Saturday, January 3, 2015

God has a name!

Sermon for the Eve of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus, preached on December 31, 2014.

    Allah is not a name but a generic term for god – just like the English word.  Jews have a similar term, El as in Elohim.  But the Jews also had name for God.  It was not much good to them because they feared using it. The God of the Old Testament wore many names that were not names at all.  They were terms to emphasize a characteristic of God.  The actual name of God was unutterable – in reading Scripture you substituted Adonai (Lord) whenever the unspeakable name of God appeared.  Only Moses spoke it and lived and that was how God’s people knew to follow the patriarch. 
    Now God has a name – not a name we gave Him but the one He gave His Son.  His name shall be called Jesus.  Names are not for us.  We do not call ourselves by our names; others do.  So our name exists so that others may know us.  It is no different for the name of God.  In giving us the name of His Son, God was giving us the opportunity to know Him without fear, to enter into a relationship with Him by baptism and faith, and to wear His name before the world.
    The name of God is Jesus.  The God whose identity was hidden behind His works has now taken form and flesh and come among us and we have beheld His glory, the glory of the one and only Father.  Jesus is the long promised Savior who keeps all the prophetic word.  Jesus is the Redeemer who is come to accomplish the saving will and purpose of the Father.  He does for us what none of us can do for ourselves.
    He gives us the name Jesus and with that name comes access to the grace in which we stand.  The name of Jesus is not merely a name to identify the God in flesh but it is the key, the means, the access code to all that God's mercy has promised.
    The name Jesus is our access to the Kingdom.  So the splash of water that might seem ordinary is extraordinary because it is water with the name of God, instituted and commanded by Him.  The name Jesus is our access to the life that eludes and escapes us here on earth.  "I am the way, the truth, and the life," says Jesus to those who will hear Him.  He is not come to point to another way or to unravel the roadmap to heaven.  He is the way.  When we hear Scripture, we hear the voice of Jesus calling and inviting us to come to Him who is the way, to believe in Him who is the way, and to walk in the way of life that is Christ.
    The name Jesus is our access to the fellowship of the table.  We come not of our own desire but bidden by the Lord and by His promise hidden in bread and wine.  It is the fellowship of the faithful and no casual meal.  We come here discerning Christ in the bread and in the cup, His flesh for the life of the world and His blood that cleanses us from all sin is here our food to eat and our cup to drink.
    Our God has a name and a face.  No more pillars of cloud by day or pillars of fire by night.  No more Sinai mysteries or patriarch's shining faces.  No more bloody sacrifices.  No more generic terms.  We have a God who addresses us with His name and whom we address with the name He has given us to use.
    He stands among us where His name is, in water, bread, wine, the voice of absolution, and the Scriptures.  As we prepare to let go of a past and embrace an unknown future, we do so with the blessed assurance that His name remains with us, so that we can call upon it in the day of trouble, come to it for absolution of our sins, confess it in the waters of baptism that give us life, and commune under it at His table.  Without His name, we fear God but with the Name of Jesus comes release from our fears, the assurance of His everlasting presence, and the grace that delivers to us all His promises. 
    Who knows what 2015 will bring?  We are hopeful but we are also skeptical.  Whatever it brings, the name of Jesus is on us, is upon our lips in prayer, is spoken boldly before the world, is worn on our foreheads in baptism, and is the name of entrance whereby we feast upon His body and blood.  Though everything else go wrong, this will not change.  Amen.

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