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St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Amarillo, TX

"Jesus Saves," a sermon for the Feast of the Holy Name, Year A

Every Sunday in the church is a Feast Day, but today marks a particular Feast — today is the Feast of the Holy Name.
On this day, we call to mind & celebrate the Holy Name that was given to the infant Son of God, the name Jesus.

Jesus was a relatively common name among 1st century Jewish people. But the meaning of the name, the full significance of the name is anything but thin. The literal meaning of Jesus is “the Lord saves.” Jesus is the name God intentionally chose for this infant son.

Jesus’ name reveals the essence of his character, his destiny, and his work & witness on our behalf & for our good - work, witness & ministry which took place so decisively 2,000 years ago…work, witness, & ministry which continue in undiminished strength & glory today. Jesus saves.

Jesus saves us from all that is broken & deformed…all that interferes with & limits our ability to live in bountiful peace with ourselves, with our families, with our neighbors.

One of the most crucial things Jesus saves us for is a sense of kinship & belonging…knowing in our bones, in our hearts, in our minds, in our souls, in our daily round of ordinary life that we are are loved & belong…first & foremost to a lavishly loving & generous God who empowers us to be compassionate, generous, and committed to all that is good. 

Today’s portion of the Psalter, Psalm 8, declares that the exalted Name of the Lord quells or silences the enemy & the avenger. I invite you to consider today what might be an enemy or, to be more precise,
what is adversarial in your life to your own experience of belonging closely to God & those God has given you to live with & encounter.

Is your adversary a lack of intentionally spending time with God in prayer, conversation, or receptive stillness?
If so, know & trust that prayer can fruitfully happen in the midst of busy lives & schedules, in the midst of laundry & errands.

Is your adversary a destructive habit, a way of speaking or acting that divides you from those you love & live among?
If so, know & trust that the church through its community & through its sacraments…especially through Holy Communion, Healing, & Reconciliation…offers the reliable & solid grace to develop new & healing ways to live with yourself, your family, your friends, & your community.

Identify your own adversarial habit or way of being which interferes with your closeness to the God in Christ who cherishes you & saves you, but don’t fixate on the challenge…don’t obsess on that obstacle or bit of brokenness.

Acknowledge its presence, then turn the bad habit or mindless pattern of living over to God. Begin small, even tiny, but significant & positive actions which will of their own accord begin to quell the destructiveness & bring a closer, clearer sense of life with our loving & living God.

Inspired by this Feast of the Holy Name, you might begin by praying the simple, but powerful & fruitful Jesus Prayer. This prayer is one simple sentence, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.”
If you would like to know more about this prayer practice, please visit with one of the clergy! This prayer is not a quick fix, but it does effectively tune heart & mind to the active presence of the God who cherishes you & desires that you live in harmony within yourself, with your neighbors & creation.

Or, you might begin simply right here & now, with this Holy Communion.
At the offertory, offer whatever you’ve identified as your obstacle to fruitful life in & with God & others. Allow God to take this offering, break it open with the bread, and offer back to you in the body & blood of Christ a small, solid possibility … a way forward to begin anew & with vigor this new year of promise.

The only Name under heaven given for health & salvation is the Name of our Lord Jesus (1). May you know & feel that you belong wholeheartedly to God…the God who cherishes you & holds you close…the God who unceasingly works for your bountiful well-being, in community…with others, in this world. Amen.

(1) Book of Common Prayer, p. 457

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