Jesus Namedrops – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistJohn 17:6-19

Who will the Messiah be?  In the Hebrew scriptures (the Old Testament) the coming Messiah is described in language that soars with heraldry and hope, with glory and majesty.  The Messiah would be The Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, The Holy One, Lamb of God, Lion of the Tribe of Judah, The Root of David, The Lord God Almighty, The Word of Life, Author and Finisher of our Faith, The Advocate, The Way, The Dayspring, The Lord of All, Son of God, The Shepherd and Bishop of Souls, The Truth, The Savior, The Chief Cornerstone, The King of Kings, The Righteous Judge, The Light of the World, The Morning Star, The Sun of Righteousness, The Chief Shepherd, The Resurrection and the Life, The Horn of Salvation, the Governor, The Alpha and Omega.  And then we discover this Messiah is born quite a commoner in a very common way, living among us.  We are introduced to him, not by title but by name, Jesus, and we are invited to use the name. “Call him Jesus.”   Use his name.  This may give you real freedom in your relationship to God:

  • Jesus eventually namedrops how to address God.  The God, whose name has been unspeakable, Jesus addresses and in the most intimate way: Father, or in Jesus’ language, Aramaic, he actually says Papa.  When his disciples ask him how to pray, he tells them to also use that endearing, intimate term when addressing God.  Say “Father.”  But Jesus says you don’t need to say it alone.  You may say, “Our Father.”  “Our Father.”  And who belongs to “our Father”?  You and Jesus.  You and Jesus can pray that prayer together.  And so can the rest of us.  We’re in this together.  As Jesus prays, “that they [that’s you and I] may be one as we [that’s Jesus and the Father] are one, that they may become completely one [with us]. (1) Jesus gives us access to God, and on Jesus’ terms.  So we hear in our Gospel lesson for today: Jesus speaks to us on behalf of the Father, and he invites us to speak to the Father through him.  He is one with the Father; he is one with us.  He says, “If you know me, you will know my Father also.  From now on you do know him and have seen him [because you know me].” (2)
  • Jesus, the Messiah, then calls us “friend.”  Friend?  Yes.  Jesus calls us “friend.” (3) One of the wonderful things about speaking to a trusted friend is the freedom not to be guarded, to let whatever you need to say just tumble off your lips.  A trusted friend will understand you; a trusted friend will not necessarily take everything you say literally, but rather, that they take it truly.  They know you.  They know where you’re coming from and what you’re coming from; they can size up how you are in the moment; they can interpret what you mean.  We can take Jesus at his word, that he listens to you, on you, as a beloved friend.  When you pray, don’t worry that you get it right; get it real.  Jesus will get it right.  Jesus tells us, “use my name,” so we pray in the name of Jesus.  And Jesus carries our prayer to the Father, and what does the Father hear?  The Father hears our prayer in Jesus’ voice, with Jesus’ passion, with Jesus’ love, with Jesus’ authority, with Jesus’ understanding. (4) Jesus looks upon you as a beloved friend, and he gives you his name to use.  Use it.  Your prayer becomes Jesus’ prayer to God.
  • When you know someone’s name, you may also have power.  If that person is powerful, and if they invite you to use their name, you are given access to broker their power.  You’ve probably had that experience of speaking or writing on behalf of someone else, and in that moment, you assume the power of the person whose name you represent.  Claim Jesus’ name in your prayer for others.  In the New Testament, the name of Jesus is invoked continuously in prayer for healing and other miracles, for protection and deliverance from danger, at baptism, in the face of persecution, for forgiveness of sins.  You will find help in claiming the name of Jesus as you navigate through the day.  Claiming the name of Jesus may be a way for you to (what Saint Paul calls) “pray without ceasing. (5) Repeat the name of Jesus as you breathe your way through the day:

Breathe in the name of Jesus; 

Breathe out the name of Jesus.  

Breathe in the name of Jesus; 

Breathe out the name of Jesus.  

Breathe in the name of Jesus; 

Breathe out the name of Jesus.  

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the great 12th century abbot, said the name of Jesus is medicine for your soul: “Is any one among you sad?  Let Jesus come into your heart, and your mouth echo his name, saying Jesus!  Jesus!  Jesus!  Jesus!  and lo! the light of that Name disperses every cloud, and brings sunshine back again.” (6)

  • Of course, we believe that Jesus already knows us each by name, that Jesus carries our name and our needs to the Father. (7) In God’s infinite mercy, God “keeps track of” all of these prayers and all the people who pray.  How can this be?  Of course, this is more than we can comprehend.  But we believe it to be so.  Nonetheless, you might find it meaningful and helpful to introduce yourself on occasion when you pray. Tell Jesus who you are.  “Lord Jesus, this is Curtis, the one working on becoming a monk, which some days is pretty discouraging.  Today is one of those days.”  Or, “… which some days is as smacking joy-filled as a spring tulip.  Today is one of those days.”  And where does your prayer go from there?  Maybe you say, “I want to pick up on where we left things with my dear friend [and name your friend]…”  Or, “It just breaks my heart, the appalling suffering that this person [whom you name], or these people [whom you name] are now facing.”  Or, “I want to tell you about this need, which we both already know.”  Pray your heart out.  It’s not that you have to use your own name when you begin your prayer, but naming yourself may help align yourself with how Jesus has known you, how Jesus remembers you and calls you, and how Jesus carries to the Father what you carry in your heart.  Jesus is inviting you to quite an intimate friendship.  Claim it.  Name it.  Use it.  And, like with all friendships, don’t do all the talking.

On April 1,1989, there was held in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, the funeral of the Empress Zita of Austria/Hungary, the widow of the last Emperor Charles I, who had died 70 years before.  Empress Zita was 96.  “The funeral lasted two hours; 6,000 people attended; the setting was Mozart’s Requiem Mass.  At the end the coffin was placed in a hearse drawn by six black horses and accompanied by 600 Tyrolean militia to the nearby Habsburg burial place, the church of the Capuchins.  When the cortège arrived the doors were closed.  The chamberlain knocked three times and one of the friars inside called out: ‘Who requests entry?’  The reply was formidable: ‘Her Majesty Zita, Empress of Austria, crowned Queen of Hungary, Queen of Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galizia, Illyria; Queen of Jerusalem, Archduchess of Austria, Grand Duchess of Tuscany and Cracow, Duchess of Lorraine, Salzburg, Carinthia, Krain and Buconia, Grand Duchess of Transylvania, Marchioness of Moravia, Duchess of Upper and Lower Silesia, of Modena, Parma, Piacenza, of Dubrovnik and Zara, Princely Countess of Hapsburg and Tyrol, Duchess of Trent and Brixen, Marchioness of Upper and Lower Lausitz and Istria, Countess of Hohenembo, ruler of Trieste, Great Princess of Serbia, born Royal Princess of Bourbon, Princess of Parma’; there then followed her orders, which were not modest.  The friar replied: ‘We do not know her.  Who requires entry?’  ‘Her Majesty Zita, Empress of Austria, Queen of Hungary.’  Again the reply came: ‘We do not know her.  Who requires entry?’  This time the chamberlain replied: ‘Our sister Zita, a poor mortal sinner.’  The gates where thrown open.” (8)

In the end, we are known by God not by our titles or accomplishments, not by anything we have accumulated in this life.  We are known by name as God’s beloved child of great need, and who may be prone to get lost.  Jesus has come to seek and save the lost. (9) Call on him.

  1. John 17:22-23.
  2. John 14:7.
  3. John 15:15.
  4. Richard Meux Benson, SSJE (1824-1915), the principal Founder of SSJE, said “His voice does not appeal to God separately from theirs; they are… so many mouths to Himself; and as they pray… His voice fills their utterance with the authority and claim belonging to Himself.”  The Final Passover ii, pt 2.  (London: Longmans, 1895); p. 307.
  5. 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
  6. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 –1153), French abbot and primary reformer of the Cistercian order, preached that “the Name of Jesus is Light, and Food, and Medicine.  It is Light, when it is preached to us; it is Food, when we think upon it; it is the Medicine that soothes our pains when we invoke it….”  Saint Bernard writes in verse:
  7. Jesus, the very thought of Thee
    With sweetness fills the breast!
    Yet sweeter far Thy face to see
    And in Thy presence rest.
    No voice can sing, no heart can frame,
    Nor can the memory find,
    A sweeter sound than Jesus’ name,
    The Savior of mankind.
    O hope of every contrite heart!
    O joy of all the meek!
    To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
    How good to those who seek!
    But what to those who find? Ah!
    this Nor tongue nor pen can show
    The love of Jesus, what it is,
    None but His loved ones know.
    Jesus! our only hope be Thou,
    As Thou our prize shalt be;
    In Thee be all our glory now,
    And through eternity.  Amen.
  8. John 10:3.  See also Luke 10:20; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8.
  9. The account of the funeral liturgy and cortège is quoted from Learning to Dance, by Michael Mayne (London: Dart, Longman, and Todd, 2001), p. 165.
  10. Matthew 18:11; Luke 19:10.

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  1. Bobbi Fisher on May 11, 2021 at 14:34

    This is just the message I needed to hear today. Yes, we this is not something we can comprehend, but we can believe it. Thank you, Br. Curtis.

  2. Margo on May 11, 2021 at 07:44

    Thank you for the story of queen Zita. I had not heard it before.

  3. John Fritschner on May 11, 2021 at 07:04

    This sermon might be six years old today (2021) but it ever so relevant to our lives as Christians. Thanks Curtis.

  4. Ruth West on June 11, 2015 at 23:49

    What a wonderful sermon! Thank you, Brother.

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