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Monday, 15 August 2016

Feast of the holy name of Jesus

And His name shall be called 
Wonderful Councillor, 
The Mighty God, 
The Everlasting Father, 
The Prince Of Peace.

*The Following is a transcript of an oral sermon - presented by Fr Matthew to his Parish*
(Sunday 7th August 2016) Today is the feast of the holy name of Jesus.
The church has this feast which focuses in on the name of Jesus and the power of that name. The power of salvation. It may seem strange that there is a focus on the name specifically, but particularly in the hebrew and ancient cultures they understood that the name stood-in for the person or the thing represented and that there was power in the name that was attached to the person. The name really did stand in for the person.

The name of Jesus is an interesting one in that it is the same as the name Joshua from the Old Testament and it means "Yahweh saves". We say Joshua, the ancient Hebrews would probably have said Yeshua or Yehoshua depending on how much they shortened it. It became Isus in the Greek and Jesus for us. It is the same name. This is not unique as there are a number of names that have many different forms and we recognise and use them. In our culture it is not considered fitting to call some young boy Jesus when he is born but it is actually quite acceptable in various South American cultures for example (Heyzuis) is Jesus. Names are funny things, I know of one family who loved the name John so much that they gave 3 of their sons the name John, just all in a different form. So there was John, Sean, and Ian. They are in fact all John. Just a Scottish, an Irish and an English version. I suppose it is a good thing that they didn't have a daughter they were going to call Joan.

The power of the name is a very important concept in scripture. It is not just a Hebrew culture thing because the scriptures tell us that God The Son can also be considered to be God The Word. So Yes words have power. The Word Of God which created the Universe. So, Jesus is not just a word, it is a name that has with it the power of the one that it represents.

We heard today in Acts one of those very early sermons of St Peter about the power of that name. It says he was filled with the Holy Spirit as he spoke to those leaders and this interestingly enough was a fulfilment of prophesy because Jesus had told them in the Gospels that they would stand before governers, kings and rulers and not to worry about what they were going to say when they were in that situation when they were (if you like) up-against-it before the rulers because the Holy Spirit would put into their mouths what they needed to say and that is exactly what happened for St Peter. That is how we start that passage off  "Then Peter filled with the Holy Spirit said to them "Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerninging a good deed done to a criple (they just healed one) and by what means this man has been healed be it known to you all that all the people of israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man is standing before you well"" So that was probably something that if the Holy Spirit hadn't put it into his mouth as it is something he wouldn't have said. Do you want to know who healed this guy? Jesus! the one you just killed! (not making a point or anything). And then he goes on to say "this is the stone that was rejected by you builders" and he is refering to again an ancient Hebrew prophosy, that is a text from the Old Testament. The stone rejected by the builders, He says "That which has become the head of the corner", again quoting from the Old Testament. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven to men by which we must be saved. So, obviously faith in Jesus is faith in the person, not of the word jesus, and yet words do have power especially in prayer and in faith.

The name Jesus means "Yahweh saves" and yet the scriptures tell us over and over again that Jesus saves, so it is telling us that this is not just a man. Although it is a man, His name is "Yahweh saves" and He saves. So that makes sence of the Old Testament lesson we began with of the three readings "His name shall be called wonderful councillor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince Of Peace." Now obviously that is not to be taken litterally as if somebody was litterally called in an everyday sence The Wonderful Councillor The Mighty God The Everlasting Father The Prince Of Peace, that's a bit long for an actual everyday name. But it is the significance of His name.

If He is Yahweh then He is The Wonderful Councilor, The Mighty God; the one that gives some people trouble is The Everlasting Father but in fact Jesus tells us in the Gospels That He carries the representation of The Father, He says to the apostles if you have seen me you have seen the Father. Not because He simply is identical to the Father (He prays to the Father and it would be a bit silly to pray to himself) but he represents the Father. So, when we talk about the heart of Christ, The Sacred Heart of Jesus and we refer to the love that pores forth from that heart, when we talk about the pierced heart of Christ we have to remember that the heart of Jesus is also the heart of The Father. The love of the Father is also the love of Jesus, They are one. Yes, they are distinct. But Jesus represents the fatherhood of God to us. He brings us into the family of God. Indeed He brings us into the family which IS God through the power of that name because He saves us from ourselves, from our sins and thus He becomes as it says in that passage The Prince Of Peace, and what is the peace primarily spoken of there? It is peace between us and God, and between us and the bretheren. We become people of Peace because we are reconciled to God and therefore at peace.

So, the name of Jesus is powerful and it is powerful in prayer, which is why we have prayers like the Jesus prayer. It comes in various forms and the simpliest one is the repetition of meditation on that one word "Jesus" and all that it represents. So, today as we have this feast which commemorates and glorifies the name yahwah saves (Jesus) let us let that name be precious to us and make it a thing beautiful in our lives, as was meditate on the name, as we use it reverentially in prayer and indeed you may have noticed at times (when I remember to do it) I bow my head at the name Jesus during sermons and during readings and even at the altar. That is an ancient Catholic tradition specifically carried on in the Anglican tradition, you don't see it as much in the rest of the western church but we do carry it on. It is something we do at each liturgy to remind ourselves of the glory of the name of Christ, the name of Jesus. Let us hold that name sacred and remember it is not just a word but it has power and as we hold onto the name of Jesus in faith and call upon Jesus we are saved by Yahweh.

In the name of The Father and of The Son and of The Holy Spirit. Amen

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