Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lent I

Near you is the statement, in your mouth and in your heart, that is the statement of the faith which we are proclaiming, because, if ever you confess in your mouth the Lord Jesus and you believe in your heart that God raised Him out of death, you will be saved. For in the heart--to believe unto righteousness, and in the mouth--to confess unto salvation. For the scripture says, “All who believe upon Him are not put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the Same is Lord of all, bestowing riches unto all the ones calling upon Him; for all whomever calls upon the name of the LORD will be saved.  

“Calling upon God’s name.” Seems simple enough. We Christians pray in God’s name. We call Him by name “Our Father, Who art in heaven.” We can ask things of Jesus directly. Jesus even promises that anything we ask for “in His name” He will grant. But I once asked for a new bicycle for Christmas in Jesus’ name, and there wasn’t one under the tree. Maybe you’ve attached God’s name to a prayer, and it didn’t occur. So there must be something more to it when we call upon the name of the LORD.

This “calling on the name of the LORD” must be something pretty important. When Luther ‘splains the 1st petition of the Lord’s Prayer, He lists calling upon the Lord’s name in every trouble as the first good use of God’s holy name. Yet it must be something more than simply attaching God’s name to a prayer, like a desperate soldier might do in a foxhole. We should consider calling on the Lord’s name.

Calling on the name of the LORD means something to God. It means that He keeps His promise to come and *act*. Now, if you were to smash your thumb with a hammer and shout out God’s name, He keeps His promise to be there with you, but might just make it throb a bit longer until you realize that you shouldn’t use His name so carelessly. But if you cry out to Him in earnest prayer when you want help, God promises to come with all the blessed fruits of the Holy Spirit to bless you in time of need.

The Lord’s name is also connected to one specific act of your God. When you came to the baptismal font, you were washed not only with water, but with the word. With an utterance or statement from the mouth of God’s Minister, you were baptized. This word was no less than God’s Own name, of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. That day, God named you with His Own Name, adopting you into His heavenly family. You have joined the royal household of He Who reigns above! Heaven’s riches are now yours!

So, having been named with the Lord’s name, that Word uttered at your baptism is near you. It is in your heart, where by that Gospel statement the Holy Spirit created faith in you. This word is also in your mouth, so that you may utter it as your confession of the faith you share with all believers in Christ Jesus. You confess the Lord Jesus with your words, along with all believers, as you do when you recite the creed in church. God gives you to speak words of faith as a believer in Christ Jesus.

Yet you know that your words aren’t always those of faith. Sometimes what comes out of your mouth doesn’t sound very Christian at all. You curse, you swear, you speak faithless words about luck or fate instead of confessing God’s rich blessings. You talk as if you trust your favorite team, or your political party, or yourself more than you rely on God. Instead of words of great confidence in God to see things through, you speak forth doubts, grumblings, complaints and uncertainty about the future
But it isn’t just the words of your mouth which betray your lack of faith. It is your actions which give you away as well. You behave as though God didn’t matter, and as if you mattered the most. You haven’t showed love to your God from your whole heart, and you haven’t always cared for your neighbors as you’ve cared about yourself. When other people see the way you are throughout the week, would they consider you to be one of those Christians who calls upon the name of the Lord?

So you’ve failed God with your words, with your deeds, and even in your heart of hearts. What can you do now? All that remains is to call on God’s name for His mercy. For there is salvation for all who call on the name of the LORD, and that includes you. For calling on God’s name is nothing other than calling on God to keep the promise He made when He baptized you in that same name. He promised forgiveness, rescue, and salvation that day, and Jesus is still your Savior from sin, death and satan today.  

For the name of the Lord upon which you call is the name of Jesus, your Savior. He is the One Who suffered every temptation of the devil, yet without a single sin. As a perfect sacrifice, He willingly went to the cross to suffer death for you. By His resurrection from death He justified you forevermore.

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