Saturday, December 31, 2016

Feast of the Holy Name

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. (Luke 2:21)

Before he was conceived: that is early. Perhaps not so early for some eager parents, but paired with the giver of the name, a lot to anticipate for a little baby.

Expectation. That is part of what comes with a baptism. The name we give a child, the name with which we greet them, says something of our hope for them, for our relationship with them, and for their relationship with the world.

We want Barack to be Blessed, as their name implies, and we want them to be a blessing.

John, meaning God is gracious, as in John the Baptist or John the Evangelist, we expect to send us that message: God is gracious.

Perhaps we name a child after a living relative whom we wish to honor. Or perhaps we name a child after an ancestor, someone whose name we wish to live on in memory.

We put something of ourselves into a name, then. A hope. A connection. A relationship.

And then we come to this day, the first of January, and remember the greatest name - and naming - of all.

His name will be called Jesus (Y'shua, "God saves"). For he will be the deliverer of his people. And so he was. And so he is.

That is what we remember today. That is what we recollect and bring into our own present. The knowledge that the greatest of all names is given not to the loudest or the largest or the tallest. It is given to the one to whom it is given by God.

And it is given to us, to gather us together, a banner above us, and a flag to follow.

For it is the one name, the true name, that we are to follow. And to follow it means to live in love. To bear hope into the world. And more than that to bear his name and carry his message, in word and in action.

And so we make these promises, the gift of the baptismal covenant of our people, that we will carry that burden of love, bear that message of hope, and come forward when we are called to follow. For we are his people, and he is our God.

(The Baptismal Covenant is found on pages 304-305 of the Book of Common Prayer.)

Living into the Holy Name

So what do we do about it? How do we go about bearing his name, carrying his burden, carrying out his mission in the world - today?

Those vows we recite in the Baptismal Rite give us a push.

5. Every person is made in the image of God and deserves the respect, the forbearance, and the fair treatment that status implies.

4. For in each person is God’s image, somehow present in their making, however hidden or obvious to us, however different or the same as us, and so to love ourselves and our neighbor is to welcome and embrace the presence of Christ - in each other.

3. What we do and what we say tell the story: we are the ones with Jesus, we are his people, and we have a story to tell like no other: a story of power and freedom, of liberation.

2. We will fall down sometimes, instead of standing up for ourselves or others, and we will need to seek repair for those rifts in God’s fabric. We are called to do so and we are assured of his love.

1. For we gather together in prayer. We seek God alone in prayer. We listen and take in the teaching of the church that is our Christian tradition, for there is a lot to learn from those who have gone before us on The Way.

0. We will break bread together as we have from the beginning, that Christ’s table may be present to us and we with all the disciples share his supper.

Identity and Vocation

For Jews, Christians, and Muslims, identity is a gift and a calling. We are creatures before we are anything else, fragile and corruptible yet made for a reason, with a unique part to play in the working out of the divine plan. Vocation - such a beautiful word - runs deeper than the usual identity markers. Vocation is fixed from the moment of conception (“before I formed you in the womb, I knew you”), and it is here, if anywhere, that our personality finds its stable center. Yet vocation is also fluid, telic, oriented toward change (“no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”).  
(Carol Zaleski, The Christian Century, November 23, 2016, 35.)

Identity and vocation are both specific and generic, both ontic and telic, both being and becoming.

We both are, and are becoming, who we are called to be.

“Before you were knit in the womb, I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5).

Our goal is to become fully human, fully Christian; to become who we are called to be.

We cannot become again the people that we thought we were but we can become the people we know we are called to be.

And we can work for our world to become what it is longing to be.

You are named both because of who you uniquely are and because you are called to become in Christ a fully human person.

We cannot make the world paradise again, but we can work for the coming kingdom of heaven.

O Lord our governor, •
  how glorious is your name in all the world! (Psalm 8:1)

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

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