Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Sermon: Called by a New Name

Called by a New Name
Isaiah 61:10 – 62:3; Luke 2: 25-40
by Rev. Carson Overstreet
Van Wyck Presbyterian Church
December 31, 2017

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
and her salvation like a burning torch.

The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
- Isaiah 61:10 - 62:3

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.’

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
The Return to Nazareth

When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
- Luke 2: 25-40

There is something very special about a name.
A name can embrace what is unique about one’s personality. A name can tether us to a family lineage. A name can give shape to one’s life story.

How many of you know what your name means?

I discovered the meaning of a few of your names: Mika means “Beautiful;” Jeremy means “Exalted by the Lord;” Teresa means “Harvester;” Randy means “Protector;” Mia means "Mine." Those are all very rich meanings. And Carson means “son of the one who lives in a swamp!”

The names within our biblical texts today hold deep significance in God’s Word. Each name shaped the individual’s story within God’s purposes.

The prophet Isaiah means “The Lord is salvation.” Jesus means “God saves.” Mary means “Beloved.” Joseph means “Jehovah will increase.” Simeon means “Obedient.” Anna means “Favor or Grace.” These names they tell the great story of God’s love unfolding for the Holy Family and also for the family of faith. God’s story is even rewriting our communal and personal life stories according to God’s faithfulness.

The prophet Isaiah lifted his voice to assure God’s people of God’s loyal love. The good news of God’s deliverance binds the brokenhearted, breaks the chains of sin, frees us for new life, and strengthens us through Emmanuel for God is with us. Isaiah promised that one day our tattered human condition will be clothed in the Lord’s garments of salvation and God’s righteousness; the Lord is salvation.

Mary carried God’s beloved promise in the womb. Even as she risked trusting God, Joseph felt the tension of it all and Jehovah increased Joseph’s faith to stay by May’s side. Joseph had the privilege of naming this holy child Jesus; through him God saves because God so loved the world. The babe lying in the manger cried and cooed with sighs too deep for words that nothing is impossible for God.

Simeon was obedient to his priestly calling. He presented the Christ Child as the new covenant, God’s promise to clothe us in forgiveness and redemption, remembering our sins no more.

Anna was moved by the tangible tenderness of God’s favor and grace; she began to praise God and to speak about this child to any and all who were searching for God’s loyal and redeeming love.

We are all here today because we have experienced the mystery of God’s love and have received grace upon grace. Each of us has some story of encountering the truth that God is with us.

We sense God’s hospitality through the warm welcome from strangers who quickly become friends. We see the light of Christ shining in the generous acts of another’s kindness. We feel God’s deep embrace through the prayers of the family of faith in our greatest joys and deepest sorrows. We hear the Spirit whispering words of comfort, guidance, and challenge through God’s Word. We have encountered the joy of Christ’s birth in some unexpected way this season.

There is a great treasure in this gift of faith. No matter how the story of our lives is unfolding, when the light of God’s love is made real to us then something amazing happens. For some this is a life defining moment. For others it happens slowly over a life time. No matter our age, our hearts are tuned to sing of God’s glory at baptism.

The baptismal font is the womb of God’s deliverance. By water and Holy Spirit we are given spiritual rebirth. We are delivered from the power of sin and we are freed to behold God’s promise of new life in Jesus Christ for the Lord is salvation. The grace of God begins to rewrite our story and reshape our hearts and minds by God’s faithfulness.

The Spirit calls us by a new name; we are forever more known as a beloved child of God; in fact the prophet Isaiah says we are called God’s delight.

Today I praise God that we will behold the Sacrament of Baptism for Mika and Jeremy. And I also lift my heart in gratitude remembering Teresa’s, Randy’s, and Mia's baptisms as they enter into the household of faith here.

As we prepare to celebrate God’s promises may you – Mika, Jeremy, Teresa, Randy, and Mia - hear the Spirit whispering your new name. You are a beloved child of God; you are God’s delight. May the roots of your faith be deeply planted in God’s garden so that you may bear the good fruits of right relationships and praise.

And as we each remember our own baptisms, may God transform our life stories to receive a spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know Christ more and more. I pray the light of Christ and the gift of his salvation may enlighten our hearts. I trust the Spirit will reveal the hope to which the Lord has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe (Ephesians 1: 17-19).

In the name of God our Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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