Weekly Sermon (9)

Sermon – July 2, 2023

Sometimes, use words…

July 2, 2023

Scriptures: Romans 6:12-14, Matthew 10:40-42

I have long spoken about a truth I learned years ago regarding the term, ‘In the Name’. We find it throughout the bible in both the New and Old Testaments and because of that I think it is important to understand what it meant to those who actually spoke it and wrote it into our faith record. Biblically, to do or to say something ‘in the name’ of someone else, is to do so in such a way as to encompass all that that named one is…in other words to say or to do something as a full and truthful representative of the one who is named, and to do so with full awareness that the word or action spoken or done is a truthful representation of the one named.

Therefore, when Jesus says that ‘anyone who welcomes another ‘in my name’’, he is saying that a welcoming offered in that way carries the full weight and goodness of Jesus himself. So, when we do or say something in the name of Jesus, it is as though we are the hands or voice directly of our Lord Jesus as the Spirit works within us. Which, come to think of it, is a pretty heavy responsibility.

But it is also my belief and in my experience that our Lord seeks out and finds those who are lost or who are seeking in a way that ‘best fits their personal story and the measure of their need’. Meaning Jesus comes to us in the way we need to best hear or understand that in fact it is the Lord who is reaching out to us. But, and this has always intrigued me…I  truly feel that as we seek to do this ‘welcoming’ of others under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that this ‘fitting of the Lord’s style to an individual’, does not necessarily always mean with the name of our Lord actually being said.  The Spirit reaches out to an individual in such a way as to meet that individual’s particular spiritual need at that time. Even though I do believe that the sharing of the name of our Lord will surely come…it may not do so at first. For some people’s personal life story may at first be resistant to hearing about, or from God…perhaps through a negative early experience with the church, a personal tragedy, injury, or loss, or a misunderstanding of the true nature of our God. These individuals may not be able to hear, if at first it is revealed that the one speaking or acting, is doing so in the name of our Lord Jesus. They may need to feel the love and grace we have to offer and extend before knowing that the source is not us but the Christ who lives within us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Which is not to worry, for if we truly are living out our call to ‘live in the name’ of our Lord, then what we do, what we say, and how we present ourselves to the world will already be revealing the true nature of our God. And that holy and blessed love which we share is in itself capable of both causing great change, and inspiring profound hope. I guess in essence, what I am saying is that sometimes ‘covert Christianity’ or ‘covert loving’, can be just as effective as standing on a soapbox on the street corner and sharing the love of our Lord out loudly. But in each case it must be the Spirit who directs the conversation or action.

Which reminds me of a song we had our youth choir sing years ago. It was recorded by the band Alabama and titled, ‘Angels Among Us’. The song was written by a woman named Becky Hobbs and was inspired by a car accident she had in which she felt she survived because she had been watched over by a ‘guardian angel’. She held onto the idea for several years and eventually wrote the song in collaboration with fellow country songwriter Don Goodman.  

Quite inspiring, the message of the song ties in well with today’s scripture in a way, in terms of how we are to engage with the world as holders and carriers of the light and love of our Lord. The song also echoes one of my favorite verses from scripture found in Hebrews chapter 13 and verse 2 where the author states, ‘Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it’.

Which is all well and good, but in truth, it is not always so easy to actually live into all that the Lord is asking of us. That too, I find, is something that gets better with practice…lots of practice…as well as a full measure of forgiveness for those times we don’t quite reflect the actual intensity of God’s love.

‘Welcoming’ it seems is an important part of our calling and one we need to be quite good at if we want to do it in the way our Lord is asking. Jesus’ words were, ‘Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me…’. Now the only way for that to happen, is for us to already be living ‘into the name’ of our Lord, for how else could someone be welcoming Jesus in otherwise?

This week’s gospel reading follows on directly from last week’s, and ties in as well with last week’s meditation. Last week we talked of ‘wondering and wandering’ how we can be in this world, but not be a part of all that is opposed to God’s love and God’s will. We spoke of how we are called to be the hands, voice, eyes and ears of the Spirit as we are empowered and called to action on behalf of the Holy Spirit. And we also considered that it is indeed possible to change the world one small community at a time. Therefore ‘being one who is welcomed’, or being one who by being welcomed, is allowing Christ to be welcomed also, is participation in the rush of goodness that is the wind of God’s Spirit.

But as I have also said many times, this responsibility to truthfully and visibly reflect the ‘name of our Lord’ is both an individual, as well as a corporate or group task…something that requires all of us to take part. And again, as being able to reflect the love of God through our personal lives, words, and actions is something that gets better with practice, so too as a group it takes a while to learn to respond to others who come to us with the full presence of our Lord. But it can be done, in fact it may be a little easier as a group, as being surrounded by others who are all seeking to be loving offers a certain measure of corrective influence for our weaker less loving moments.

This week I was speaking to a business associate who at one point asked me how many members we had in our church. When I told him that there were about 30 names on the rolls he looked worried and said, ‘that’s rather small, isn’t it?’ I then shared that there were equally as many who were not on the membership rolls who were very active participants in our outreach efforts to the community.

And I believe that is so, because the image we present to the world, the image of us here in our church, is that of a fellowship not only caring deeply about one another and about our community, but a group of individuals who are having a lot of fun doing it! For you see, community that is organized around the principle of living and acting ‘in the name’ is in itself innately attractive. Jesus said ‘I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people unto myself’. He also said, ‘wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them’. Our task then is both to lift up our Lord by reflecting his grace and compassion, and to do so in groups of ‘two or more’, for then we will surely be doing everything in the fullness and love of our God.

Quite simply, if we live as a loving community, people will be drawn to Christ…it is both biblical, as well as our shared experience. We need never fret not about who is or is not in here at the moment. For many are seeking, and we have something so unique to offer them if we stay true to our calling.

So, let us continue to reach out in love to all who come seeking. To offer a hand to those in need as we seek to share all that we have been so blessed to receive. Let our actions speak loudly of how blessed we are, and our lives reflect the joy and strength we gain from one another.

Let our every thought and action give evidence that we reside ‘in the name of our Lord’

…and if necessary…and at the right time…let us also use words…


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