Sermon – Pentecost 19 – September 30, 2018
James 5:12-20 ‘The Salt of God’s Name’
CT: God has given us His name through Jesus bringing comfort and joy in every time and circumstance of life.
Intro: We’ve all heard it; the frustration or pain in people’s voices. Something went wrong; the hammer hit the wrong nail; what follows is a string of curse words that often include Jesus’ name. In fact, if you’re honest with yourself, you and I are guilty of the same thing; if not out loud then under our breath. In some work places, Jesus’ name is said with some frequency, but not in way that honours what His name means. And what about the acronym, OMG; it rolls off people’s tongues without any idea of who they are referring to. How careful are you with God’s name? One new person in church on Sunday morning is often the result of years or even decades of outreach—building trust, speaking and showing the Gospel, but it only takes one person to swear on the heavens that the roof is going to fall in to send them back out the door they came in. All this is tied to the second commandment; the right use of God’s Name.
Right Actions: In the Gospel lesson Jesus commends the right use of His name in words and actions, whether it’s a mighty thing or something as small as a glass of water to someone because they bear His name. “Don’t get in the way of the right use of God’s name, but also, beware of misusing it!”
For a little word, sin is a dangerous thing; it involves our whole body as well as our tongue. Our words and actions can not only be sinful and harmful to ourselves; they can become a door to someone else’s sin—leading a little one believing in Jesus to sin. And Jesus pulls no punches about the disastrous results, nor does He avoid the reality of hell. The results of sin are catastopohic; it means being where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched—eternally apart from God’s name, the source of all that is good.
But as Christian we have been salted with fire. Jesus’ life giving actions and words burn away all sin, like ‘ice-melter’ on a frozen step leaving us to stand on safe ground. This is God’s work for you and me in the waters of our Baptism—the Holy Spirit generously salts us with the forgiveness of sins, the gift of faith, and the promise of eternal life. And God keeps you salted with the promises given in His Word and Sacraments that you I can live as the forgiven people of God, adding the flavour of God’s love to all we do with the right use of His name.
Hard Times: In our Epistle James addresses the right use of God’s name to people who were being harshly treated simply because they were little ones, like you, believing in Jesus Christ. Each one of us enter the kingdom of God like a little child; completely dependent on Christ. Yes, we too are in danger of being trapped by sin, and losing the flavour of God’s name given to us at our Baptism. And so James is rightly concerned (and so should we) as he encourages them and us not to lose heart while waiting for Jesus’ return for we live as children of God, not in some protected cocoon, but in the midst of trials and temptations. Rather than grumble against each other in difficult times, he encourages us to be patient and encourage one another to be steadfast in speaking God’s name, remembering how merciful and compassionate He is.
Right Use: Psalm 50 tells us to call upon God in every trouble, and “He will deliver you and you shall glorify Him.” In the midst of suffering call upon His name in prayer because He who suffered all for our sakes now sits at the right hand of God, interceding for us as the little ones for whom he died.
And in times of good cheer call upon His name rightly in praise, giving thanks for the simple blessings of the food on our tables, the wonder of a newborn baby, a wedding, anniversary, birthday, a new job, good health, and the list goes on.
But in times of sickness, call upon the His name, not just by yourself, but invite the elders of the church. Look for the faithful prayers of others; don’t go it alone. In faith the sick person trusts Jesus’ words about the power of prayer in His name. And in confessing sins we receive forgiveness as surely as it is given in heaven above. Nothing is in the way of God’s healing. The prayer, or quite literally, the begging of a righteous person—someone bearing Jesus’ name and righteousness, is powerful in working, as it asks not for what we want but pleads for what we need according to God’s good and gracious will.
God Heals: Tony Campolo wrote about his experience of being asked to pray over a man who was bitter about his cancer and angry with God. The man’s wife later called Tony and told him her husband had died, yet after that time of prayer her husband’s bitterness melted away. It was like he was reconnected to God and they had days of peace together; time to share Bible readings and prayer. Then she said something very profound: “He wasn’t cured, he was healed”. Yet remember; he died! God can and does heal in miraculous ways, and many live to attest to it. But as Joni Eareckson wrote after 40 years in a wheel chair: “God deals with His children as He wills.”
Our Epistle lesson today is not a recipe for healing: pray hard, add oil, and you will be healed. It’s about the right use of God’s name in the middle of suffering, cheerfulness, and sickness. By God’s name, the dangers of sin and hell have been overcome. Jesus died for your sins and rose again for your living so that in every circumstance of life you have the assurance that Christ has reached into the depths of your being and rescued you body and soul. He will bring complete healing, raising us up new before Him on the Last Day.
Bearing His Name: Baptism and remembering our Baptism is a right use of God’s name (we do at the beginning of every service), for every Baptism reminds us that, while sin is no small matter, Jesus’ work on the cross, publicly declared from an empty tomb, is much more powerful. You have been baptized into Christ and given His name. He salts you with forgiveness and the truth of His word to faithfully call upon His name in every trouble, knowing He has and will come to your aid, making your prayer powerful in its working too.