The Name – April 10, 2016

“The Name”

Luke 19:28-40 Philippians 2:5-11


The name is “Lord”. The one to whom the name belongs is clearly Jesus Christ. The events in Luke’s story help make clear the mission of “The Lord”…Jesus Christ…and how he brings salvation to humanity. These events were designed by God. They show how Jesus is the center of God’s plan. How you choose to view these events shows how you relate to God’s plan. Though the events are nearly two thousand years old…they are presented in such a way that we must think about what God has done through Jesus. The story of these events calls for each generation… each person…to make a decision. The different reactions to Jesus in this story show the range of responses to the question of who Jesus is…questions that are still raised today. The two most important responses come from the disciples and from the Jewish leadership. Their views are contrary to each other. The disciples saw Jesus as the promised king…the one that God has worked through with great power…power that has been shown by many miracles. In the promised king…”the Lord”…are peace and glory…the gracious authority from heaven itself. But…the Jewish leadership…sees those claims as exaggerated…something that Jesus should not accept. Throughout time…those who have read this story from Luke have…in effect…been asked to choose a side. Jesus’ appeal to the rocks…representing all of creation…shows how fundamental the claims of the disciples truly are. Why…even creation knows they are the truth. The story challenges us to ask where we place Jesus…whether we think he is the humble king of peace and glory…the Lord to be followed…the Lord to be emulated…the Lord who is our teacher…the Lord who is our model. Jesus’ royal entry into Jerusalem on a beast of burden is important to understanding Jesus’ ministry career and his Lordship. He is a humble king as he enters Jerusalem…as he faces the cross. All in the church should live their life as his example for others seeking a Lord. A day will come when he will be fully recognized as the glorious Son of Man…on the clouds…ruling with great power and exercising it. Knowing the difference is important. You see the church has sometimes tried to see itself as an alternative government in the world…a type of national force that should overthrow those labeled as God’s enemies. Those so-called “enemies” are actually people just like us… members of God’s creation. History has shown this to be a great…and tragic mistake. Whether it was the Crusades…the Spanish Inquisition…parts of the Reformation…or today’s attempts to confuse the church with national or state government the road of the church exercising political power…instead of moral persuasion…has been a dead end. Paul…writing in Romans…recognizes that secular governments have a role for good and for judgment…even though those governments lack the covenant relationship with God. Society certainly operates better when it is conducted on a high moral plane. And… when we live in democracies like those in the Western world we should participate in the public debate. But…we should not confuse the church with the government…or vice versa. To transform humanity, a change in heart is needed. That is not the business of government, nor can it be achieved by laws. Instead it is part of the church’s prophetic call and the work of God’s Spirit. And Paul tells us how…like the Lord Jesus Christ…we are to be a part of the work of God’s Spirit. Paul’s concern for the Philippians was not so much for their minds as for their interactions…how they dealt with each other. He told them to live in mutual relationships with the same humble attitude that was demonstrated by Jesus Christ…the one we name “Lord”. We start with the knowledge that Christ is not a mere reflection of God’s glory…he has his own glory with that of the Father and the Holy Spirit…a glory that existed long before he came to earth. Paul tells us that though Jesus Christ…the Lord…existed in the form of God he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. Jesus did not hold on to his equality as something to use for his own advantage. Rather than seeing his equality with God as something to keep…Jesus saw it as qualifying him for his humble descent to earth to serve others. Do we view our Christianity in our relationships with others as a way to judge and control or a humble way to serve…serve with love? Christ…Paul wrote…made himself nothing…and took the form of servant. He did not give up the form of God to become a slave. He demonstrated the form of God by becoming a slave. He became humble by leaving heaven to take on the form of man. Paul told us that he humbled himself by becoming obedient even to the point of death on the cross. Jesus fully identified himself with humanity. And in doing so…he chose death on the cross. It was not forced upon him in some way. The message for the Philippians and all the rest of us who are prone to ambition and think ourselves uniquely special above others…is this…in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you be about not only your own interests…but also about the interests of others. The one we call Lord made this clear in the new commandment he gave us…to love each other. Love each other. That command is pretty straight forward. It ends with a period, not a comma, followed by the words “except for” then a list of people or groups of people for whom and to whom we should not show love. Yet…in too much of today’s conversations and thinking…in our homes…the coffee shop…and political debates we are adding a comma and a list following that clear and simple command…love each other. The list of exceptions seems to grow longer every day…refugees…those with mental health issues…those who are not straight…those who are divorced…those whose skin color is different…the unemployed… those of another faith and no faith at all. How do you think the one we call Lord…the one who washed the feet of disciples at the end of a long day…the one who told us to love each other…love each other…how does that Lord feel about these divisions coming from attitudes that are not humble…serving…love? Serving others…as Christ did…is to be the work of every Christian…rich or poor…male or female…young or old. Counting others as more significant than ourselves is to be the constant and sincere attitude for each of us. Looking out for the interests of others should describe all who are part of the body of Christ…the church…those who take His name…the Lord’s name. Jesus clearly told us himself. (John 13:14-15) 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. (NLT) I close with a request that we ponder these questions. What’s being done in the name of the Lord that is other than humble…serving…love? What’s not being done through intentional inaction that is justified in the name of the Lord that is other than humble…serving…love? As we interact…with each other…and select and interact with those we call leaders…as we interact with our family…with our neighbors…with the community and family of the slain young police officer….with the community and family of the one who slayed the policeman…with our state…our nation and our world…whose name will we humbly and lovingly live out?