Sunday, 1 January 2006

What's in a Name? A Sermon Soliloquy on the Occasion of the Feast of the Naming of Jesus

Well, Lord. I guess I’m like one of Aaron’s sons today. Like him and his sons, my job is to bless the sons and daughters of—what would be the equivalent of Israel for us today?—the Church; right; the new Israel, the Body of Christ. I am to say this to them:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.

Really! Full and generously. For 2006 and beyond.

There. I’ve said it. Again, really. I’ve said it and things like it before.

And so I shall invoke Your mighty, life-giving name on them. They are Yours. I say your name over them almost every Sunday. They are Christians.

Well, I hope they are. I can’t force them, can I? I’ve tried to make it clear how. I’m probably a bit soft though. So where was I when you handed out the aggressive genes anyway? Same place I was when you gave my Dad and my brothers and Keith Knodel the mechanical ones, I suppose. I missed out on the hockey ones, too. Sigh!

I think they know. All of them have decided to bear THE NAME. Jesus. Bless them in that, Lord. It can slip off pretty easily. If any of them are not sure, give them a good, obvious nudge to find someone to help them do what they need to do to become one.

“When the time had fully come” wrote Paul. Or, “when the fullness of the time came,” God sent His Son. If time was full then, it must be even fuller now. 2006.

Here we are celebrating something that happened over 2,000 years ago in a building which is almost 100 years old using language that is 450 years old. Is that really what you had in mind?

I guess the fullness of the time always comes down to right now; immediately. What do want us to do with this 2000+ years old fullness of time and counting with this language…not just Shakespearean, but the whole Biblical, Christian way of speaking…in this beautiful old building which is set up for the way worship was done 94 years ago in all the "immediatelys" and "right-nows" of the year ’06? Here’s some stuff in the readings that might work.

Like Aaron, and because the Bible says we’re a royal priesthood in Jesus, we can still invoke, or call upon, YOUR NAME over our lives and the lives of others in all immediatelys and right-nows using any language. (But not as a swear-word or even as “O My God,” right?)

We can still release the Spirit of Jesus Paul says You have sent into our hearts from any cages we’ve stuffed Him in so we can be more of a blessing to everyone around us in those immediatelys and right-nows.

We can receive our inheritance by refusing to allow ourselves to live in slavery to anything—addictions, past hurts, sin—and by deciding to live free as Your heirs. And the women get the same inheritance, right? We messed that up down here for a while. So many of them have been put down and badly treated. Sonship is not about gender. It’s about rights of inheritance. We all get to inherit the best stuff.

Remembering our job is not to be spectacular but to be honest and true. Real. Like the shepherds, we can go out of our ways to tell people about our immediate and right-now experiences of angels and of Jesus—as humble and unspectacular as we might feel they are—trusting the Spirit of Jesus You sent will give what we tell whatever is needed to make a difference in peoples’ lives. And we can help people to identify their own experiences of such things.

Like Mary, we can treasure the things of Jesus in our hearts, pondering them.

What do you think? New Year’s resolution material?

Thank You, Lord. Thank You for Jesus and for the faithfulness of his parents who took their boy to church. Thank You for this little band of sisters and brothers You have brought together in the fullness of the time. 2006. May we bear THE NAME faithfully this year.