The Powerful Name of Jesus – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

Numbers 6:22-27
Philippians 2:5-11
Luke 2:15-21

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Name.[1]  It is the eighth day of Christmas, the day on which Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the Temple, offering him to God with the appointed sacrifices.  In Judaism, this was the occasion on which the father named the child, and for Jewish boys, this was the day of their circumcision, which set them apart from all others and marked them as belonging to God’s holy people, Israel.  “The Word became flesh and lived among us”… as a young Jewish boy.

We recognize, don’t we, that there is power in a name.  In ancient Israel, and in other ancient cultures, there was believed to be a close connection between a person’s name and their soul.  It was as if their identity, their personality, their temperament, and their character were all bound up in their name.  To know someone’s name was to gain insight into them, perhaps even power over them.  Recall the story of Jacob wrestling with a mysterious stranger throughout the night beside the river Jabbok, refusing to let go and demanding to know the stranger’s name (Gen. 32:29).  Or remember in the gospels how demons tried to exercise power over Jesus by calling out his name and claiming to know who he was (Mark 3:11).  There was power in knowing someone’s name.

To do something “in the name of” another person, or to evoke or call upon a person’ name, was an act of utmost weight and power because it made the other person effectively present in the transaction.  Someone who was authorized to act “in the name of” another shared that person’s power and authority. Read More

Namedropping Jesus – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

The Holy Name of Jesus

Psalm 8
Luke 2:15-21

The federal government tracks a lot of information, including “The Top 10 Baby Names” for any given year.[i]For baby girls, currently the most popular name is Olivia, followed by Emma, then Charlotte, Amelia, Ava, Sophia… and on it goes. For baby boys, currently the most popular name is Liam, followed by Noah, then Oliver, Elijah, James, William… and on it goes.

The naming of a baby is no accident, don’t you know? The child’s given name or names may be the contin­uation of a family’s heritage, or the opposite: a sign of a family’s wanting to start afresh with the birth of this child. The child’s name may express identity, or dignity, or hope, or gratitude. Sometimes names demar­cate a family’s history. One of my nephews has a middle name “Taif,” which is Saudi Arabian, because he was born while his father (my brother) was working in the Persian Gulf. We are known, remembered, identified, and called by name.

As children grow up, they will name their belongings, and they will be in relationship with everything they name. Children will often take on new, imaginary names for themselves, and with the names, new exploratory identities. I remember one summer as a young camper far away from home, I told all my cabin buddies that they should call me “Butch,” because I was tough. (That’s probably hard to imagine….) It worked pretty well for a week at camp, but my new identity disappeared when I returned home to face my little bro­ther. He certainly did not know me as “Butch”; he was still struggling to simply say “Curtis” or “Curt,” which he could not pronounce. What he could say was “Dirt.” “Hi Dirt!”, which hardly suited someone trying to be “Butch.” For names to last, they need to fit. Read More

Heaven in Ordinary – Br. Keith Nelson

Br. Keith NelsonThe Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Phillipians 2:5-11 & Luke 2:15-21

After the long months of a pregnancy and the exceedingly dangerous experience of childbirth in the ancient world, bestowing a name upon a child must have been a deeply cathartic action. Even today, in the midst of the profound uncertainty that faces every new life, the moment a child’s name is first spoken aloud in his or presence signifies a new beginning rich with specific potential. The act of circumcision that accompanied – and still accompanies – the naming of a Jewish male child reminded the parents of a larger reality holding their new child in being: the ancient covenant between God and Israel. It situated the child on an axis of meaning both horizontally, in relation to his ancestors and his eventual offspring, as well as vertically, as a frail human creature in relation to the Maker of Heaven and Earth. Under normal circumstances, this was also the child’s first major wounding: the first shedding of blood.

A Name and a Wound. A sign taken upon the lips and tongue, and a sign written upon the body. In any ordinary human life, these are gifts of inexhaustible significance. At the same time they are utterly common, shared by countless others. The Holy Name of Jesus and the first precious drops of Blood spilled from his human body have become fountainheads of meaning for the Church throughout the ages. But contrary to the impression we receive from so many Renaissance paintings, the inner significance of these events would have been entirely hidden to the casual observer. The cosmic task initiated by God through the angel Gabriel is now brought to faithful, obedient completion by Mary and Joseph. But though it was spoken by the lips of an angel, the name Yeshua was, after all, an incredibly common name. The act of circumcision enfolded him into the common life of the Jewish people. The eighth day after the nativity of this special child was a very special day in the life of his human parents. But it was an utterly ordinary day for everyone else. Read More