A Good Name Is a Good Beginning

A new beginning. That’s what Labor Day Sundays/weekends are. Come Tuesday, summer turns to fall, it seems. Churchlife, like homelife, starts all over. We’re going to start over by focusing on Building a Spiritual House. Personally. As families. As a church family. Our Bibles give many images for spiritual life: a journey, a covenant, a nation, a community, a family, a relationship, and more. One of the richest: a spiritual house. That’s our image this year. So let’s get started. But how? Where to begin? Consider this before you put your tool belt on and get to buildin’. A good name is a good beginning. And there is no better name than Jesus’ name!

Jesus knew this proverb. We can learn it. too.

“A GOOD name is to be chosen rather than great riches,

and favor is better than silver or gold. The rich and the

poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all. …”

Poets still ask, “What’s in a name?” Rogers Cadenhead can show us. Just after John Paul II died, Rogers registered the domain name www.PopeBenedictXVI.com. Only later was Benedict chosen. Now a domain just 1 stroke different fetched $16K on Ebay. But Rogers asked no money when Rome approached. (He didn’t want a billion angry Catholics, including his grandmother!) Instead he requested: “1) one of those hats, 2) a free stay at Vatican Hotel, 3) entire absolution without question for the third week of March, 1987!” (Don’t you wonder what Rog was up to in ’87?) Names mean alot! There’s power in a name. A good name, especially. Good names are tied tight to mercy, justice, forgiveness and God. Our good name is held-tight to the good, sweet name of Jesus. So in building a spiritual house, we start with our name in his.

What kinda name have you got for yourself? Odds are it’ll be kindness-carried, justice-driven, forgiveness-fashioned. Especially if you got the kind of name that Jesus can call his own. ‘Problem is, lots of us have got 3/87 seasons in our spiritual file folders! Take: David. ‘Remember that month, that season off-track? Boys-turned-kings gone wild! Bathsheba-the-babe-in-the-bath-tub, the night in the palace, hustling her husband Uriah, the rub-out on the ramparts (send Uriah to the battlefront), lying to the generals (it’s national security). Oh, it goes good for awhile. (For us, too.) Babe to bride, baby in the nursery, victory at the front. But David burns in his soul. Months like David’s (or Rogers’) do that to us all. Psalm 32. David sings. “When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. The pressure never let up, all my life’s juices dried up.” The Bible keeps score. “The thing David did displeased the Lord.” II Sam. 11: 27 Through all this, no mention of God ‘til vs. 27. David seduces, murders, marries, meets a son. No God. BUT… now… God will have his say. By the prophet Nathan, David is tricked into pronouncing judgment on a soul who’d do such things, “He should die!” Nathan springs the trap. “You are the man!” he thunders. David’s wiped. Nathan speaks for God himself to David’s March ’87 madness and badness. Listen closely. “I made you king, gave you a wife, spared you from harm, gave you your throne, would’ve done more. Why have you treated me (my name) with brazen contempt, doing this e-vil? [Why do the rich rob? When beauty blesses you, why do you crave more? Is more-than-enough not enough for you?] Now, before your very eyes I will take away. You did in secret. I’ll do in broad daylight for everyone to see!” Scripture says, “You can be sure that sin will track you down!” Num. 32:33 David learns. Will we?

Wanna build a spiritual house? Wanna good name to start? Then brace yourself for this powerful truth. God can’t sit idly by as we soak ourselves in sin. God won’t. Unconfessed sin, unacknowledged unkindness and unclaimed injustice cannot avoid the hand of God. It presses in like the doctor on the offending sore spot, and for the same purposes. Assess the mess. Remove the offender. Restore the patient. Speak the sin. Excise the sin. Save the sinner. God will not rest or relent ‘til we do as David. Fess up. Face up. Faith our way forward. Confess the fault. Forego the failing. Lay the matter in the lap of God. Allow God to condemn it. Trust God to see the difference between the sinner and the sin. God will pronounce pardon, put the sin away, that God may not recall it, nor we practice it …anymore!

Enter… Jesus. He demonstrates that when we stray we don’t do so on-our-own or in our name only. We take God along. We drag the Holy Name through the mud with us. That’s why all our mischief-&-misadventure is so grievous. It maligns God! ‘Breaks the 2nd commandment, ‘takes God’s name in vain! Jesus wrestles with this, remaining without sin. The story’s odd. Hard. Challenging. Jesus is drained. We know the feeling. Hurray for “Labor Day off”! Jesus heads north, after much teaching and healing. His bones cry out, “Give me a break.” He goes out to dinner. He’s barely seated when this mama falls at his feet to beg he heal her daughter. Their words seem harsh/strange. Jesus, “Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” She answers, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.” “For saying this, go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” Here’s the context. She’s a non-Jew. He’s Savior to the Jews first; that’s his calling, he says. She and hers will come later. She reminds, for her child there is no later! At this, maybe Christ’s own words echo through his exhausted soul, “As you do for the least, you do for me.” Only now, it’s God speaking to Jesus, as Jesus 1ce spoke to us. His response is not grudging but gracious, not hesitant but entirely embracing. RIGHT NOW, it is done! Mercy. Kindness. Inclusion. God’s own name depends on it.

Here’s what gives Jesus a good name. His acts always give God a good name. The 2 align. God’s name, mine. My name, God’s. “I and the Father are one,” he says. Whenever the circle of life excludes, he widens the circle of grace to include the outsider. To do less is sin. And Jesus is without sin. ‘No accident we’re taught that when the Kingdom comes, “At the name of Jesus, every knee should bow and every tongue confess.” Friends, in building your spiritual house, a good name is a good place to begin. Start with an honest confession of your own March madness, as Mr. Cadenhead and David teach us the need. God will purge it. So be prepared! But God will also pronounce pardon, put the sin away, that we will practice it …no more! As spiritual builders, confession is our saw, cutting out the unneeded, unfitting, unholy. And Jesus is our hammer, securing and fastening our name to God’s, God’s to ours. He attaches us to those we would forget, cast aside, put off or put down. He does it, so we will draw the circle wider ourselves, in Jesus’ name. Good names are tied tight to mercy, justice, forgiveness and God. Our good name is not just our own. It is held-tight to Jesus. If you want to build for yourself and for God, a spiritual house, a good name is a good beginning!

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