The blog resumes today after a bout with a cold and a week in Wisconsin visiting my folks. Thanks to everyone who sent their good wishes and prayers.
Pastor Mark Anderson
“But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; 28 even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
What’s in a name? Just about everything, actually. Over a lifetime your name accumulates a reputation. Your name becomes invested with the totality of your experience, for good or for ill. When the name Adolph Hitler is mentioned, for example, it carries the freight of cruelty and evil. No one names their kid Adolph anymore.
Imagine yourself a fly on the wall in a room full of all the people who have ever known you. What would they say when your name came up? What would your name represent to those who were close enough to really know you?
The naming of God is at the very heart of the Christian faith. When the message came from God to Joseph and Mary, they were instructed to name Him, Jesus (Joshua), which means “Yahweh is salvation”, for he would deliver people from their sin. In time, Christians came to use four words to name the one God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For this is how the Scriptures named the revealed God.
This is the name, therefore, into which we are baptized. We are baptized into the name of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit, because to trust Jesus is to think about God in this way.
This means that for Christians the name of God is centered in Jesus Christ. That is to say, the meaning of God’s name is clarified and given expression in Jesus. To call God ‘Father’, therefore, is to recast the word in the light of Jesus. In the Biblical world, the word ‘father’ carried with it the freight of mastery and lordship. To call God the ‘Son’ cast that word in a new light. Now, mastery and lordship were characterized not by the raw assertion of a power role but by vulnerability and love. To call God the ‘Holy Spirit’ is say that this mastery, this lordship that is based upon vulnerability and love of the Son is available to us.
Jesus described the mastery, the lordship of the Gentiles as lording it over people. And is this not, in fact, the world’s definition of mastery, of power? Then He went on to say that this definition of lordship is not what God intends. The lordship of God is now defined by the Son, the crucified one, who gives Himself in vulnerability and love.
Baptism wraps your name in the death shroud of the Son, in the death of Christ, in order that you might take the daily plunge out of death into life, living by grace through faith in the name of the One who has put death behind Him. In the water of baptism your name was drowned, you were drowned in order that the name by which you would now live, by which you would be known, is the name into which you were baptized – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. His name is above every name, including yours and mine, because the Son has invested the name of God with the vulnerable currency of grace, the greatest, richest power in the universe. In Word and sacrament, the Holy Spirit brings this grace to you, adopts you into this name directly, personally, so that everything the name of Jesus graciously signifies, represents and does belong to you, are for you.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”