Sunday, January 01, 2017

Sermon: Circumcision and Name of Jesus – 2017

1 January 2017

Text: Luke 2:21 (Num 6:22-27, Gal 3:23-29)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

There is no name more powerful.  It is the name above every name.  It is the name of God.  It is the name by which we are being saved.  It is also a name used as a curse by some.  It is a name reviled by many.  It is a name praised by angels and scorned by devils.  

So what’s in a name?  The name “Jesus” is the Latinized form of the Greek name “Iesous,” which is itself a Hellenized version of the old Hebrew name “Joshua” a name which itself means: “The Lord saves.”

Of course, many boys were and are named Joshua.  Their name is a confession of the saving grace of God.  But this Joshua whom we call “the Christ” is different.  He is the pinnacle of all Joshuas.  For He is the Son of God, who “was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.”

There were and are Joshuas who proclaim the salvation of the Lord, Joshuas – like the leader of Israel who came right after Moses and led the people to the Promised Land – Joshuas who speak the Word of God – but our Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all of those declarations that “The Lord saves.” 

The name of the Lord Jesus was given to Him at His circumcision, at His official public reception into the people of God.  He is not simply one of God’s people, He is God in person.  He is not one being saved, but the One who saves.  He is not merely a spiritual being, but a flesh and blood boy with a flesh and blood existence, bound with humanity according to His flesh, and the Savior of humanity according to His blood.  “The Lord saves.”

What does it mean that Jesus saves?  To save is to rescue.  And in the Greek of the New Testament, to be saved is also to be healed, to be cured.  For we are all suffering from the malady of mortality.  We are all dying.  Day by day and year by year.  We celebrate that a new year has come, a time of fresh starts and opportunities to improve, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  But the paradox is this: we are also another year closer to our own death.  For fallen humanity has a common mortal sickness.  And what we really need goes beyond resolutions and new habits.  Dear friends, what we need is a cure.

Jesus is the cure.

That, dear brothers and sisters, is why we revere the Holy Name of Jesus. For words are not simply codes that point to things only for the sake of communication – we humans are hardwired to think in language.  And in fact, before the first man was created, “in the beginning was the Word.”  Jesus is the Word, He is the resonation of the very creative voice and will of God.  He was with God in the beginning, and He was God. He is God.  And even as a physical human being, He remains God even unto eternity.  And we call upon His name as our Cure and our Physician, our Savior who made us, and who fixes us.

And so the name of Jesus is truly like no other name.  We are baptized into His Holy Name when we are baptized into the name – the single name – of the three persons of the Holy Trinity.  “For as many of you who as were baptized into Christ have put on His name,” says St. Paul.  This means that we have put on salvation itself: “The Lord saves.” His name is wedded to our name. He calls us by name even as a Good Shepherd beckons His sheep to follow Him.  His name is the God who saves, and our names, dear friends, as Christians, are the ones saved by God.  

His Holy Name was placed on a sign for all the world to see, in three different world languages, along with His title: the King.  This sign was nailed to a cross along with our Lord and Savior and King Himself.  And nowhere, dear brothers and sisters, is the mighty name of Jesus, more powerfully displayed than upon Golgotha, where our Savior, God Himself in flesh and blood, took upon Himself the sins of the world.  Jesus, God saves, as blood and water poured from His very heart – means by which we are saved.  And He has given us – according to His almighty Word – a means by which His perfect flesh and blood are transfused bodily to us, restoring us according to the promise of the Gospel, the Word of its proclamation, by His name in Baptism and by His crucified and victorious flesh and blood by the means of bread and wine.

Jesus: The Lord saves!  He saves us hanging upon the cross, at the font, by the Words spoken at the lectern and pulpit, and in the saving Eucharist distributed from the altar.  Our New and Greater Joshua likewise picks up where Moses left off, where the Law held us captive and imprisoned.  And like the Joshua of old, our Lord Jesus Christ leads us to the Promised Land, “in order that we might be justified by faith.”

And crossing the Jordan, we are baptized into His name even as we are led to everlasting life.  We are saved by no less than God Himself, even as God who allowed Himself to be circumcised on the eighth day – the day after the Sabbath, the first day of the new week of creation. And it was to be the first day of the new week when our Lord’s tomb was found empty, the day after the Sabbath, the day we now call “Sunday.”  And Sunday is the weekly return to the name of Jesus, to the confession that the Lord saves us, even a Lord of flesh and blood – whose flesh and blood are given out to the people who are being saved, given out on this first day of the new week, the first day of the year, the first day of the new creation.

The Lord saves, dear friends, for we gather in the name of Jesus.  We pray in the name of Jesus.  We live in the name of Jesus.  We die in the name of Jesus.  And we rise again in the name of Jesus.

Jesus.  The Lord saves.

And when we gather in the name of Jesus, when we receive the flesh and blood of Jesus, we also hear the benediction of Jesus as spoken through the priests who are authorized to speak the Word of God to the people, proclaiming that the Lord saves: The Lord blesses, the Lord makes His face shine upon you, the Lord lifts up His countenance upon you.

The Lord gives you peace because the Lord saves.  That is Jesus.  That is His name.  “So they shall put My name upon the people of Israel,” says the God who saves, “and I will bless them.”  Blessings in the name of Jesus, dear Christians, blessings for a new year and a new life that will never end, in His Most Holy Name. Amen.

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

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