Naming Jesus – Who Do We Think That He Is?

Good Samaritan by He Qi

Good Samaritan by He Qi

Today on the liturgical calendar, is the day we celebrate the circumcision of Christ.  Since our cultures are more squeamish than were those of our ancestors, modern calendars usually list it as the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.   Just like every Jewish boy, Jesus as circumcised and formally named on the eighth day of his life, and so, one week after Christmas, while we are still celebrating the wonder and the joy of the Saviour who came to dwell amongst us, we celebrate this occasion  In Jesus day, a name was far more important than it tends to be today.   Introducing a person just about gave you their whole genealogy and sometimes even reflected their personality.

As a celebration of then naming of Jesus why not get together with a group of friends for a party maybe not today but after those New Year hangovers have settled. This could be a good way to shake off those post Christmas blues.  Bring a name book with you.  Look up the names of each person in your group and discuss their meanings.  Get each person to share the story of why they were given that name.  Then ask the question: In what ways does your name reflect the call that God has placed on your life?  Some of you may like to consider a new name that reflects what you believe is God’s call on your life.  One friend of mine changed his name from Bill to Will because he felt it better reflected his desire to use his life “doing the will of God.”

Next spend time discussing the names of Jesus.  Get each person to write down the names that they remember as being applied to Jesus in the Scriptures.  You might like to have a competition to see who can think of the most names.  Or you could write a poem or song that reflects these names.  End your time with a discussion about how you could represent these different aspects of who Jesus can be to those who live around you.

Names matter. What we call Jesus matters. If we see him as Lord it can imply a distant and unapproachable God who is unconcerned for human suffering. If we call him servant, we see him down in the dirty places of our world and we want to join him. I have written about this previously in the post: Sometimes I want to Call God Mother. Think about it for a few minutes and then listen to this powerful 5 minute sermon by Rev SM Lockridge entitled That’s My King.

Or you might like to use this liturgy to reflect on:

Liturgy for Holy Name Day

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Ascension Day Getting Us Ready for Pentecost

Ascension Jesus mafa image

Ascension Jesus mafa image

Today is Ascension Day, but like many of us I am already thinking about Pentecost in 10 days time. Then we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, though for many churches it has become a day of prayer for peace. The following prayer came to me this morning as I thought about these two celebrations and the amazing impact on our world of Christ’s ascension, the coming of the Holy Spirit and our heart burning desire to see God’s peace come in our world.

Peace O Lord to all whose lives entwine with ours,
Peace to all who walk this earth with us.
Peace to friend and to stranger, to neighbours near and far,
Peace to all who struggle,
Peace to the lost, the broken and the hurting.
Peace from the Christ who has redeemed and saved us,
Peace from the One who sits at the right hand of God,
An advocate for all God’s children,
May we follow him into the new creation and join him in making all things whole.

Last year I spent time reflecting on these two events as well and thought I would repost that reflection here too – I love this art piece that I found thanks to Matt Stone to go with it.

African art - Zaire Jesus

African art – zaire Jesus

Jesus Christ ascended into heaven

First born of a new creation

Marking the way with his blood

Shining as a light for all to see

An advocate in heaven

Now at the right hand of God

Holy Spirit descended from above

Indwelling presence of God

Opening our hearts to the Good News of Christ

Leading us into all truth

An advocate within

Forever with all who are called by God’s name

Ascension Day is Coming – Do You Know What it Means?

Christ Ascended into Heaven - Dome of Monastery in Mirozh Russia, Public Domain

Christ Ascended into Heaven – Dome of Monastery in Mirozh Russia, Public Domain

Thursday is Ascension Day the day on which we remember Jesus ascension into heaven 40 days after he rose from the dead.  What I did not realize until recently is that for many this is also a celebration of the new creation that God brought into being by the ascension of Jesus.  What beautiful imagery to carry with us for the rest of the season until Pentecost.

This is not a celebration that I grew up with, nor is it one that I have taken much notice of in the last few years.   I was amazed this morning therefore at the beautiful and enriching prayers and scriptures I came across from many different traditions and thought that I would share some of them with you. I have posted some of these in previous years but have refreshed the links and added more resources.

I love the exultant note of this prayer from Rev. Marilyn E. Thornton the Lead Editor for African American Resources at the United Methodist Publishing House

One: Let us gather as they gathered on the Mount of Olivet.
Let us remember the teachings of the law, psalms, and prophets.

Many: Ride on King Jesus, no one can hinder you!

Read the entire prayer

Here is another from the reformed tradition With A Shout

And this by David Diephouse who teaches history at Calvin College

Our God goes up with shouts of joy!

Our Lord ascends to the sound of trumpets!
All: Sing praises to our God, sing praises!
Sing praises, sing praises to our King!
The Almighty rides in triumph.
The Almighty leads captivity captive.
Who shouts for joy? Who blows the trumpet?
The hosts of heaven sing the honor of his name;
they praise him with an endless alleluia.

Read the entire prayer

And this prayer from the Catholic service for Ascension Day

God our Father,
make us joyful in the ascension of your Son Jesus Christ.
May we follow him into the new creation,
for his ascension is our glory and our hope.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Read the entire service.

John Van de Laar at Sacredise.com always has great resources for the seasons including suggested hymns, prayers and video media resources. Check out the ascension day resources here

I particularly enjoyed this video The Ascension and Jesus Christ  on The Work of the People (love their work).

Here is another good set  of videos/loops from re:Worship

And as always textweek.com has a very comprehensive list of resources for celebrating Ascension Day

Obviously there are lots of other great resources out there too so if you have found something that is particularly helpful please leave a link in the comments below.

Jesus resurrection is amazing, the fact that he acts as advocate for us before God is awe inspiring and reassuring because we know that every time we mess up (and all of us do) Jesus is there pleading for us before God.  And how I feel about that could not be better expressed than in the words of Psalm 47 written three thousand years ago

Come, everyone! Clap your hands!

Shout to God with joyful praise!
2 For the Lord Most High is awesome.
He is the great King of all the earth.
3 He subdues the nations before us,
putting our enemies beneath our feet.
4 He chose the Promised Land as our inheritance,
the proud possession of Jacob’s descendants, whom he loves.
Interlude

5God has ascended with a mighty shout.
The Lord has ascended with trumpets blaring.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises!
7 For God is the King over all the earth.
Praise him with a psalm!
8 God reigns above the nations,
sitting on his holy throne.
9 The rulers of the world have gathered together
with the people of the God of Abraham.
For all the kings of the earth belong to God.
He is highly honored everywhere. (via Biblegateway.com)

And last but hopefully not least a prayer/poem I wrote some years ago that I think is appropriate for this season.  I have frequently been told it should be put to music so if anyone feels inspired to do that let me know..

God whose glory fills our world

God whose life is closer than breath

God whose love is stronger than death

God, this God of life and love

Has sent an advocate to save us

Jesus Christ the righteous, now at the right hand of God

Not to condemn but to bring full life

Not to accuse but to redeem

Not to reject but to draw close

God, this God of life and love

Has sent an advocate to save us

Jesus Christ the righteous, now at the right hand of God

God who hears the cry of our seeking souls

God who sees the pain of our suffering bodies

God who feels the loss of our grieving spirits

God, this God of life and love

Has sent an advocate to be with us forever

The Spirit of truth abides with us eternally

Before us to teach and lead,

Within us to comfort and heal,

Around us to shield and protect,

God, this God of life and love

Has sent an advocate to be with us forever

The Spirit of truth abides with us eternally

A Prayer for Christ the King Sunday – Celebrating a King Like No Other

It is Christ the King Sunday, – the last Sunday of the liturgical year. This is the last Sunday in Ordinary Time before Adventand the beginning of a new liturgical year. Last year I did some research on this celebration and wrote this reflection: Celebrating Christ the King . This year I thought I would add a prayer that helps me to focus on what Christ’s kingship is all about.

Icon - jesus heals the blind man

What Kind of king do we celebrate - Icon - jesus heals the blind man

Let us praise Jesus Christ our king

for the wonderful things he has done.

He sends out his word to heal us.

He satisfies the thirsty with the water of life.

He fills the hungry with the abundance of his kingdom.

Let us praise Jesus, redeemer and renewer of all things.

May we always trust in his goodness and love,

And have faith in his grace and mercy,

May we always believe he cares about justice and righteousness,

And draw our life from his eternal purposes.

Let us praise Jesus Christ our king and saviour,

May we be filled with the hope and promise of his coming,

And give our lives to follow him.

May we be gripped by his kingdom ways,

And walk with assurance and trust into his grace and peace.

Amen

Ascension Day & Pentecost – Distant neighbours

African Christian art - Zaire Jesus

A couple of days ago I was thinking about the juxtaposition of Ascension day and Pentecost.  One to commemorate the ascent of Jesus the other to remember the descent of the Holy Spirit.    Ascension Day and Pentecost are closely linked.  It was because Jesus ascended into heaven that the Holy Spirit could descend and fill us all.  I thought that you might enjoy the prayer that my reflections inspired

Jesus Christ ascended into heaven

First born of a new creation

Marking the way with his blood

Shining as a light for all to see

An advocate in heaven

Now at the right hand of God

Holy Spirit descended from above

Indwelling presence of God

Opening our hearts to the Good News of Christ

Leading us into all truth

An advocate within

Forever with all who are called by God’s name

Morning Prayers for the Christmas Season

With Christmas just a few days away I thought that some of you might be interested in morning and evening prayers for the Christmas season.  I thought that I would post these in separate posts so here are the morning prayers

God of joy and celebration

God of love and mercy

God of peace and righteousness

We sing aloud and dance with the angels.

The ruler of all worlds, the shepherd of creation

Jesus Christ has entered our world

Our Saviour Christ has come into the world,

Not in power, not in might, but in the tenderness of love,

He comes as the promise of life hidden in a mother’s womb.

In this season of God with us we celebrate with the angels

We are graced by the wonder of God’s presence

We are filled with the tenderness of Christ’s love,

(Pause to light Advent and Christ candles)

Love and faithfulness meet together,

Righteousness and peace kiss each other,

Faithfulness springs forth from the earth

Shout aloud Hallelujah! God’s faithfulness comes down from heaven

God has kept his promise, the Saviour has been born and a new world begun .

In this season of God with us we rejoice for God’s salvation has come

The redeemer of all creation has come to earth

And we catch glimpses of God’s Messiah healed world

Shout aloud Hallelujah! God’s faithfulness comes down from heaven

God has kept his promise, the Saviour has been born and a new world begun .

This is the time we believe once more that perfect love casts out fear

That generosity transforms scarcity into abundance

That righteousness overcomes oppression with justice

Shout aloud Hallelujah! God’s faithfulness comes down from heaven

God has kept his promise, the Saviour has been born and a new world begun .

We are graced by Christ’s presence and filled with his love

May we become bearers of God’s light,

And go out to transform our troubled world.

Shout aloud Hallelujah! God’s faithfulness comes down from heaven

God has kept his promise, the Saviour has been born and a new world begun .

Scriptures of the day from the daily lectionary

The whole earth shouts with joy to God

The world declares God’s praise.

Praise to the compassionate and gracious One,

Who sent the son to dwell among us.

Praise to the incarnate One, Jesus Christ our Redeemer

Who fulfills God’s covenant of love and compassion to all humankind

Praise to the indwelling one, the Holy Spirit the giver of life

Who proclaims God’s mercy and justice throughout the earth

Praise to the three in One

Praise to the One in Three

Praise to God on high

Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom the power and the glory, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Jesus you come

In the voice of the poor

In the hurting of the sick

In the anguish of the oppressed

Open our eyes that we may see you

Jesus you come

In the weakness of the vulnerable

In the questions of the doubting

In the fears of the dying

Open our ears that we might hear you

Jesus you come

In the celebration of the saints

In the generosity of the faithful

In the compassion of the caring

Open our hearts that we might embrace you

Almighty God whose great love and compassion came into our world in the person of your incarnate son, Jesus Christ, plant in every heart your concern and care for all humankind.  May the light of Christ ignite our hearts and shine out brightly from our lives, proclaiming your salvation to all the earth.

May the light of God shine on us,

May the love of Christ shine in us,

May the life of the Spirit shine through us.

This day and evermore

Amen


Celebrating Christ the King – Last Sunday of the Liturgical Year

The Resurrection - He Qi

Sunday is Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday in Ordinary Time before Advent and the beginning of a new liturgical year.   I thought that this celebration must date from the Middle Ages, but discovered recently Pope Pius XI added it in 1925. He intended it as a day to celebrate and remember Christ’s kingship over all creation, as well as remind us that all humankind must submit to Christ’s rule.

As you can imagine, it has, especially in recent years been a somewhat controversial day among those Christians who consider the language of kingship outdated or oppressive. For many, the images of kings and kingdoms conjure up thoughts of tyrants. But the kingship of Jesus takes on a very different form than does the kingship of earthly rulers.

Jesus’ comes to us not as a great conquering military leader who oppresses and abuses the conquered.  Rather, he comes as the Prince of Peace, the One whose reign proclaims peace, justice, liberation, and above all, service. Jesus turned the whole concept of lordship and kingship on its head

You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to become great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:42-45, NAB,).

Images of God, as Lord and King seem foreign in a democratic, individualistic society. But our all-powerful God, is also all-loving, and all-merciful.  God’s heart aches to once more be in a loving relationship with his creatures. This is what Christ’s kingship is all about.  We must submit to Jesus as our Lord and King, but it is a submission that paradoxically brings with it liberation, freedom from sin.

Jesus knew the popular images of kings and lords and redefined them. In God’s resurrection world, in order to be a ruler of all, Jesus must become a servant of all. Jesus demonstrated this servanthood in his life and miracles. Even the Incarnation is an example of this: God the Son, King of all creation, humbled himself to become human, even sharing the ultimate fate of his captive subjects: death.

Interestingly, most references to Jesus as king occur during the Passion story. The symbol of Christ’s kingship is not a crown but a cross. The Son of God became human and died a horrible death on the cross to release his subjects from captivity. The One who is the true king of our world made this ultimate sacrifice out of his deep and abiding love for the world, a world constantly in rebellion against him. Christ’s kingship is not like a king with a jewel-encrusted crown in purple finery on a gold throne wielding an oppressive rod of iron. Rather, he is the crucified God with a crown of thorns hanging half naked on a cross of shame to set us free from our bondage.

Prayers for Christ the King Sunday here

Service of Worship for Christ the King Sunday

Other resources for Christ the King Sunday