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Below are the scriptures and sermon for today, 052211.
Fifth Sunday of Easter
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
1 Peter 2:2-10
55But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56“Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.
1In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.
2Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.
3You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,
4take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.
5Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
15My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
16Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.
1 Peter 2:2-10
2Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and 5like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,” 8and “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
14“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.
4And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.
12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
In His Name 052211
It seems as if most of the important details of the New Testament cause us to confront a certain cultural pattern in modern Western religion, and frankly the pattern I see is often one that disturbs me.
Today’s verses from John, which we just red together is an example. In Verse 13 Jesus says ‘13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.’
These are powerful words and people interrupt them several different ways. I personally have one set of belief about these words, and I’m not at all sure my opinion is correct, or complete. I’m more concerned that my opinion is incomplete, even if wrong, since I’d like to live long enough to understand the whole verse, even if I ultimately get it wrong. I want a complete look at it.
One of the common interpretations of these verses is one used by charlatans and faith healers. They might cry out in their sales pitch that a person is healed and command the ill person to walk, to see or to speak perhaps.
Even if the charlatans succeed in a miraculous cure, we don’t trust them, and I almost distrust them more for having spoken ‘in Jesus’ name’.
This idea essentially believes that the words ‘in Jesus’ name’ are magic words. Sarcastically I could equate the words with ‘abracadabra’ or ‘hocus pocus’ or ‘shazam’. We end our prayers habitually with ‘in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen’. Does saying those words somehow make the prayer more effective or more powerful?
Even the Nazi Church, a twisting brought a compromise of Nazism and Chrisitanity who called upon Jesus to do things in his name when called upon. All sorts of things have been called for in his name, or done in his name including the execution of 9,000,000 Jews and other undesirables. And Hitler went on and on about his doing the will of Jesus and doing all this and more ‘in his name’ and establishing the Third Roman Empire (Charlemagne was the first, Napoleon was the second and the Nazis were the Third. In German this is translated as the Third Reich, rather than the third empire.
And a recent CD by singer Van Morrison sings ‘we can do it too, in his name’ in a song describing the miracles of Jesus.
But what does ‘in his name’ mean? If we would do something in a person’s name, we mean it is being done to honor that person or honor the life that person has lived. That’s what I commonly mean if I say I’m doing something in the name of my father and mother or family, or in the name of someone I admire.
The other meaning—that we’re calling upon someone deceased to use their power as a deceased person to control some human event—sort of like ancestor worship, where you call upon your deceased family to help you now–is less often meant, but that is the meaning of calling upon God to do something in Jesus’ name, or at least one meaning.
Another meaning, which I’ve read in several sources is that what is meant by the phrase ‘in Jesus’ name’ means.
We have to travel back in history to understand something—before Jesus the ruling passion of the world was greed, and only greed. As Thomas Hobbes describes life as ‘the state of war of every man against every man’ and the life of man as ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’.
Jesus really began the history of the world based upon the primary principle that love, charity and compassion should be the guiding principles of humanity in the kingdom of God. So, to do something in Jesus’ name means also to do something for the love of another—another individual, another group of people or abstractly, for another cause. Human life with Jesus becomes eternally valuable and we seek to protect and preserve life of individuals, at an expansive and expensive cost sometimes—all ‘in Jesus name’.
The advances we see in history after Jesus are phenomenal—notions of liberty and equality, fairness, social justice, compassion in one’s life, living a good life in love of others—we see all these ideas rising to become socially acceptable after the life and death of Jesus.
As the author Thomas Wolfe quotes in the frontpiece to his novel ‘You can’t Go Home Again’ , ‘compared the development and progress of makind to the reelings of a drunken beggar on horseback. What was important, perhaps, was not that the beggar was drunk and reeling, but that he was mounted on his horse, and, however unsteadily, was going somewhere. (This quote comes from or follows a quote from Martin Luther). “Human reason is like a drunken man on horseback; set it up on one side, and it tumbles over on the other” (And, as an aside, it amazing how many recent news stories there are online of people being arrested for going through a McDonald’s drivethrough while drunk on horseback, or going through a bank on horseback while drunk, or going into a bank while drunk on horseback.
So, although we have an history that appears to be wandering from side to side like a drunken man on horseback, humanity is progressing, and the course of that progress is broadly stated by Jesus, in words and in living. Within the past year, and also within the past 10 years there have been more peaceful revolutions around the world than in human history. The world knows that human violence is wrong, and that justice should prevail, and I trace these human goals back to the life and death of Jesus, and not before. The whole notion that there could be justice, and peace and a suffering free world are Christian ideas, and Christians have brought us ever closer to these goals.
So, when Jesus says we will do healing and miracles greater than he had done—maybe he also means that humanity if living in love will create a world where medicine creates cures people could not have dreamed of—it is true that some share these miracles more than others, and that humanity may also be creating diseases by its lifestyle. But the horse we are drunkenly riding does appear to move forward. I would maintain that when humanity seeks to heal and cure people, when law enforcement and social workers seek to protect the elderly and the young, when we all try to seek justice for people all over the world—we are doing so because humanity has adopted the doctrine of love of all existence, as Jesus taught and commanded us. We are collectively, doing this in Jesus’ name.
There is still however, in the verses from John when Jesus says ‘14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it’
We need to think about what all these verses from John mean, and I hope we can continue to do that, but this verse 14 measn to me that if we ask Jesus to do something ‘in his name’ (or in the spirit of Jesus’ teachings and commands) rather than for something purely personal and selfish, then Jesus promises to do it.
I want to emphasize that when we pray to God and Jesus, the first ones we are praying to for help is the angels God sends to us to help, and we are those angels! We are here to help one another, to help the poor and oppressed, to bring the Kingdom of God into full reality on earth.
Still, quite clearly, Jesus promises to do what we ask ‘in his name’. So, if we pray to ask Jesus to take revenge on our enemies, or to grant us a Mercedes Benz as Janis Joplin requests in the song. ‘Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz. My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends’ are less likely to be heard by Jesus than if we pray for help in protecting children, or protecting the oppressed, ending the wars of humanity, etc.
In conclusion, I don’t completely know what these verses mean—when and how should we call on Jesus? What is the complete meaning of what Jesus is saying? I just don’t know. But I am praying for insight into all this, and ask that we examine our own faith, to see what Jesus means.
Let us pray.