Sunday, January 1, 2012

Weekend Gratitude: Happy New Year and The Feast of the Holy Name

Dear friends,

Happy New Year!

So we stayed up well past midnight to welcome 2012, making s'mores at the fire pit in the backyard, walking to a neighbor's house to see fire works, and finally watching a DVD movie. I think I finally got to bed at 2 AM since I had to pick up two teens from a party at our old church and wait up for another daughter to get home safely. 

This morning my 12 year old son finally woke me up at 9:57 AM (yikes!), but somehow five kids and I managed to walk into Lake Baldwin Church by 10:48 AM during the welcoming song.  We weren't exactly wearing our "Sunday best" (more like our "Sunday Good Enough") and my littlest girl probably still had a few small traces of melted marshmallow in her hair, but we were there and ready to participate!  I am grateful for our church family!

Our worship leader Josh Bales preached a sermon on "The Feast of the Holy Name."  (Yes, we do get a bit liturgical in our mellow little Presbyterian church!) Apparently in the lectionary of many churches, the Sunday after Christmas commemorates when Jesus was named, as we read in Luke 2:21. "On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived."

Josh reminded us how closely names are connected with identity. Throughout the Bible, we find the importance of names, such as Adam naming the animals, or Jacob ("deceiver") being renamed Israel ("to prevail") when he wrestled with God, or Naomi ("pleasant and delightful") calling herself Mara ("bitter") when her life turned sour.  (I spoke and wrote about this after my daughter Naomi was born.  See Nurturing Naomi: How to Help Yourself or Someone Else Overcome Discouragement.  It's been a tough year, and I really need to absorb those truths again!  Here's to a better 2012!)

On our continent, the Native Americans give multiple names throughout life.  At birth, they expressed hopes for the child's character, perhaps naming for an animal that signified it.  Later on in life, new names might commemorate a personality trait, strength, or accomplishment. The Puritans often used virtue names such as Prudence or Patience, or, if they were feeling particularly preachy or long-winded, hortatory names like Kill-Sin or If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned  (known as "Damned" Barebones for short). We used Melody as a first name for our youngest daughter, and Grace, Joy, Hope, and Faith as middle names for four other daughters.  Just a little reminder for them!  Julia actually wanted to be known as Grace or Gracie when she was in middle school. :-)

Recounting a story of when he was in seminary in Chicago and traveling as a singer/songwriter, Josh Bales told of a time when he arrived at O'Hare airport thoroughly tired and discouraged.  As he plunked his guitar and other luggage down on the curb at the departure area, an old bell cap looked him over and asked, "What's your name, Son?",  then, "Josh? Well, Joshua brought back a good report.  You bring a good report back, too."  What an encouragement to live up to his name and not be disheartened by life!

Jesus certainly lived up to his name, which means "God saves."  (He is also known as Immanuel, which means "God with us.") And it is because of his name and the reconciliation with the Father that he brings to us, those who believe in him can live in a new identity as ones who are deeply loved of God.  

Abba's Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging, Expanded Edition  -     
        By: Brennan Manning
As Brennan Manning writes in his book Abba's Child, a major source of discontent is our struggle for identity.  When we live as the Beloved, we can strip off the impostor image we are trying to present to others, which for someone like me might be "Super Mom" or, as I am sometimes called by others, "Home School Guru."  We don't need that anymore.  His image, his essence, is enough for us. One of Manning's quotes gleaned from the church bulletin: "Living in the awareness of our belovedness is the axis around which the Christian life revolves.  Being the beloved is our identity, the core of our existence.  It is not merely a lofty thought, and inspiring idea, or one name among many.  It is the name by which God knows us and the way he relates to us."  I need to pull that book off my shelf and finish reading it.  In the middle of the trials and insults of life, it is so easy for me to lose sight of being Beloved.  

Instead of striving in our own strength for worth and significance or craving approval and acceptance (maybe because we have been wounded by others?), we can rest in our identity with the name of Jesus.  There are so many spiritual blessings in his name: we believe in his name for our salvationour sins are forgiven in his name, we are justified in his name, we pray in his name, we have life in his name, we have power in his name, we are baptized in his nameand at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord.  (Click on each phrase to see a passage.)

This morning we took communion to remind us of our identity with Christ and with one another, pulling morsels of bread from the one loaf and dipping them into grape juice or wine. The gentle voice (God through human) calling my name: "Virginia, the body of Christ broken for you..."

I enjoyed the music very much this morning.  It is somehow always related to the sermon, and this week was no exception.  Here are two songs we sang this morning.  If you can't play the embedded videos from your feed reader or e-mail version of the blog you can visit the actual post on-line.

"He Knows My Name"
by Tommy Walker
(click on title above to listen on YouTube)

I have a Maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in his hands

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And He hears me when I call
.com/lyrics/t/tommy_walker/he_knows_my_name.html ]
I have a Father
He calls me His own
He'll never leave me
No matter where I go

"How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds"
John Newton (who also wrote "Amazing Grace") 

How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
’Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary, rest.

Dear Name, the Rock on which I build,
My Shield and Hiding Place,
My never failing treasury, filled
With boundless stores of grace!

By Thee my prayers acceptance gain,
Although with sin defiled;
Satan accuses me in vain,
And I am owned a child.

Jesus! my Shepherd, Husband, Friend,
O Prophet, Priest and King,
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
Accept the praise I bring.

Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I’ll praise Thee as I ought.

Till then I would Thy love proclaim
With every fleeting breath,
And may the music of Thy Name
Refresh my soul in death!

This is a very old hymn, but we sang an updated version to this tune:

And finally, this offertory song (which doesn't talk about the name of Jesus, but relates well with the sermon anyway):

"Only to sit and think of God, Oh what a joy it is!
To think the thought, to breathe the Name,
Earth has no higher bliss."
Frederick W. Faber

"Eternal Father, 
you gave to your incarnate Son 
the holy name of Jesus 
to be the sign of our salvation: 
Plant in every heart, we pray, 
the love of him who is the Savior of the world, 
our Lord Jesus Christ; 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, in glory everlasting. Amen."

Grace in his name,
Virginia Knowles

P.S. Want to read more? 

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