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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Brave Brock (Isaiah 62.1-4)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
September 30, 2012
Some Music Used
Prelude: "What Wondrous Love" (Phillips)
Hymn of Praise: "What Wondrous Love" (WONDROUS LOVE)
Song of Praise: "I Will Change Your Name" (Butler)
The Word in Music: "Cry No More" (Forrest)
Offering of Music: "You Are So Good to Me" (Wyrtzen)

Song of Sending: "Come to Jesus" (Rice))
Postlude: "Menuet Gothique" (Boelimann)

"Brave Brock"
(Left-click to play; or right-click to save)
Text: 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

**Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

Two weeks ago we read John 3:16, which says that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.  Said even more succinctly, God loves you and has demonstrated that love toward you.  If you trust God for it, He will save your life.

During the month of September we have been hearing about what happens if you trust God and the love described in that famous verse.  We heard Jesus say to Nicodemus that you can’t understand your way to God; you first trust His love and then grow in understanding. Jesus compared that to being born again.  Last week we heard all this compared to finances and debts: God’s loving action in Christ reconciled, or settled accounts, between God and those who believe.  And that reconciliation makes things and people new.

This week we are going to look at names. Names are what we call each other and call ourselves, and they are powerful things because they shape how we think about ourselves and then how we act and relate to others and the world.  And God also has names for us.  In fact, part of being born again and becoming new through trusting God’s love in Christ is hearing and accepting the new names and identities God has for us.  And sometimes it is hard to let go of the old.

To illustrate the power of names and the power of God’s names for us, I’d simply like to share a few personal stories and a few biblical stories.  The questions I’d like to challenge each of you to consider are: What old names do I hold on to and what new names does God want me to receive?

Brave Brock

Some fifteen years ago I was leading a Bible club for elementary age children.  On the first meeting day of the school year I decided to play a name game with them.  I asked each child to say their first name, preceded by a word that described them and started with the same letter as their name.  So we had “marvelous Mary" and “sweet Sarah.”  I was “royal Robert” or something like that.  And then we got to Brock. 

Brock was about six years old and was VERY quiet and timid.  I’m not sure I had ever heard him say anything before.  When we came to him, he just looked at me and didn’t say a word.  After a moment, the others began to suggest some words that weren’t the most helpful or kind.  So, I decided to jump in and name him myself.

“You’re BRAVE Brock,” I said.  Now, if you had known him, this would have seemed like a real stretch – and some of the other kids looked at me like I had lost my mind.  But the interesting thing was that Brock smiled real big and said out loud, “I’m brave Brock.” 

Now another interesting part of this exercise was that I asked each child to start with the first child in the circle, say each name, and end by adding their name on the end.  Well brave Brock was about the third of ten children.  So, seven more times, Brock heard his name out loud – “marvelous Mary, sweet Sarah, BRAVE Brock…”  And would you believe me if I told you that he seemed different after that?  He was still quiet – but he seemed a little stronger… a little more THERE… and a little braver.

Names are powerful things!

Dancing King

I remember when I was closer to Brock’s age.  I was in seventh grade in Greenville, S.C.  One of the things most of the seventh graders at my school did back then was take a season of ballroom dancing classes.  Some of you middle schoolers may have taken or be taking cotillion.  It was sort of like that, but not quite as formal.

Anyway, most of my grade did this all at the same time and I remember one particular night on the way out.  As a group of us were walking out, one of the popular and athletic guys made some comment about how dumb he thought I looked dancing.  Now in hindsight, as an adult, I can imagine that he probably thought HE looked dumb dancing and he was just taking precautions to divert the attention onto someone else, and I happened to be the beneficiary that night.  But at the time all I felt was intensely embarrassed and ashamed.  The last thing any seventh grader wants is to be singled out, especially for looking dumb or uncoordinated or something.  It was approximately four and a half seconds of horrible shame that felt like much longer.

I say four and a half seconds because then a girl spoke up.  She was one of the very pretty and popular girls and she just happened to have been my dance partner that night (they were randomly assigned).  And she said, very loudly, “I think Robert is the best dancer of all the guys.”

And nothing really happened after that; we all went on our way.  But something happened in my head and my heart.  I was on my way to carrying “dumb and uncoordinated” home with me and probably would have carried those names for a long time, when Sonia spoke other names over me.  And all the embarrassment and shame melted away, and in fact, gave me a boost of confidence that lingered for a long time.

Names are powerful things!

Forsaken or Delightful?

In our scripture text today from Isaiah 62, the prophet Isaiah was speaking a message from God to the people of Israel.  They had been disobedient to the Lord and to the Law and the covenant and were simply suffering in what that had brought them to.  You can see two of the names that described them there in verse four: FORSAKEN and DESOLATE.  Though they had wandered from God, it felt like God had abandoned them and they were once again in a desert place… a deserted, desolate place.

And yet God’s Word through Isaiah was not unlike God’s Word through Jesus and the New Testament writers.  God loved His people and had promised to never forsake them.  And speaking through Isaiah He held out the promise of deliverance and “new names” in their future.  God would provide, and when they turned and remembered and listened, they would know the new names God spoke over them: “My delight is in her” and “Married" (that is, reconciled and reunited with God).

Names are powerful things!

New Name – New Identity

You may have grown up hearing from your father, “You can’t measure up!”  And you still call yourself FAILURE.

You may have grown up as a cast-off from the popular kids and have accepted the name LONER or LOSER.

You may have lost a job, or jobs, and can’t seem to land anything with permanence and think of yourself as WORTHLESS.

You may have made bad decisions – immoral decisions – and feel unclean and full of shame.  Though you have trusted Christ, you still would label yourself DIRTY.

And yet… and yet… God has declared you and me new creatures in Christ.  God has given us a new name and marked us with Baptism to signal that we have a new identity.  Isaiah 62 describes how God gives a new name and identity to those who trust and follow Him.  Listen to it again, mindful of the names you designate for yourself.  Listen to God’s Word…

…You will be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will designate.  You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.  It will no longer be said to you, “Forsaken,” nor to your land will it any longer be said, “Desolate”; but you will be called, “My delight is in her,” and your land, “Married”; for the Lord delights in you, and to Him your land will be married…

The old names… no longer say; no longer…

You will be called “My delight is in you.”  Can God delight in such as me? Such as you? Listen – this is God speaking… right here in His Holy Word: “My delight is in you.”  Your land – your life, is marriage material – pure, holy, clean, and new.

Hear the good news: Jesus Christ has come that we might have life and have it the way God meant for it to be.  Through Jesus, you ARE a new creature.  Your name is beloved, chosen, fruitful, blessed, Son and Daughter of God.  Amen!

[You may have noticed these baskets up on the communion table.  I’m going to invite each of you to come forward, a row at a time, during the final song.  I’d ask you to take a name tag out of the basket and put it on.  We have written names that God names those who trust in Him. Consider this as one tangible reminder that in Christ God has made you new and spoken these names over your life.  You may even want to hang on to it and put it somewhere where you will continue to see it.  There’s something about us that keeps returning to the old names; but I invite you to keep listening for God’s voice in your life, naming you as His.]

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