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WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Philippians 2:1-11

Rev. Les Avery

September 17, 2000

 

Some years ago when I was single, I took a woman by the name of Sally to a football game at CU after which we attended a party at one of the coaches homes in the mountains. It was my first and as it turned out my last date with Sally, but I am getting ahead of myself in telling this story. As we journeyed toward Boulder I found her hard to converse with.

She gave one-word responses to my questions, and seemed depressed. Finally in desperation, knowing that unless we could connect in some way this was going to be a long day; I asked her if she liked her name.

To my surprise she blurted out, "I hate my name." Contact. There was life in this person after all. Wanting to build on the emotion of the moment I asked her if she could choose her name what that name would be. With out hesitation she responded, "Monique Benne".

I found myself saying, "On this day you shall be Monique Benne." And so it was when we went to the party after the football game I introduced her as Monique Benne, and an amazing thing happened. Dull, lifeless Sally became the life of the party. She radiated charm and mystique. She was outgoing, electric. Like a magnet she drew men to her. I melted into the woodwork and watched amazed at the transformation of plain, dull Sally into scintillating Monique Benne. Why was it my last date with Monique? Because not leaving well enough alone, as we left I foolishly said to our hosts. "By the way, I would like you to meet Sally….." With that Monique reverting to Sally went back into being depressed. She never spoke another word as we drove back to Denver. My date with Sally ended as it had begun in silence.

 

THE POWER OF A NAME

Names are powerful. If you don’t think so recall some of the bad names you have been called and how those names impacted your life. Names like, Lazy, Stupid, Selfish, Uncaring, Fatso, Skinny. On the other hand think of some of the good names you have been called. Kind, Caring, Empathic, Tender, Loving, and how those names empowered your life. I never liked my name. I am a twin. My Sister’s name is Esther and now you know why I am named Lester. Lester and Esther. There is a nice rhythm to it. The real reason I am named Lester is that I am named after my Dad’s brother who died as a child. Les is all right, but Lester brings up images of Lester Maddox, from my prospective, that dreadful Governor of Georgia. A few weeks ago on the Tour the Peaks bike ride met a world class rider named Rip. And I thought, "There is a name I like." Rip Avery. I can see it now. The Rev Rip Avery preaching. Or Rip rips off another one. Rip gave a ripper of a sermon today. The possibilities are unlimited. Paul Looser/Amy Miracle. Jesus, never has there been a more powerful name. At the name of Jesus hardened hearts are softened, storms stilled, hearts healed, lives transformed. The name of Jesus has turned hatred into love. Now comes the question. How do you explain the power people give that name? After all a name is just a word. We are the ones who endow words with power.

When it comes to Jesus that is not quite true. The power in the name of Jesus comes not from the word Jesus but from the life of the person named Jesus.

THE POWER IS NOT IN THE NAME BUT IN THE PERSON WHO BARES THE NAME. Jesus, God born in human flesh, love unfathomable. In the person of Jesus God meets us personally and intimately. "His name shall be called Emmanuel, which means God with us." Matthew 1:23

In the Old Testament God was removed from his people. He was revered and worshipped. He was transcendent, not imminent. So revered was he that his name was never spoken out loud. Jesus changed all that. He meets us on the patio of our lives, in our casual clothes. He is not distant and removed, but rather he is the God who is with us. With us in our pain, in our suffering. He hurts, bleeds, aches, laughs us, celebrates, cries, and dies with us. It is no wonder that we love the name Jesus.

With that awareness Paul calls us in this passage in Philippians to be like Jesus. Listen to the way the opening verses of Philippians 2 reads in The Message. "If you have gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor; Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends, Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk you way to the top. Put yourself aside and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what." You see, it isn’t the name you are called that matters. The name doesn’t make you, you make the name. What matters is who you are, how you live, what you do. Knowing that Paul tells us that if we want to be like Jesus we are to: Look to the Interests of others. "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."

Verse 4: The key words here are only and also. We are to look out for our selves, but not only for our own interests, we are to also look out for the interests of others.

We live in a country where everything has to do with looking out for number one. Such an approach to life is self-defeating, it leaves us empty and unfulfilled. For none of us live in a vacuum. The way I look out for you in reality is the way I look out for myself. In is in giving that we get, in loosing that we find, in dying that we live. That’s Gospel. I need you and you need me and in being aware of that and honoring that we fulfill ourselves. His name was Fleming and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day while working in his fields he heard a cry for help from a nearby bog. Dropping his tools he ran to the bog and found mired to his waist in black mud a terrified boy struggling desperately to free himself. The man named Fleming rescued that boy from what would have been a tragic death.The next day a carriage pulled up to Farmer Fleming’s sparse house. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy who the farmer had saved. "I want to repay you," he said. "You saved my son’s life." "I can’t accept payment for what I did," farmer Fleming replied. At that moment the farmer’s son came to the door of the modest farmhouse. "Is that your son?" the nobleman asked. "Yes," the farmer replied. The nobleman said, "Let me take him and give him a good education. If he is anything like his father, he’ll grow up to be a man you can be proud of."

And so it happened. In time farmer Fleming’s son graduated from St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London and went on to discover the miracle drug Penicillin. You and I know him by the name Sir Alexander Fleming. Years afterward the nobleman’s son was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life, penicillin. The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill and the name of the son saved by penicillin- Sir Winston Churchill. Fleming, Churchill, two great names. Did the name make the man or did the man make the name? Of course it is the latter not the former and it happened because each looked to the interest of the other. Hear verse four one more time. "Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interest of others. Moreover we are called to change our attitudes. Look at verse 5 "Let your attitude to life be that of Christ Jesus Himself." Leaving nothing to chance Paul tells us what Christ’s attitudes were: The attitude of humility, he refuses to hide behind position or title.

Verses 6-7: The attitude of unselfishness, and servant hood setting aside our own interests and agendas Verse 7-8: Ultimately in our lives the call comes to us to be servants of God. To give ourselves to him, to follow his leading of our lives. Not in some mystical ethereal way, but in concrete acts of service, which interestingly enough is exactly what Sir Alexander Fleming and Sir Winston Churchill did.

There are those who would argue that Churchill was the greatest man of the 20th century because of the stand he took in May of 1940. The five days in May 1940 literally changed the history of the world. There were five days in May 1940 when all seemed lost as Hitler stormed Europe. After the fall of France, Churchill was advised by most to surrender and make peace with Germany. In the opinion of most England was unable to defend itself. Go for an honorable surrender was what he was advised to do. Standing against his advisers he refused. Had he surrendered the history of the world would have been changed. We might well be living under the rule of Nazi Germany.

Fleming-Churchill what powerful names. Only the power comes not from the name but like with Jesus from the life of the person the name identifies. It isn’t the name; it is what the name represents. The power isn’t in a word, but a life. The way of power is the way of Christ. It is a changed life resulting in looking to interests of others and adopting new attitudes.

Before Christ comes into our lives we name ourselves, lost. With the coming of Christ and our following of him we name ourselves found.

In Romans 7: Paul names himself covetous, carnal, dead, sinful, and concludes that chapter by crying, "O Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?"

Then he moves into the glorious 8th chapter, which begins like this, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Now look at the names Paul give himself and all Christians in Romans 8. Names like; Set Free, Alive, Children of God, Heirs of God, Fellow heirs with Christ, Justified, Glorified.

The name doesn’t make the man the man makes the name. The name doesn’t make the woman; the woman makes the name. Listen again to verses 8-11 of Philippians 2 "And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which 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." Amen

 

 

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