Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || VIDEO
INI + AMEN.
What’s in a name? Abram: mighty father. Abraham: Father of many. Eliezer/Lazarus (same name): My God Helps. John: Gift of Yahweh. Moses: “Drawn from the water.” (That’s all the people named as authors or included in our readings today.)
What’s in a name? What about the LORD’s name? Jesus: “Yahweh saves.” His name isn’t some wish for a child’s future. It’s not some thoughts about how this child is a gift. Or some thoughts about the child’s birth. The Lord’s name isn’t about whatever other reason people in our texts got their names, or why you’ve got or I’ve got the names we got.
Jesus (“Yahweh saves”) is called Jesus because “He will save His people from their sins.” The Lord’s name is all about who He is for you, as it’s recorded in Exodus: “Yahweh descended in the cloud and stood with Moses there, and proclaimed the name of Yahweh. Yahweh passed before Moses and proclaimed, ‘Yahweh, Yahweh, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.’”
The Lord’s name shows that He saves, but the Lord’s name also saves. Where the Lord’s name, there the Lord. So the Psalmist says, “O God, save me by Your name.” A promise made good in your Baptism. “Baptism saves you,” as Peter says, because in Holy Baptism you were baptized “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” There Jesus’ salvation delivered, there the Lord’s saving name delivered, there you were claimed and named by the God Himself—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Names are important. So is reputation that goes along with that name. A name and reputation is damaged by bad words or deeds. Lee Harvey, John Wilkes, and Judas aren’t good names anymore. This is how things are in the world. Your name has a record. Marriage license, driver’s license, birth certificate, social security card, bank records, medical records, police records, court records, legal records, report cards, transcripts, diplomas, loan papers, collection notices, titles, deeds, wills, powers of attorney—whatever mishmash of those sorts of things you’ve got, they’ve got one thing in common: your name.
Besides all that paper trail, there’s the tally of what you’ve done or what you’ve failed to do with those around. You might be able to escape a lot of things in this world, but you can’t escape your paper trail—your name’s on it! And you certainly can’t work past the memories people hold on to either. Isn’t that frustrating? But we’re used it, and sadly we do it to others. People bear the mark of what the’ve done or failed to do for you. A grudge is nothing other than you making sure that that person who wronged you permanently has that wrong attached to their name, either just to you, or to all your friends and family.
We label others by what they’ve done, and then, they’re always that, even after they’re dead. But for yourself, you don’t want that. We bristle against it. Only good things in your obituary. But the way of the world is that the past is never forgotten, and, depending on what you’ve done, it will never be forgiven. Our flesh imports that into the Christian faith, and then as Christians we work that way towards others. Naming them with their sins. Naming ourselves with our good deeds. Playing the comparison game, and then we use the circumstances of life to determine if our judgment is right or wrong. So people are named with their works. Who you are and what you do are synonyms in the world.
Name and reputation are important in the world. So are the good things you do for your neighbor. Mercy for them, caring for them. Sometimes they just want crumbs. Like Lazarus in the parable. Good and bad are often your name in the world, but how does this naming work with the Lord?
What’s in a name before the LORD? What about the rich man? Notice I haven’t mentioned him yet. Now, he had a name, but in Jesus’ parable he doesn’t have that name, doesn’t have any name. But yet he does. He is the “rich” man. In the parable, the rich man carries the name of his god. He’s the rich man because he trusted in his wealth, his riches. “was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted every day.” He trusted in those things. He trusted in his ability to get them. He was safe and secure with the riches he’d gathered up. His god produced works in him: selfishness, labeling Lazarus as one of “those people.”
Before the LORD Lazarus had a name. The LORD knows Lazarus’ name because he clung to the LORD’s name, His saving name. He trusted in the LORD who saved him, who cared for him, who was His LORD no matter what he did or experienced or suffered. The LORD put His own name on Lazarus, claimed Lazarus as His own. And so, in the eyes of the Lord, Lazarus had a name, and his Name was written in the Book of Life.
You, too, the Lord knows your name. He’s given you His name. He takes away any sort of other label, sin or good work, He gives you the label of His works for you. Christ died and rose for you, for your sins, for the good you do to make up for them. Through the Lord’s name given you in baptism you are labeled, marked, with the death and resurrection of Jesus. His for you, made yours in baptism. And you no longer bear the name of false gods—your work, your money, your stuff, whatever else you put your trust in. The Lord’s name is yours, and your name is His, written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Forsaking His name, results in being labeled with something else—your sins, your false god, whatever you put your trust in to save you or put your trust in to at least drown out your problems. like the rich man. But the Lord will have none of that for you. That’s not what He wants for you. He sent His Son for you. He given you His name—Father, Son, Holy Spirit—in Holy Baptism. He feeds you with the crumbs from His table—His body and blood for the forgiven of your sins even to the resurrection of your body on the Last Day.
You’re always His no matter what. In your good time and in your bad times, the Lord’s name endures. His eyes are on you to save you. And after you’re dead, you will still have His name, you’ll still be known to Him. He will enlighten your eyes, open them up again on the Last Day, and then you’ll see Him face to face. And what we just sung will be true of you:
Lord, let at last Thine angels come,
To Abram’s bosom bear me home,
That I may die unfearing;
And in its narrow chamber keep
My body safe in peaceful sleep
Until Thy reappearing.
And then from death awaken me,
That these mine eyes with joy may see,
O Son of God, Thy glorious face,
My Savior and my fount of grace.
Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend,
And I will praise Thee without end.
INI + AMEN.