Sunday, January 1, 2012

"Our Holy Names" -- A sermon for the Feast of the Holy Name

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral at 10 am on the Feast of the Holy Name, Sunday, January 1, 2012

“After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”

Some good news to start this New Year.

At about 11:30 Wednesday night, December 28, after a long pregnancy and labor, Anne and Perry Trolard’s child was born. A nine-pound boy.

When I got the news, I asked Anne “does he have a name?” And she said, “Not yet. We want to get to know him a little bit.”

Now some people might call that new parents being nervous and indecisive. But I think that shows an appreciation for what names are. Names are our parents’ dreams for us. They honor friends and ancestors. Parents choose names as they dream of what good of the past their new child will embody and what new things they hope this new child will become.

That was certainly true for Robin and me. First of all, let me tell you it is no easy task choosing a name when one of the choosers is an elementary school teacher. I can’t tell you how many names were taken off the table because of an association with a child in some past class. But choose we did. For our first child, after spending some time considering Jack, after my dad’s brother who was killed in World War II, we settled on Schroedter … my mother’s maiden name. For our second child, we chose Hayden planning on calling him Hays, in honor of one of the most dear and honorable people we knew, our former Bishop Hays Rockwell.

And of course each of them have taken those names and have shaped them, becoming their own person. And maybe someday someone will look over their new child, and dream of who he might be, and think of them.

So Anne and Perry took their time, got to know their son, and thought about what their dreams were for him.

Of all the ways each of us is different from the other, one thing we have in common is that, sometime after our birth, someone gave each of us a name that was a hope and a dream for us.

Just for a moment, find one person next to you and share what you know of the story of your name. Where does it come from? What does it mean? And if you don’t know either, share what it means to you. You might have to triple up in some cases but make sure nobody is sitting by themselves.

People take 2-3 minutes and share stories of names.

Names are powerful. Names are who we are and dreams of what we will become.

Today is the Feast of the Holy Name. Where eight days after his birth, Mary and Joseph took their child to have him circumcised … to mark that he was not an outsider but part of the family of faith. And something else happened … he was given a name. A name that represented the best of his ancestors. A name that was the hope and dream of who he would become. A name that was given not just by Mary and Joseph but by an angel who knew this child was indeed God incarnate.

"After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus.”

Jesus – the name given by the angel, God’s own messenger.

Jesus – also translated Yeshua or Joshua – the great ancestor who finally led the people out of the wilderness and into the promised land.

Jesus – which literally means “God is salvation”

Even though there are many different reasons why we come here this morning another thing we all have in common is when we come here, we are gathering as people of many names and many dreams in the name of one person. We are gathering in the name of Jesus.

And so, for just a few minutes, let’s look at what that means.

We gather in the name of Jesus. We gather in the name of the one whose name and whose life proclaims, “God is salvation.”

Every waking moment, we are so aware of what we dearly wish we could be saved from: Fear. Rejection. Loss. Loneliness. Hunger. Doubt. Uncertainty. Anger. Addiction. Debt. The list goes on and on and on. And every waking moment, we are sold a bill of goods that promises to save us but never truly delivers.

Mostly, we are sold the lie that spending and consuming can save us. The lie that there is no itch that cannot be scratched by just buying one more thing. But it is a lie. Because no matter how much we buy or consume, there is still a hole left at the end of the day. Even though whatever anesthetic we choose might dull the pain for a while, the fear, rejection, loss, doubt, uncertainty … all of it is still there.

And so we gather in Jesus name. We gather in the name of the one whose very name proclaims something different. Proclaims that God is salvation.

God is salvation. What saves us? The truth that there is a God who knows our truest name. A God who knows our best dreams and sees us as deeply beautiful. What saves us? The truth that there is a God whose knowledge of us is so deep and whose love for us is so boundless that there is no need for fear, no rejection that can matter, no loss that can ever be permanent.

Are you afraid? God is salvation.

Are you lonely? God is salvation.

Are you hungry? Are you angry or sad or imprisoned by addiction?

God is salvation.

It’s an amazing truth. But like most amazing truths, what wells up in us when we here it is the question of Mary at the annunciation: “But how can that be?”

Well, it can be because when we gather in the name of Jesus, we take on the name of Jesus. When we gather in the name of the one whose name proclaims that God is salvation, we become the bearers of that salvation – to each other and to the world.

When we gather in Jesus name, together we become Jesus, we become the Body of Christ. We become ambassadors and agents of salvation. And how do we do that? How does God do that through us? The same way the original Jesus did. One person at a time. By learning each other’s names. By loving and saving the world one life, one name at a time.

Did you ever notice that Jesus never healed huge groups of people. Every healing story in the Gospels is intensely personal. Jesus meets each person, gets to know them, learns their name – even the demons -- and loves them with a depth of love that cannot help but save them. And as the Body of Christ gathered in Jesus’ name, that is our gift as well.

It starts by doing what we just did this morning. It starts with sharing and learning a name. It starts with turning to the person next to us and saying, “This is who I am. Tell me who you are.”

Gathering in Jesus’ name is not about building huge programs that give a little bit of help to faceless, nameless crowds. Who we are and what we are about … gathering in Jesus’ name … is intensely personal. It is meeting one another – in here and out there -- meeting one another and getting to know one another and loving each other in ways specifically tailored to each person with a depth of love that cannot help but save us from whatever pain we need saving from.

It means sharing our dreams and sharing our wounds with one another. It means not only risking loving but risking letting ourselves be loved. It means not just talking to and spending time with the people we know and like but reaching out to the stranger and letting them reach out to us. It means sharing and learning a name. Finding a stranger and saying, “This is who I am. Tell me who you are.” And discovering together that God is using each for the other in the mystical and wondrous dance of love and salvation.

Anne and Perry did settle on a name for their son. Lorne Lucas Trolard. I’ll leave it to them to tell you why they chose it and what this name means. But mostly, I’ll leave it to all of us to, as Lorne grows, get to know him better and let him get to know us. To say to him “Lorne, this is who I am, show me who you are.” To look for ways we can let God love him through us and let God love us through him.

To proclaim together that God is salvation and to be that salvation for one another. To live with him as fellow members of the Body of Christ, the gathering of the Holy Name of Jesus. AMEN.

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