"What's in a Name?"#86-44
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on June 30, 2019
By Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2020 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: John 14:7
I learned a lot of names that year, dozens of them. Twenty-two years later, I can only think of one: Cadet First Class Chad P. Tuttle.
I am a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 7,258 feet above sea level, far, far above that of West Point or Annapolis. I learned that my doolie year at the Air Force Academy. That's what the freshman year is called; it's the doolie year. It comes from the Greek word for "slave," and that's what the doolie year feels like.
There are many rituals and symbols of this servile status. Let me tell you two of them. First, there is the hat, the cover that you're issued as a doolie. It's a straight-billed, foam-backed trucker's cap with a button on top, cast in your class color. Our color was silver that year, but the thing looked more like gray. That ugly gray trucker's cap was the sign of our servitude.
Let me tell you about one of the rituals that reinforces this lowly social status as a freshman at the United States Air Force Academy. All the doolies are required to memorize the full names of all the senior cadets in their squadron. And then we're required to greet them by name whenever we pass them in the hall or out on the Terrazzo Courtyard. I learned dozens of names that year. And I can still remember some of their last names, but I don't remember anybody's full name: except one, Cadet First Class Chad P. Tuttle.
Let me tell you why.
It was the last week of doolie year. Formally, it's called, "Recognition Week." Informally, and for good practical reasons—even if not good theological ones—it's called "hell week." On the other side, there would either be shame or glory. There would either be soul-piercing loss or, if you made it, metaphorical resurrection to new life. And if you made it, the sign of this new life would be a new hat. No more would we wear that ugly gray trucker's cap; we would surrender that crown of thorns and be awarded a crown of glory. And for the cadets of my squadron, the doolies of Cadet Squadron 12, there was one man in charge of this final judgment: Cadet First Class Chad P. Tuttle. I remember his name, not simply because he was in charge. Any fool can find himself momentarily in charge—read Ecclesiastes 10:6. No, I remember him for a different reason. It was the last day of hell week. One final challenge: an obstacle course. All the physical and psychological torture of basic training rolled up into one event.
And I remember standing in formation with my fellow doolies, wearing our gray hats, and watching in awe as our fearless commander, Cadet Tuttle, removed his blue beret, the hat of the senior class, and pulled out his doolie hat. And he joined our formation. He became one of us and suffered alongside us.
That's why I remember his name.
On this program, we are walking through six core teachings of the Bible. The series is based on a title of a book by Pastor Paul Schult called, Getting To Know Jesus. That's what the Bible is all about. It's getting to know the Name of Jesus more deeply, more fully. And this week we are in the second core teaching: the Apostles' Creed.
Think of the Apostles' Creed like a mosaic—a mosaic: a picture made from smaller pieces arranged in a certain order. The Apostles' Creed is like a mosaic of Bible verses taken from the whole span of Scripture. There was an ancient Christian teacher named Irenaeus. And he said that if you put all the Bible pieces together, it should form a picture of a king, King Jesus. And he was criticizing other people who had put the Bible together and would form a picture of a fox.
So how do you know you've got the right picture? Well, if the Bible is like a jigsaw puzzle, made of thousands of pieces, the Apostles' Creed is like the picture on the front of the puzzle box. Let me say it another way: the Apostles' Creed is all about name recognition. There are three parts to name recognition: identification, number one; number two, reputation; and number three, admiration.
First, there is identification. Identification is making sure that you've got the right name. Without proper identification, there is confusion. If you don't get the name right, people don't know what you're talking about. For example, I have a friend who has trouble thinking of the name of the thing, and so he says, "Hey, would you get me the, uh, the whatchamacallit?" To which I say, "Uh, could you describe that for me?" See, if you don't know the name, people don't know what you're talking about.
And that's the purpose of the Apostles' Creed. When people say, "I believe in God," they could mean a lot of things. In fact, the word God has been stretched so much that it could mean almost anything—so much that we may as well be saying, "I believe in whatchamacallit." Could you describe that for me? Yes. "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord." Okay, now we're being specific. We're talking about the God of Jesus.
In the creeds of the Christian church, there is only one proper Name for God given. The Name for God that we are given—the only proper Name that we are given in the Apostles' Creed—is the Name of Jesus. That's because if you know Jesus, you know God the Father, and you know God the Holy Spirit.
Now there are two other names, proper names, given in the Apostles' Creed. There is Mary and Pontius Pilate, and these names are given to locate Jesus in history. We're not talking about a myth, a legend, or a religious ideal. We're talking about a real historical Person, born of the Virgin Mary, raised in Nazareth, crucified under Pontius Pilate, literally resurrected from the dead. That's the Jesus that we're talking about. That's the Name for God that we're given.
In Jewish tradition, some Jewish traditions there are seven names for God given. In other Jewish traditions, there are 72 names for God. In Islamic tradition, there are 99 names for God. In the Christian creed, there is only one—the Name that is above every name.
Listen to this Bible passage from the apostle Paul's letter to the followers of Jesus in the ancient Roman colony of Philippi. The apostle says to his fellow Christians: "Therefore, have this mindset among you, which was in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, something to be used to His advantage, but He emptied Himself. Taking the form of a servant and being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a Man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient—obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the Name that is above every name. So that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
You hear how Paul honors the reputation of Jesus. That's the second part of name recognition. First, there's identification, getting the right name. Second, there is reputation. Think about the brands that you know—brand names that you love and trust. A brand name makes a promise and then delivers, or fails to deliver, on that promise. So, what are some of the brands that you love and trust? Maybe it's Apple, or maybe it's Microsoft. Maybe it's Ford, or maybe it's Chevy. Maybe it's Coke or Pepsi, or maybe you're a Red Bull kind of person.
Whatever the brand names are, you have come to either avoid them or to be drawn to them. And you're drawn to them because that brand has made a promise of something that you need, and then has continued to deliver on that promise, again and again—so much so that you become loyal to that brand, and you would gladly be branded with it. You put its logos on your cars and your water bottles and your backpacks, and you say, "This is my brand. I trust in this brand."
And that's all that we're doing with the Apostles' Creed. We're saying that this is our brand. This is the name that we trust. This is the name with which we are branded. The Apostles' Creed, it's centered on a confession taken straight from Philippians 2: Jesus is my Lord, my Master.
I was watching one of the Avenger superhero movies recently. And there's a scene at the end when the superheroes—they're all over the galaxy, and they're fighting the same bad guy—but they don't realize that they're fighting the same bad guy, and they meet on this planet, and one of the heroes says to the other, "Which master do you serve?"
And the other guy says, "Which master do I serve? What am I supposed to say? 'Jesus'?" Exactly.
That's all the Apostles' Creed is saying—that there is only one Name, one Name that is above every name that can be named, not only in this age, but in the age to come: one Name that outlasts kingdoms and empires and film franchises, one Name that is mentioned even still today in movies, 2,000 years later: the Name of Jesus.
And that's what I'm saying, that's what you're saying in the Apostles' Creed, is that Jesus is my Master. He's my Lord. The Creed gives me the words, gives you the words, words handed down by the apostles—words that have a three-fold purpose: identification, getting the right name; reputation, upholding the integrity of the brand; and third, admiration.
See, the Apostles' Creed is not simply stating accurate things about God. The Apostles' Creed is not simply the repetition of an ancient church ritual. It's that, but more. Because the Apostles' Creed is an expression of the deepest admiration for the Name of Jesus and everything that He stands for.
It's kind of like how I am still drawn to the name of my old cadet commander from the Air Force Academy. Admiration of a good name tends to bring out the best in you. When I was a senior at the Air Force Academy, I found myself in the position of squadron commander. I was in charge. And when the doolies of my squadron descended into the depths of the obstacle course, I took off my blue beret, and I put on my old doolie hat, and I stood in formation with them. And I suffered alongside them, as one of them.
What would possess me to do such a thing? It was the identification, the reputation, and the admiration of a name. Twenty-two years later, that name still inspires me. Whose name inspires you? If you're anything like me, there's probably a lot of names that come to mind. And I pray and hope that your name is on someone's list. But above all, I pray that there is only one Name at the top of the list—the Name that is destined to be at the top of every list. That's because you and I, and every human being that has ever been will one day confess the Name of Jesus. The only question is, will it be a cry of eternal loss, or a confession of eternal glory?
So here's the brand promise: "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and you trust in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Whoever calls on the Name of the Lord will never be put to shame. That's our promise. Take up that confession. Take it up right now. Why? Because Jesus emptied Himself for you. Jesus became obedient unto death, even death on a cross—for you.
See, this is what gets me about the Name of Jesus. It's not just that He is the Almighty God in the flesh. It's not just that He is resurrected from the dead and in charge of the final judgment. What gets me is His humility, His servant heart, His love. Our King became a slave. He became a doolie. He stood under the judgment for us. He went through the course alongside us so that we don't have to go through it alone.
And even today, His followers all over the world continue to confess the words of the Apostles' Creed. It is a ritual; it is a symbol of the Christian faith, but that's not all it is. It is an expression of worship, of admiration. And admiration naturally leads to imitation. And that's why the apostle Paul opens the second chapter of his letter to the Philippians with these words, words which I share with you now in closing.
"Therefore, if there is any encouragement in being united with Christ, if there is any comfort from His love, if there is any fellowship in the Spirit, if there is any compassion and mercy, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Don't do anything out of selfish ambition or vanity but, in humility, regard others as more important than yourselves—looking not to your own concerns, but each of you to the concerns of others. Have this mindset among you that was in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God did not consider equality with God something to be used for His own advantage. But He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave (a doolie). Being made in human likeness and found in appearance as a Man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the Name that is above every name. So that at the Name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth. And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."
If this is your confession, pray with me. Lord Jesus, I am yours. Save me. Amen.
Note: The Lutheran Hour is produced for the ear and designed to be heard. If you are able, we encourage you to listen to the audio at lutheranhour.org., which includes emotion and emphasis not reflected in the transcript.
Reflections for June 30, 2019
Title: What's in a Name?
Mike Zeigler: Again, I have joining me in the studio Pastor Paul Schult from the San Francisco Bay area and Deaconess Dorothy Glenn from the St. Louis area. We're talking about identity, specifically God's identity, His Name.
When we look at the Apostles' Creed, it stood out to me having thought through this stuff, reading your book, Paul, that there's only one divine Name given in the Apostles' Creed. There's two other merely human names, Mary and Pontius Pilate, but there's only one divine Name. There's titles of God, but the only Name we're given is Jesus. What do you make of that?
Paul Schult: As you go through the Scriptures, there are many names and titles, a combination of both throughout the Scriptures. All of those offer us an insight into the heart and the nature and the character of God. But at the top of all those names is the Name Jesus. It is the one Name that captures the essence of God and His heart and His character, which is He's the One who saves. God saves. Ultimately, that's the heart of God.
Mike Zeigler: Christianity has this unique teaching about God, that He is not three Gods but One God, yet not solitary, but three interrelating Persons, beings. I think it goes back to the message that you gave at the introduction of this series that relationships are at the core of God's design for created life, but even deeper than that, relationships are at the core of God. He's not a solitary figure, as some other religious traditions would have us imagine Him. At His core, He is Father, Son, Holy Spirit, in eternal relationship.
Paul Schult: Yeah. I heard something the other day, a description of this that really caught my attention. I'd never heard it stated like this before, but what you were describing of the relationship of those three Persons of Godhead, Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, and their fellowship, their interconnection—it was described as each One always glorifying the Other.
Jesus was always pointing attention to the Father and the Spirit. The Father was always pointing to the Son and the Spirit. They're always glorifying the Other. It's just the humble nature of God that they're always glorifying the Other—and how that is God's life-giving way for us to exist—is by not glorifying self, not turning in on self, but glorifying others and glorifying God. That becomes life-giving, is not focusing on self, which is so counterintuitive. Because self-preservation is our default mode, and God is saying, "No, no, no, no, by not self-preserving, you will find life.
Dorothy Glenn: I think another key aspect of Jesus saying, "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also," is thinking about the fact that in knowing Jesus we know the Father, and that special relationship between Father and Son is our relationship as father and child, because we know Jesus, and we are intimately connected with Jesus as outlined in Romans 6:3-7 about our sins being on that cross and us dying with Christ and rising with Him.
Mike Zeigler: Dorothy, as you were saying, our identity is now wrapped up in, hidden in, Christ through Baptism into His death and resurrection. How would you say that the third part of the Creed, the Holy Spirit, how does this relate to our being wrapped up in Jesus?
Dorothy Glenn: I think that verse that I mentioned earlier about Romans 6:3-7 is so important to me. Because as I continue in my life and daily sin, I can also recognize that when God looks at me, He doesn't see that sin, He sees His Son that was in my place on that cross.
In this relationship with that love overflowing to the people around us, we continue to also come back to the gifts that He gives us when we gather together as Christians on Sunday. Because on Sunday, we receive the Word of God and receive the body and blood of Christ. In that, the Holy Spirit is able to continue to guide and sanctify in the sense of continuing to keep us close in that relationship to Him, that we may focus on Him.
Mike Zeigler: Yeah. There's that language from the Small Catechism in the explanation that the Holy Spirit calls and gathers and enlightens. So maybe He's the voice of the adopting Father. He's the One who's bringing me into this.
Paul Schult: I sometimes use the word "connector" to describe the Holy Spirit. We usually use the word "Sanctifier." Just kind of in a pragmatic way, I think of the Holy Spirit, as the Holy Spirit comes and dwells within us; we are then connected to God. We have the objective fact of God's creation and His redemption through Jesus. It objectively happened for the redemption of all people that I get connected to that when the Holy Spirit comes and dwells and lives in me and forgives and enlightens and lives within me and connects me to Jesus and all that He's done for me. So I just kind of draw that concept of connection. That's how I get connected to this is when the Spirit dwells in me.
Mike Zeigler: Yeah. So the same Spirit that dwells in Jesus and in the Son of God from eternity now dwells in me, and so I have His identity. Did you have a quote from the book?
Dorothy Glenn: I was just looking through, talking about the Holy Spirit actually being the Counselor, working in us for our salvation. In other words, opening our eyes to the reality of our sin and our need for a Savior and creating that faith in Jesus. I'm not quite sure how He does it, but He does it. That's the mystery of the Holy Spirit, and to guide us to live differently by growing deeper in our understanding and deeper in our grasp of God's grace.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Come, Follow Me, the Savior Spake" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)