Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Name of Jesus

New Year's Day was the Eighth Day of Christmas. It was also the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, that day when we remember the naming of Jesus as told in the Gospel of Luke: "at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb." (Luke 2:21). Our collect for that day reads:
Eternal Father, you gave to your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Notice that we are praying for God to plant within the hearts of everyone love for the name of Jesus. We are asking God to do the planting, which means that we acknowledge that God is the one who has the power to plant seeds of love and change within the heart of His creation. This is good news for Evangelism! Good news because our job is not to plant, but to nurture growth and then to harvest. Very often when we think of Evangelism we think that it is up to us to change the hearts of people and to persuade them to become Christians. We feel powerless to effect such change and then we feel guilty. Once the guilt sets in, it paralyzes us and we do nothing. And we miss where the true power lies: in the Name of Jesus.
In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus tells his disciples that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few and says that we should pray for God to send workers into the harvest. Our job, as those who believe in the Name of Jesus, is to be ready and prepared to work the harvest. First Peter 3:15 tells us that we must always be prepared to give an account for the hope that is within us. Such preparation is actually a tool of the harvest. We must practice articulating why we believe that the Name of Jesus is the most powerful name on the Earth. If we don't engage in such preparation, we are like harvesters that go into the field without hoes or other tools of the harvest. We go into the field not expecting to bring in fruit.
How can we engage in preparation to make us ready to harvest that which God has planted in human hearts? We can engage in a disciplined life of prayer and Bible study. We can deliberately execute acts of kindness and justice. We can attend to our church community life faithfully. All of this prepares us to be harvesters of the fruits of the Name of Jesus. Sounds like some good New Year's resolutions doesn't it?
  1. Read the Bible every day.
  2. Start every morning with prayer - pray for others, pray for yourself, pray for the church, pray for the world.   Set an alarm on your phone and pause a few times a day to pray.
  3. Do something every day for someone else as an act of kindness or charity (preferably anonymously)
  4. Resolve to attend Church weekly.
  5. Trust that God is planting Himself in everyone you meet and act accordingly.
As your Bishop-elect, I ask on New Year's Day - the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus -- to join with me in committing to do these things in 2020; and let's see what God plants and what kind of harvest we gather in the Diocese of Southern Virginia in 2020.
Blessings and Peace in Christ,