Sharing the notes of my ‘sermon’ from Palm Sunday … April 9th 2017

Remember the Burning Bush where Moses is commissioned to visit his people. They were enslaved in Egypt under a tyrannical regime and Moses ‘task’: to lead them into freedom, and into a Promised Land. Moses asks: “Who shall I tell them has sent me”, and God replies: “… tell them I AM has sent you … for this is MY NAME”. “I AM” translates the original Hebrew: “YHWH” – often pronounced as YaHWeH. So, what’s in a name ? Well, in Scripture name indicates the WHOLE PERSON: identity, individuality, personality, character, authority and reputation – and also PRESENCE.

In reading through the Psalms in March I was impressed by the many references to the NAME and made a point of underlining the verses concerned. When I started thinking/praying about this sermon I sensed a ‘nudge’ to re-visit those underlined verses, and decided to write them out in full, which I was then able to analyze … here are a few of my discoveries:

– At least 96 references to the NAME – one third of these (some 32) are either exhortations to, or exclamations of, praise to the NAME – a significant number of these have strong musical connotations – (singing, playing instruments & dancing).

– A number of ‘adjectives’ are used to describe the NAME – e.g. MAJESTIC, HOLY, GOOD, GLORIOUS, GREAT, AWESOME, EXALTED.

– One stand out reference – (86:11) – is a frequent prayer of mine: “Give me an undivided heart that I may fear (or reverence) Your NAME” –  hence, the sermon title, expressing my desire to encourage a stronger commitment to HONOURING the NAME.

– Many of these verses indicate HOW we may indeed honour the NAME – e.g. by LOVING, TRUSTING, DECLARING, PRAISING, CALLING ON the NAME.

Now this is Palm Sunday when the Christian world commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a young donkey. A ‘prophetic’ event described in all four Gospels. Importantly, each writer records the words of the crowd (mainly Jesus’ followers) as they accompany Him into the city: “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord” (Luke amends slightly to “Blessed is the King who comes in the Name of the Lord). These words, drawn out of Psalm 118:26, a Messianic Psalm, strongly affirm Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah (or, the Christ).

Further ‘revelation’ is given as Jesus prays on the eve of His crucifixion – a deeply moving and significant prayer, found only in John’s gospel, where a couple of His petitions under-score the importance of the NAME. Listen with your heart as Jesus prays: “HOLY FATHER, protect them by the power of Your Name – THE NAME YOU HAVE GIVEN ME … while I was with them I protected them and kept them safe by THE NAME YOU GAVE ME” – (John 17:11b-12a). Of course, Jesus was fully aware of the significance of the NAME, and of His own Name. “JESUS” literally means “YHWH SAVES” – and the implication of Jesus’ prayer, recorded by John, ought to banish any doubt concerning His true identity and mission.

ABU’S STORY: I met Abu on a plane at Tripoli airport, which was flying our team out to Ghana, but taking on extra passengers in Libya. Abu sat in the vacant seat beside me, and we quickly engaged in conversation. He noticed a book I was reading – ‘Knowing God’ by J I Packer – and asked if I was a pastor. He shared an experience of a vivid dream, in which an assailant attempted to strangle him. As a ‘nominal’ Muslim, with a Muslim father, he called on Allah and recited verses from the Koran all to no avail – as the grip around his neck tightened.

Then he recalled the faith of his ‘Christian’ mother in Accra, and desperately shouted out: “Jesus”. The assailant’s grip instantly released, and Abu woke from the dream with the realization of an incredible power in the name of Jesus, that he’d never known or believed. Prompted by this dream, he gave up his job in Libya, and was returning to Ghana, where he hoped to find a pastor who would explain how he could become a follower of Jesus.

For the next few hours I had the joyful privilege of sharing the Good News of Jesus with this hungry young man. He absorbed the Scriptures which I shared, and some 30,000+ feet above the African Continent, Abu committed his life to Jesus Christ through a prayer of repentance and faith, coming into a wonderful sense of assurance of forgiveness and of peace with God.

I’m sure you will agree this is a remarkable story. I share it because it illustrates the saving power of Jesus’ Name, and in the deep conviction that Jesus, who humbled Himself and surrendered to the humiliation of crucifixion has been exalted to the highest place, and given “the NAME that is above every name, that at the NAME of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

So, as we live through the events of this Holy Week may we be blessed with a renewed desire to honour the NAME.

 

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