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Sermon–“Do Everything in the Name of the Lord Jesus”


First Day of School Year

St. Peter Lutheran School

Colossians 3:17

August 22, 2012

“Do Everything in the Name of the Lord Jesus”

 

Dear teachers, old students, new students, parents:

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

Story about names—about the authority of a name, about making a name for yourself.

 

In the part of Africa where my dad came from the people who lived there told a story which my dad told me when I was a little kid about names.  See, I always told my parents that I was going to change my name when I got old enough.  Have you ever wanted to change your name?  Or do you like it?

 

The story is this: there was a kid who had 13 younger brothers and sisters.  I don’t know how to pronounce his name, so we’ll just say his name was Brad.  But what was kind of funny was his last name.  In English his last name would be “Your Majesty.”  So his name was “Brad Your Majesty.” 

 

You can imagine how much other kids would have made fun of him for this.  But it gets even worse.  Brad Your Majesty’s family was really poor and wore shabby clothes.  His dad dug ditches for a living for the other kids’ dads.  But in spite of this Brad’s father and mother and his 13 brothers and sisters all acted different from the other people in the town.  Even though they all had dirty clothes with holes in them, they all kind of acted noble.  They spoke very properly and used big words, they had very proper table manners.  They weren’t exactly stuck up.  They didn’t think they were better than the other people in the town, but they were definitely different and didn’t try to fit in.

 

So the men of the town made fun of Brad’s father and made jokes about his last name.  And the kids did the same thing.  They went out of their way to point out how little like his last name Brad really was.

 

When they were sitting around the dinner table, Brad’s father would sometimes tell the family the story of their last name.  “The reason we have the last name “Your Majesty” is, my father’s father’s father’s father’s father was the emperor of all of the land from the great forest to the north and the great desert far to the south.  He ruled over all the people that lived in those lands, and was the most wealthy emperor anyone had ever known.  And one day we will reign once again.”

 

When Brad got older, he started to get really tired of listening to this story from his father.  He was tired of being made fun of all the time.  But something good started to happen in his life when he was about 12.  In that part of the world, wrestling was the big sport, kind of like football here.  If you were the best wrestler in the town, your town would send you to other towns far away to wrestle their best wrestlers, and if you won, you would win honor for your town and yourself.

 

Brad was a great wrestler.  He was naturally good at it.  He easily beat all of the other boys in his town.  Soon he beat the older boys too.  By the time he was fourteen he could beat all the men in the town.  People stopped making fun of his last name. 

 

You’d think his family would be happy, but they were not.  “Emperors don’t wrestle,” his dad said. 

 

A few years later Brad Your Majesty was the champion wrestler all throughout that country.  But all his family kept talking about how the days were soon coming when they would rule again.

 

One day as they were talking about this, Brad’s father said, “Yes, soon what we have been waiting for will come.  However, I will not live for much longer, so it will be Brad who sits on the throne.”  But Brad’s brother said, “Then, finally, he will stop rolling around in the dirt.” 

 

But Brad had had enough.  “No,” he said, “This is just a ridiculous story, and I’m tired of having this silly last name.  From now on I am going to have a new name.  I will be called, “Brad the Wrestler.” 

 

And from that day, Brad became known as “Brad the Wrestler.”  He moved out of his house, got married, and started his own home with a new name and was treated with utmost honor and respect by his neighbors.  Soon, his brothers, who were still poor, had to work for him digging ditches and doing other lousy jobs for little pay.

 

Some years’ later Brad’s town and the whole country around was in a war with another tribe.  There was a great battle.  In that battle, Brad’s brothers and their sons were a large part of the army because there were so many of them.  And in that battle, the Your Majesty family showed such intelligence, bravery, and talent for leadership in battle that the whole region was credited them with saving them.  The town and their neighbors defeated the enemy tribe and conquered all their lands.  And the people universally decided that the head of the Your Majesty family should be made emperor, immediately. 

 

And so Brad’s younger brother, Tim, became Emperor Tim your Majesty.  Brad the wrestler, who had nice clothes and a big house, now had to serve his family members, when he would have been the emperor.

 

 

Doing according to God’s will (His Name): What does this look like for schoolkids.

 

Our bible passage for this year says: Whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. 

 

Just like Brad in the story, we have a family name given to us.  Through faith in Jesus, we are adopted as children of the true God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

When you have a family name, you represent something bigger than you.  And we have the family name of the Triune God through Baptism into Jesus.

 

That means: we should live like members of the family—like Jesus.  It’s not just that we should copy Him.  It’s that God has adopted us in Him.  We live in Jesus.  We belong to His Name.

 

What does that mean for you?  It means that you should not live for your OWN name, like Brad.  He wanted to make himself famous.  He made himself a name.

 

Unfortunately, we do that by nature too.  We do not live like we belong to the name of Jesus; it comes naturally to us to live seeking the honor of our own name.  That is what the first man did when he sinned against God; and we by nature do the same thing.

 

That’s why all the trouble happens in school.  Kids don’t honor their teachers or do their work as hard as they should.  Instead of living in Jesus’ name—like a son of God—one kid calls another kid a name, puts another kid down.  ‘I’m more important than you,’—that’s what we are saying.

 

That is not what Jesus is like.  His name means “The Lord Saves.”  He does not condemn us even though we deserve it, but He covers our sins and seeks our good, even when that costs Him the cross.

 

By faith in God’s name

 

So it almost seems like an impossible verse.  “Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  That means everything I do should reflect who Jesus is, “What would Jesus do?”, right? 

 

But that is not the way it is.  Before I even know it I am seeking the glory of my own name and throwing away the name Jesus has given me in my baptism, the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 

The name He died on the cross to give me. 

 

St. Paul knew very well what it was like to not do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Before he became a Christian he was very religious.  But everything he did was for himself, even though he said he was serving God.  At the same time that he said he was serving God, he was really trying to justify himself and get honor for his own name. 

 

But it changed when Paul saw Jesus and then was baptized.

 

Not that Paul no longer had a sinful nature that wanted to seek his own name.

 

But he learned this—that Jesus had died even for the proud nature Paul still had.

 

That is how we do everything in the name of Christ—we seek to serve Jesus.  We do our homework, respect the teacher, pray for and love our classmates.  When we sin against them, we ask God and them for forgiveness.

 

But we live trusting in the name of Jesus.

 

Jesus’ name means savior.  He put the adopted name of God on us in Baptism.  He says we are God’s own children, not because we live according to God’s will in the law, but because we believe in His name.

 

We trust in Him who died for us.  We take refuge in Him when our sins accuse us.

 

Thanksgiving in everything.

 

That is why Paul says, “Give thanks to God the Father through Jesus in everything.”  That’s impossible, humanly.

 

We don’t rejoice when things go badly.

 

But in Jesus, everything is a gift.  All of our sins are covered.  We are called by God’s name.

 

We don’t always know why God is leading us this way, or why we suffer, but we do know that  we have the name of the King.  We are “your majesties,” not in ourselves, but because Jesus has given us His name through His death on the cross for our sins.

 

In that hope we go forth to serve Him this year, with confidence that He won’t allow us to  be snatched from him.

 

Amen.

 *Footnote: I should point out that I made this story up, if that’s not obvious.  Also, the thing about wrestling in Africa I got from reading Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart.”  I’m not really sure if they actually wrestled in the part of Africa my dad came from. 

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