@ the Name of Jesus           |           Philippians 2:5-11   |   3/16/2008

The year is 1750, the place a village in West Africa. Excitement fills the village as an infant son has been born to a young couple, Omoro and Binta. It is a special time for it is a time of naming. You see, the Mandikas, the tribe to which Omoro and Binta belong, believe the name given carries great significance.

Thus, a couple takes time-(seven days to be exact)-for contemplating, pausing, reflecting, before deciding upon a name. During the seven days, there is festivity, feasting, and dancing as the people wait in great anticipation to hear the name.

Omoro knows the importance of what he must do. You see, it was believed a child will bear seven characteristics of the thing or person for which it is named.

Late last year a Chinese couple attempted to name their baby “@.” Not even A-T, but the symbol @!!

The child’s name is “At.” Apparently, the couple cited deep meaning in the child’s name. When combined, the pronunciation of the Chinese characters for “a” and “t” sounds like a phrase that would pay homage to the baby’s father. Explaining the symbol-name, baby @’s dad says, “The whole world uses it to write e-mails and, translated into Chinese, it means ‘love him.’”

Let’s hope that baby @ is an anomaly. Otherwise, if the pregnancy is a surprise, why not name the child “?” or “!” or even “!!!” or perhaps “%&#@” (that string of symbols we sometimes see attyribvuted to startled cartoon characters!

Teacher says, “What’s your name, little boy?”
Little boy says, “My name is Percent Ampersand PoundSign At.” Okaaaay.

What's in a name, you say? Well. . . that depends. 
In this text, the name of
Jesus has strong implications for us. Paul invokes Jesus’ name in today’s passage — in fact, this name has life-altering implications.

Any person with at least some knowledge of Scripture has confronted this text in Philippians 2. This
Christ hymn has generated more theological ink and more Biblical interpretation than most other sections of the New Testament.

  • Scholars discuss and debate the kenosis of the Christ. Exactly what did Christ empty himself of? How does this impact our understanding of the hypostatic union — fully God yet fully human?
 
  • We speak of the humility of Jesus, laying aside his rights, his status and his glory in the interest of people like you and me. His downward mobility for our upward mobility.
 
  • We speak of the incarnation of Christ — literally “taking on flesh.” And when we “let the same mind be in [us] that was in ChristJesus” (v. 5), then we’re pressed to consider how we might lilve out the mind of Christ in our own lives.

But then Paul adds a reference to the power of the name of Jesus, and it’s a subject we don’t often think about on Palm Sunday.

Jesus is the name above “every name” (v. 9). And his is the name at which everyone will bend a knee and confess by tongue (vv. 10-11).
 
9Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
 
This fits so well with the triumphal spirit of Palm Sunday. People bowing and worshiping and publicly claiming the carpenter as the Christ. A bowing in the presence of authority, a curtsy, if you will, in the presence of royalty. They were showing respect on Palm Sunday when Jesus appeared on a not so respected mount-- a young donkey.

We don’t do that anymore. In our culture, we show little respect to those of positions of authority, / partly because those in positions of authority have abused their position, / but it’s also true that we’re a little short on respect toward anyone.
A rabbi was asked how it could be that God often showed himself to people in the olden days while nowadays nobody ever sees him. The rabbi replied: “Nowadays there is no longer anybody who can bow low enough.”
 
 
 
 
Most of us here grew up learning to be polite / have proper social ettiqute / respect elders & authority. But that seems to be the exception these days. Our culture is becoming increasingly — how do we say it? — less civilized.

But not everyone was on the street that Palm Sunday, and
Golgotha was a barren hill a week later. And it’s equally true today. Some people respect the name, others don’t. The name of Jesus is divisive. It causes dissension. Some call it out for salvation, others us it as a swear word. It’s a name that demands a response.

Jesus” is a name with a specific meaning, and — read Matthew 1 — it was given to the child of Bethlehem with that specific meaning in mind. “Jesus” is the Greek parallel to the Old Testament name “Joshua” and literally means “the Lord saves.”

“Fred” is no more a name above all names than “Jesus” is. But in “the Lord saves” there is meaning — life-altering meaning.
 
But is that what the world hears when they hear the name Jesus?

Say the name
Jesus, and there are a lot of people who will respond that Jesus is a great moral teacher. He’s a great spiritual guru, just like Buddha, Mohammed, Vishnu or Mother Earth. He’s an ethical character of a story, as in Aesop’s fables. Or Jesus is not much more than a swear word.

None of these understandings of “
Jesus” are going to bow a knee, loosen a tongue, heal the sick, or give hope to the oppressed.
 
Similar to African and Chinese thought, in both Hebrew and Babylonian thought it was believed that existence was wrapped inescapably with a name. It was believed that you did not exist without a name.
A name reflected character and personality, one's essence. A name was given with great care and held significance for both the individual and the community in which the named lived.

What's in a name?

Paul speaks to those at the church at Philippi, the church which had been so generous to him in his ministry. These early Christians, like those of the first communities to which Paul preached, lived among an array of philosophies and beliefs.
 
Paul addressed them as saints for they had chosen to live apart as this special community. Paul reminds them of the place of Christ in the life of those who determined to follow him-the life change it required.

But it was necessary to continue to focus on the One,
Jesus, to whom new allegiance was given. He was the One, the Christ, and how that messiahship manifested itself in the world and in the lives of those who followed him. They were to be different, because they were different in Christ.

It almost seems in those final verses that
Paul himself was carried away as he told the story. Every preacher, every layperson knows the exhilaration of telling it, reliving it; remember, one can be more moved than the listener when telling the story.

The words from the hymn "I Love to Tell the
Story" captures such exhilaration:

I love to tell the story;
'tis pleasant to repeat
what seems, each time I tell it,
more wonderfully sweet.

However meaningful the Philippians have found the relationship with Christ, however much their life was to change, so that they could be like Christ--Paul reminds the Church that Christ was no Philippian thing. No little tribal or geographical deity. Not exclusive to any race or nation.
 
In his excitement, he exclaims of this Christ:

Therefore, God has highly exalted him and gave him the name, that is the name 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 3:9-11)

There is Power in the name. Because there is power in the One named.

Can you recall a circumstance when hearing a name or calling one brought calm, peace, or fear?
 
Bishop WoodieWhite was the bishop of the Indiana Area conference of the UnitedMethodistChurch, and now is Bishop in Residence at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, GA. He tells this story:
 
More than 30 years ago, I found myself in a situation never imagined. A man put a revolver to my head. It was a time in the life of the nation when people who looked like me, black people, especially in some communities, were considered expendable. Our lives did not count for much. Life could be taken with no expectation of penalty.

I found myself in such a place at such a time. The revolver put to my head indicated I could die in that moment, and it would have been unlikely that the man who could take my life would be held accountable by his community. Simply put, he was one of them. I was not. In that moment I was gripped by fear, not knowing if the threat on my life would be carried out.
 
And then without even thinking, I uttered the words aloud, not in panic but slowly, distinctly, "Jesus, Jesus, have mercy." And in an instant, panic left me. There was no longer fear, only a calm and peace. I looked into the eyes of the man holding the revolver and then saw fear and panic in his.

Power in the name of
Jesus. The essence, the reality of Jesus: wholly man and wholly divine.

Oh, we would that the world would know such power, such peace, such purpose, such hope, because they know the One Named.


Let us pray:

Take the name of Jesus with you, child of sorrow and of woe
It will joy and comfort give you
Take it then where'er you go
Precious name, O how sweet
Hope of earth and joy of heaven
Precious name, O how sweet
Hope of earth and joy of heaven. Amen
 
 
Rev. RosemaryStelz
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