Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for being our Lord and Savior! Thank You for purchasing our lives and our eternal souls with Your precious blood. Thank You for blessing us daily with all that we need to be happy and fulfilled. Yes, thank You for being our Brother and never leaving us alone in this life. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHOSE NAME WE BEAR!
TEXT: Isaiah 43: 16-21
Dearly Beloved By Jesus:
Well, it was a busy week for many Christians around the world. The Roman Catholics chose a new pope and we were all treated to the media hype surrounding the pomp and circumstance. By now, all of you have probably heard the Latin phrase: Habemus Papam, or: “we have a pope” after the white smoked billowed from the Sistine Chapel. One pastor of our synod entitled his weekly blog: Habemus Liberatorem, or: We have a Savior, a Liberator in our Lord Christ! Somehow, I think that’s a bit more to the point, isn’t it?
As I looked over the 3 lessons this week, all those thoughts were circling in my head. I especially hit upon our lesson from Isaiah 43 where God Almighty calls us: “my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.” And so I decided today to preach on this theme:
WHAT’S YOUR MIDDLE NAME?
My birth certificate says that my middle name is: Howard. I was named after my great uncle Howard who was a mining engineer and literally went “around the world” to do his job. I never knew my great uncle Howard, but my grandfather thought a lot of him and so did my dad. They gave me his name to keep his memory alive. I’m sure your middle name probably has a similar story behind it. That being said, at your baptism and mine we were all given another name, a middle name that stands at the heart and center of who we are and what we’re all about. Of course, that name is: Christian. Yes, upon my heart Christ inscribed His image.
To be sure, human titles are honorific. They convey worldly honor to their recipients. People liked to be called: Doctor, Attorney, President, Senator, Pastor, or even Pope. Usually, a special ceremony and even special perks go with such titles, too. The same is true with your spiritual middle name. However, far more flows from it than worldly honors or esteem. For when God labels you a Christian, all the glory and blessings of God flow directly into your life!
Here God addresses the OT Christians of Isaiah’s day. Outwardly they were beaten down, felt a bit forlorn and alone, and were held in contempt by most. They remembered victories of ancient times but didn’t see much of those triumphs in their own lives. So, first God takes them back to their forebears’ exodus from Egypt and the glorious time of that deliverance. “This is what the Lord says—he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick.” Yes, when Pharaoh’s army perished in the waves, the Christians of Israel were delivered, liberated from slavery and all the anguish that went with it!
Now God continues and applies this ancient lesson: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people.”
Right here God uses word pictures which all desert-dwellers could relate to. They are word pictures of spiritual life. They are word pictures of Christ, the water of eternal life, Whom God promised and through Whom God would save, deliver, His people once again. Have you perceived during this Lenten season the same thing occurring? Has Christ once again come into the wilderness of your heart and displaced sorrow with joy, the anguish of the past with the deliverance of the future?
This past week my mother-in-law, Lois, was buried in a cold, windswept grave in Mn. Her daughters, her son, friends and relatives gathered around her grave and thought of the past. They thought of her, vibrant, energetic and alive. They relived some regrets over not having spent more time with her. All of you have experienced similar emotions. They are part of being human, aren’t they? And yet, today God tells all of you to “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past!” Why? First of all, because everyone who has “Christian” as their middle name, including Lois, has already done so! The departed Christians are enjoying heaven, the crown of eternal life, a time of celebration without end where no sickness, sorrow, pain, or death will ever intrude again. And secondly, we should forget the past and not wallow in it any longer because in Jesus Christ God is making our lives shiny, new, and exciting! God has new mountains for us to climb, new rivers to cross, new friends to make, new blessings to experience, new praises to sing. He tells us in His word that “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of heavenly lights.” When Jesus died on the cross all the heartache of the past died with Him. When He arose from the grave, His new life was transferred to you. It’s yours through faith. His name is now yours through faith. Maybe it’s hard to realize that as we get slammed by Satan. But it is true. And it always turns a cold graveyard into a warm castle of celebration where everyone present can exclaim: “Habemus Liberatorem”!
The final words of our lesson are especially applicable when it comes to defining our lives. “My people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.” Well, all our departed saints have done so throughout their lives and are now reaping Christ’s glories in heaven. Meanwhile, you saints on earth, you who have “Christian” stamped on your heavenly birth certificate are to follow their lead and do so while still walking here. There is no higher honor in life or in death than to be labeled by God Himself as one of His “chosen.” So walk away from the sins of the past, the hurts of former times, into the warmth of His gracious forgiving love. Don’t be afraid to hold your head up in honor—after all, Christ earned you that privilege. Amen