations for you toward the end of a life lived together than it does at the beginning. All of the experiences you share together, the love, the sorrow, build a unique and special meaning that you experience at the mere mention of his or her name. So there would've been dozens and dozens of Jesus's or Yeshuas. But the significance of this particular one comes from what he did and what God did through him. Paul says that God emptied himself on the cross for our sake. He didn't have to but he loved us enough that even the cost of his only son wasn't too high to prevent God from making that sacrifice and removing that wall or blockage between himself and us. And so we have an “in” with God. That's the name of Jesus. Remember Jesus said anything you ask for in my name will be granted you. It's a sturdy name, Jesus. It's a name that's strong enough to handle anything you bring to it. Your joy, gratitude and praise, certainly. But it's also a strong enough name to accept your disappointment, your doubt, your anger, your unbelief, your rants, your displeasure, your resentment. We can, through the name of Jesus, dump all of that into God's lap. Now, will he give us exactly what we want exactly as we've asked for it? Perhaps. But often not. It's been my experience that God rarely answers prayers as I would expect him to. And that's good. He's God and He knows more than I do.
Anyone ever read the Mitford books by Jan Karon? This is a series of books about an Episcopal priest in the mountains of North Carolina. They are disarmingly gentle but not fluffy. And there's a recurring theme through the books of the prayer that never fails. We pray that prayer too, although we may not know it as such. The prayer that never fails is contained in the Lord's Prayer. It's the line “Thy will be done”. Thy will be done! I often find myself praying for something in Jesus' name and then adding, “Lord, this is what I want. But you know what I need, so your will be done”. We could do another sermon on just that. But we'll save that for another time so we can get Ray to Redeemer on time. The holy name of Jesus. That must be our rallying point. That is where we must bring our hopes, our dreams, our plans, our fears, our very lives. And, this church!
Now that Pastor Elkin is gone, this church is officially in a period of transition. That can be kind of scary, especially as it's been nearly 21 years since we've had to change pastors. There is no doubt in my mind that Satan will try to take advantage of this period to thwart our efforts to keep St. Marks on track and doing God's work. But we have a weapon that Satan can never beat. It is the holy name of Jesus. It is our security badge, if you will, that gives us admittance to the kingdom of God.
The meaning of Jesus in Greek or Yeshua in Aramaic is “God delivers”. So we will ask for his deliverance from our difficulties in the name of Jesus. We will ask God's blessing on our intentional interim pastor, James West, in the name of Jesus. We will ask for him to be able to adjust to us and we to him in the name of Jesus.
Today is January 1, 2017. It is appropriate that we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus on this day. As we begin this new year, let us resolve to live in the name of Jesus, in the way of Jesus and to follow his path. Let us declare anew our intention to make Jesus our standard, and to rest in the strength of the name that god has placed above all other names, the holy name of Jesus Christ. Amen!
Please note: The preceding sermon is provided as a resource for the thought, prayer, and meditation of the members and friends of St. Mark's. It is the residue of a verbal event, and thus it does not have academic footnotes and other details that would be expected in a written document. The writer gladly acknowledges the prior thought and work of many Christians before him.