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Sermon for 4th Sunday of Easter

First Reading: Acts 4:1-12

1As {Peter and John} were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. 5On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead — by him this man is standing before you well. 11This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”


Psalm 23

1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. 2He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. 3He revives my soul and guides me along right pathways for his name’s sake. 4Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  5You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; you have anointed my head with oil, and my cup is running over. 6Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


 Second Reading: 1 John 3:16-24

16By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 19By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.


Gospel: John 10:11-18

11{Jesus said,} “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”


No Other Name

Let me begin this morning with a little trivia.  Who here can name the 33rd President of the United States?  The 33rd President of our country was Harry S Truman.  Question number two: We remember our 33rd president as Harry S Truman.  What did the “S” stand for?  In a way, this is a trick question: the middle initial of Harry S Truman’s name didn’t stand for anything.  Both his grandfathers had names beginning with S, so he was given the bare initial S to avoid having to choose between them.

Names are fascinating.  Pastor Ray Stedman says he had a friend whose middle initial was “T.”  Once, at a party, another friend announced that he had discovered what that “T” stood for: It stood for “Theophilus,” he said, because when he was born, the doctor said, “That’s the awfulest baby I ever saw!”

An article appeared in newspapers sometime back.  The writer was researching the relationship between a person’s name and the choices they make as they go through life.  The writer included choices such as profession, and even the choice of a spouse.  The researcher also indicated that these were statistical tendencies not rules, but tendencies.

For example, there were more dentists named Dennis than could be explained just by random chance; that there were more women named Louise living in St. Louis things like that.  There was also a statistical correlation pointing toward people marrying other people whose first names started with the same letter as theirs, David and Denise, for example.  Another fact cited, was that the president of the Audubon Society, the famous bird watching organization, at that time was a fellow named John Flicker.  For those of you who may not be bird‑watchers, a flicker is a kind of woodpecker.  Names are indeed fascinating.  Sometimes people have funny reasons for choosing names.

Lino Piedra, the former Chairman of the Board of Diamond‑Star Motors, an joint automobile manufacturing venture of the Chrysler Corporation and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, likes to tell a story about an effort that was made in his company to “anglicize” the first names of some of the Japanese managers.  This effort was because their American counterparts had trouble pronouncing their Japanese names.

So, for example, the public relations manager suggested to Osamu Itoh, the assistant general manager of human relations, might like to simply be known as Sam.  “No,” Itoh replied, “I think I would like a different name.”  “What would you like to be called?” the P.R. manager asked.  Itoh replied that he would like to be called, “Awesome.”  “I think Awesome Itoh is a very good choice,” he said.  They had a similar problem with Mr. Watanabe of MMC International Corporation.  He chose the name “Handsome,” remarking that he had always wanted to be handsome.  In the end, the Japanese managers at Diamond‑Star retained their given names.

Several years ago, when they were selecting a new Pope, a gentleman from Spain was given weighty consideration.  His name was Cardinal Sicola.  However, the College of Cardinals decided against him in the end.  Could you imagine the name, Pope Sicola? Actually, I think his real name is Scola, but why mess up a good joke.  Some names given are ridiculous.  Our Puritan ancestors chose some absurd names for their children.  For example, one man was afflicted with the name of “Kill Sin.”  Even worse, his full name was Kill Sin Pimple.

Kill Sin lived in Sussex, Massachusetts in 1609.  In the spring of that year, the record shows, Kill Sin served on a jury with some of his neighbors.  These included others with names like More Fruit Fowler, God Reward Smart, Be Faithful Joiner and Fight the Good Fight of Faith White.  “Poor men,” noted a writer in Time magazine some years ago.  “At birth, their parents had turned them into religious bumper stickers.”  Names can be fascinating.  Names can sometimes funny.  And at times, names can be ridiculous.  And then, there are times when names are significant.  No matter how a name may seem to us, they are, however, important.

Maya Lin, designer of the Vietnam War Memorial was explaining to a TV interviewer why her remarkable work has come to have such a strong grip upon the emotions of the American people.  “It’s the names,” she said, “the names are the memorial.  No edifice or structure can bring people to mind as powerfully as their names.”

There’s a popular children’s book by Yangsook Choi called The Name Jar.  A young girl has just moved to the United States with her family from Korea.  On the first day of school, the little girl was nervous about being accepted by the American kids, and she gets teased a little on the bus on the way to school.  She is embarrassed by her Korean name, and instead of introducing herself on the first day, she tells the class that she will choose an American name by the following week.

Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from; names included Suzy, Laura, and Amanda.  In the meantime, one of her classmates goes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name . . . and its special meaning.  On the day of her name choosing, the name jar mysteriously disappears.  Encouraged by her new friends, the Korean girl chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it.  Her real name is Unhei [“yoon-hay] and it turns out that in Korean, Unhei means “grace.”

For Christians, grace is a significant word, it reminds us of God’s unmerited love for us as sinners.  It would be hard to have a more significant name than Grace.  There’s only one name more significant to the believer than Grace, it’s the name Jesus.  In our First Reading for today, which is a continuation of last week’s reading, Peter and John encountered a man, lame from birth, who was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was placed every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.  When he saw Peter and John about to enter the gate, the lame man asked them for money.

In response, Peter looked at the man, as did John.  Then Peter said, “Look at us!”  So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.  Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  And the man leaped to his feet.  As I said, we read this part of the story last week, but the repercussions from this man’s healing continue in today’s lesson from the book of Acts.

In our First reading for today, Peter and John are arrested and placed in custody overnight.  As a reminder, the Sadducees didn’t believe in a resurrection, so when they hear Peter and John teaching that Jesus has risen from the dead, they take offense.  “The next day,” says Dr. Luke as he continues his narrative, “the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem.  Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and others of the high priest’s family.  They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: ‘By what power or what name did you do this?’  This is an important question the religious leaders are asking.  They recognized that what had happened wasn’t humanly possible, a miracle had happened.  By what power or by what name do you do these things?

Dictators aside, everyone knows that things only happen when someone either has the power or the authority.  A police officer has the authority to make arrests when crimes are committed; you and I do not normally have this authority.  Supervisors can only direct employees to do things that they have supervision over.  Even in the military, senior enlisted and officers can only order others to do things, if the order is lawful.  And when someone’s authority or power is questioned, they must provide the requester with that information.

Starting in verse 8 we read, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people!  If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.  Jesus is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’”

This passage concludes with a very important and profound statement that every true Christian must understand: “there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  Many of us remember a question that comes from one of Shakespeare’s plays. “What’s in a name?” asks Juliet in one of the world’s most famous dramas about young love, Romeo and Juliet.  Juliet’s family is sworn enemies with Romeo’s family, and no matter how much the two young lovers may want to marry each other, it’s not going to happen.  Young Juliet isn’t yet hardened to the ways of the world, and she has a brilliant idea, a way through their dilemma: “Deny thy father and refuse thy name,” she says to Romeo.  “Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I’ll no longer be a Capulet.”  After all, she reasons, “What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”

One writer notes, “That’s a radical statement in [Juliet’s] world, where your name is related to your family, your property, your honor, all the things that are supposed to matter.  Romeo and Juliet learn that there’s a lot in a name, and they end up being together only in death.”  Names are important, especially one name.  Bishop Woodie White tells about one of his role models, the late Howard Thurman, a beloved professor at the Boston University School of Theology.  Thurman was a nationally recognized preacher, author, and lecturer.  He served for many years as dean of the chapel at Boston University, bringing it international acclaim.

In his autobiography titled With Head and Heart, Howard Thurman records a compelling experience on his first trip to India in 1935.  He was invited to preach at an Anglican cathedral in South India.  Following the evening service, as he stood greeting the worshippers, there came a young man who appeared to be moved by his sermon.  Expecting affirmation for his sermon, Dr. Thurman was surprised when the man spoke in a soft but broken voice these words: “You did my Master wrong tonight.  It was a terrible thing: You preached your entire sermon and not one time did you call my Savior by name‑-not one time.”

Howard Thurman, stunned by this observation and the reaction of this worshipper, went on to explain that his message was really the essence of the teaching of Jesus‑-His values, His witness, what He would describe as the kingdom on earth, and the kingdom to come.  “This was all Jesus,” he said.  The young man agreed.  Howard Thurman’s sermon was all of that, he allowed, and then said, “Yes, but this is not the point.  You did not call Him by name, and it’s important that His name be lifted up, that He might draw all men unto Him.”

It is important to lift up the name of Jesus, it’s the name at which everyone on the earth and under the earth will bow (Philippians 2:10).  Jesus is all-powerful and has all authority, and as Christians, we can do nothing without His authority and power.  John W. Maccallum, a 19th century evangelical author, put it this way, “At the mention of His name I have known the drunkard to start from his frenzy, leap out of the galling chains in which he has been bound for twenty years, and, clothed in his right mind, go forth, breathing the testimony of divine saving to rescue thousands from death and illimitable woe.  At the name of Jesus, spoken to him reverently, I have known the maniac to cease his wild ravings and become as a little child, tender and submissive.

In a revival, not long since, a helpless stammerer was suddenly cured of his impediment as he named the name of Christ in praise.  I have seen men who had been bitterest enemies for years, suddenly fall weeping into each other’s arms, their spite and hatred buried forever, just by the power of the name of Jesus.  Oh!  It is a mighty Name!  Jesus!”  It’s the only name by which humanity can be saved.

There are churches today that forward that there is one God, but there are many paths to God.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Those that forward this lie, refer to this as universal salvation.  The Bible in several places makes this very clear, and if you hear nothing else form this sermon today, understand this on one comes to the Father but by Jesus.  Peter, in our First reading, is making clear what Jesus Himself explained in at least two other places in scripture.  In John 14:6, “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  And in the 3 verses that precedes our gospel reading for today we read, “Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  They will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (vs. 7-10).

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  And that name is Jesus.  So, what does that name mean to you?  There are some settings in which the only time you will hear Jesus’ name used will be as a curse word.  God was clear in the Second Commandment, “you shall not take the Lord’s name in vain.  The name of Jesus is powerful.  It has all authority, and it is holy.  It’s not to be used as an exclamation point.  Nor is it to be used as a preface to a curse.  Our Creeds are clear, He will return to judge the living and the dead.

The name of Jesus is to be honored and just as important, it’s the name we use each time we pray.  When we serve the Lord’s Supper or baptize or when we attend to any of the ministries of the church, we do it in Jesus’ name.  We have seen popular heroes, celebrities, politicians, business leaders, and clergy, whose names have been sullied by time, but not this name.  The name of Jesus is a name above all names.  And as you leave today, my prayer is that you will take that name with you and treat it with reverence.

Evangelist Sam Kamaleson of India was preaching in Romania just as the Communist world of Eastern Europe was collapsing.  His audience, so long deprived of God and His Word, was large and attentive.  One night as he preached, Sam became conscious of an unexpected sound that swept the gathering.  Slowly he recognized that the wave of sound came every time he used the name of Jesus.  Then he realized that it was the women in the audience weeping.  The sound increased, and he realized that the men were weeping as well.  Sam said that by that time he found himself weeping every time he used the name of Jesus as well.  Sam explained, “You know, when the last alternative option to Jesus has been exhausted and shown for its true bankruptcy, the name of Jesus takes on great power and allure.”

In the words of the Gospel song writer of long ago Lydia Baxter, “Take the name of Jesus with you, Child of sorrow and of woe; It will joy and comfort give you, Take it then where’er you go.”  Jesus made this very clear: I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  By no other name can anyone be saved.  That name is the holy name of Jesus.


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