Tuesday, February 22, 2011

There is Power in the Name

In June of 2008, I attended the General Gathering of Conservative Friends in Barnesville, Ohio. This gathering, sponsored by Friends in Ohio Yearly Meeting, was one of my first interactions with the Conservative Quaker stream. Though I learned much and saw many Ohio Yearly Meeting Sessions, 2009new things at this gathering, there is one moment that stands out for me most vividly:
During one of the meetings for worship, a minister knelt down and delivered a vocal prayer. She declared that, "there is power in the name of Jesus - not the word, but the Name." This immediately struck me as a deep teaching, and it is one that has stayed with me ever since. The longer that I have allowed this teaching to season and work on my heart, the deeper its significance has become in my own walk with Christ.

Many today have come to believe that Jesus is merely a historical figure - a time-bound prophet, like Moses or John the Baptist. Many good people today believe that "Christ" is just a word, a label for God that can be comfortably interchanged with any other. But I have been convinced - and my conviction grows daily - Convergent Friends Gathering, 2008that the name of Jesus the Messiah is indeed the Name above every name.(1)

His name is not, of course, the word itself. The word for "Jesus" varies depending on the language; and in some cultures, many people today are named "Jesus." The name of Jesus is not the word itself, but the one to whom it refers: Jesus of Nazareth, the living Word of God. There is power in his name as we abide in him - in the living reality of Jesus, who once walked among us as the Word made flesh, suffered and died for our sakes, and who now lives within the hearts of those who accept him and allow him to transform our lives.

This past week, as I traveled among Friends in Philadelphia, the reality of the power of Jesus’ name has been especially alive to me. I have seen vivid examples of the difference it makes whether our meetings together are explicitly gathered in his name. I have also seen that the spiritual forces of darkness are desperate to discourage us from naming our submission to Christ as a community. As wellCenter City Philadelphia they should be. When we gather together in Jesus' name, we are knitted together in his love, mercy and power. He gives us strength, comfort and courage for the work of the Kingdom. He casts out all fear.

When we fail to invite Jesus to come into our midst and gather us as a community, we risk losing the opportunity to be united in his presence. Jesus said he would always be with us(2), but this promise is not unconditional. It is when two or three are gathered together in his name, that Jesus promises to be present in our midst.(3) If we earnestly seek together the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, he will gather and teach us. But we must invite him in.

I must emphasize again that the power I describe does not come from the word "Jesus." We can say, "Lord, Lord," all day long, and yet if we are not living in humble submission to Christ's living teaching and presence in our hearts, we put on a form of godliness while denying the living power of the Spirit.(4) Nevertheless, we must remember the importance of explicitly acknowledging Jesus inQuaker Camp, 2007 our gatherings. This reminder is especially crucial for Friends, whose default is to remain silent.

Often our silence does us credit, enabling us to avoid the profusion of empty words that so often characterizes the worship life of the wider Church. However, sometimes we remain silent when we should speak. We should take care that we never avoid speaking the name of Jesus in our gatherings. If we are ashamed of him, he will be ashamed of us.(5)

When we are deeply in love, it takes great effort not to say the name of the beloved. We want to repeat it - to shout it from the rooftops. We want to share the joy of our love with everyone we meet. Do we love Jesus this way? Do we want to share the beauty of the love we have found in him? Do we want to rejoice in his name in our gatherings as Friends? If we truly love Jesus, if we desireGreat Plains Yearly Meeting, 2008 his presence with us in our life together as a community, let us be unafraid to invite him into our gatherings.

There is power in the name of Jesus - not in the word, but in the Name. The forces of darkness shriek and rage against his life and presence; they seek to convince us to refrain from mentioning his name, whispering that we should be "respectable" and "broad-minded." Despite all of the obstacles that we face, let us never be ashamed of his name, his life, his beautiful presence that lives among us. He loves us as an older brother cherishes and guards his sisters and brothers from those who seek to harm them. Let us confess our love for him without shame and without guile.

Come, Lord Jesus! You are our Life, our Truth, our Beauty and our Safety. We invite you to enter into our hearts and our communities. Stay with us this night, dear Lord. You are radiant!

-

1. Philippians 2:9
2. Matthew 28:20
3. Matthew 18:20
4. 2 Timothy 3:5
5. Mark 8:38

27 comments:

Bill Samuel said...

Amen! This is a very important message. It took me utter despair and Christ speaking to me in that moment, to get this message.

Our lives need to witness to the power of the Name above all names. It is not something to bash people over the heads with. It is something to live out. And to be not afraid to speak plainly about when a moment arises to give the reason for the hope that lies within us. (1 Peter 3:15)

Ken said...

Yes!

Raye said...

Most of the time in worship, it is not my role to speak aloud. But there have been a few times when I knew I had to speak of Jesus in that place and time. Once, I was to refer to Him as the Lamb of God. Another time, I was to speak of Jesus the Christ and His offices. I reckon that this mattered to the Lord at those times. Thy post has affirmed that it needs to be done for the benefit of all present.

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful.

Luis Pizarro said...

Micah, wonderful post. I absolutely agree with thee.

Ashley W said...

Dear Micah,

Yes, there is power in the name of Jesus. And like most kinds of power, it is power that can be used well or abused.

The Bible gives many examples of the different ways that God has manifested in the world: a burning bush, a still small voice, an angel who wrestles, in a flash of light, through the words of other people, and in the love of Jesus. Your post mentions two more: through the God that Jesus called "father" and the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised would come after him.

It is important for you to use the name of Jesus because that is the way that you have experienced God. You have a rich personal relationship with Jesus, which you can share with joy.

And just as it is important for you to name how you experience God, it is important for me to use the language that is meaningful to me: that I experience God through the Holy Spirit. If I were to go around using the word "Jesus" when I meant "Holy Spirit," I would be a liar and a thief, and I believe I could do much harm.

In the end, I am convinced that nothing can separate me from the love of God, not language, nor differences in theology, nor death, nor life. That love was present in Jesus and is present in all of God's creation, including us.

With love,
Ashley

Valerie Eastwood said...

Thank you for this message.

Ben said...

Silly sophistry, with a sad undercurrentof superstition.
You art art sadly caught up in the words and symbols. Try to let go of that stuff and quiet down. It's the direct antithesis of Quakerism.
I find it insulting that you would go on a quaker forum and push this kind of foolishness.

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jules said...

wow. That is so powerful! I am so thankful for the Name of Jesus! It is so powerful and when we are feeling down or are in trouble that's all we need to say is Jesus and He will deliver us from whatever we are facing and we can rejoice in whatever circumstance we are in all because of His wonderful and powerful Name!

Ember said...

Ben: it is important for us to understand that what Micah speaks here is by no means silly sophistry, but a personal encounter with and appropriation of a foundational scriptural truth.
Proverbs 18:10 says "The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe"; surely a precious thing.
The Name of the Lord referred to is the "ego iemi", God's "I Am that I Am" that He revealed as His Name.
This is not a name in the sense of a label, but means that God alone is self-referential and has an identity in no sense at all derivative - in other words this Name of God is the primal Word, the root force of the Making, the power of creation by which God speaks light into being.
In the gospels, and particularly John's gospel where the miracles are called 'signs', Jesus deliberately and repeatedly appropriates to Himself the "ego iemi", thus revealing Himself as at one with the Father. This is the revelation that Jesus as well as the Father bears the "I Am that I Am", the self-actualising, primal reality and creator power of the root of the Making, the power of origin.
When we take refuge in this we are safe.
When we make our prayers in this Name - ie when we align ourselves with the directional flow of this Making, then we are at one with the great I Am, and we share in the victory of the cross, which is the only hope of overcoming our sin.
I witness from decades of lived experience as well as from biblical study that this is so; and I think thee owes Micah an apology.

George Fox said...

"We believe that he alone is our Redeemer and Saviour, the captain of our salvation, who saves us from sin, as well as from hell and the wrath to come, and destroys the devil and his works; he is the Seed of the woman that bruises the serpent's head, to wit, Christ Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last. He is (as the scriptures of truth say of him) our wisdom, righteousness, justification, and redemption; neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we may be saved."

Jules said...

AMEN EMBER!

clevsea said...

Very true and very helpful insight.

I live in a large city with few Christians and I have observed that one may say the word "God" and there will be little reaction.

If one says "Jesus" then the reactions start.

Here is the reason, "And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake." ~~ Jesus Christ the Lord

Anonymous said...

Labelling those who don't share your theology "the forces of darkness" is a bit over the top, eh? And exactly why so many people are turned off by Christianity today.

A Christian Friend

Atlanta said...

Thanks for this post Micah!

quakergirl said...

We should pronounce His name more often. We know that is not the actual name that has power but the representation of it. Acts 2:21 Beautiful name.

Micah Bales said...

@Bill @Ken @Raye @Anonymous #1 @Luís @Valerie @Jules @Atlanta @quakergirl

Thank you for your kind words of support. I am grateful to know that this essay struck such a chord with so many!

@Ashley

I unite with your sense that nothing can separate you from the love of God. The Holy Spirit will stand with us through thick and thin, and it will transform us inwardly and outwardly as we submit ourselves to its teaching.

I think that we do differ in our understanding of who Jesus is. While, from what you have written, I take it that you believe that Jesus is merely one manifestation of God among many, I believe that Jesus literally is God, uniquely incarnate and fully manifested in human form.

I confess that Jesus of Nazareth - the Word made flesh - is the same Word who spoke to Moses from the burning bush; the still small voice that spoke to Elijah; and the angel who wrestled with Jacob. All things were made through him, and all things hold together because of his presence. (Colossians 1:16-17). I have seen him in my own life, and I confess that he is risen from the dead, and is here to teach his people himself.

I know that not everyone has had this experience yet. It happened to me only fairly recently. I make no claims of superior spiritual gifts. God has had great mercy on me, a rebellious sinner. I pray that all people might receive the undeserved mercy that I have found in Jesus Christ, through his Holy Spirit.

@Ben

I am saddened that you find my faith so asinine. Yet, I am reminded of the words of Paul, in his first letter to the Church in Corinth: "...God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength." (1 Corinthians 1:25)

@Ember

Wow! Thank you so much for opening the Scriptures to us. You have helped deepen my limited human understanding and appreciation of his name.

@George Fox

Amen, Friend George!

@clevsea

What you say is true. While it would be easier to simply say "God," or "the Spirit," I feel called to be explicit that my faith is in the God revealed to us by Jesus.

@Anonymous #2

Please let me be clear: To quote from Ephesians, "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

I by no means seek to claim that those who disagree with me are "the forces of darkness." On the contrary, it is my prayer that all of us, regardless of our present belief systems, might be brought into unity and freed from the dark spiritual forces that enslave us.

Christ wants us to be free and whole - all of us. Every man woman and child is my brother or sister in Christ, and I pray that I might be given the grace to love everyone - regardless of their beliefs or actions - with the abounding and steadfast love of Jesus.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to add a little peice of lost Christian history to this wonderful post.

The word translated into Greek as logos (word, symbol) is the Hebrew "devar" which means both word and thing. The Hebrew word for name, "shem" also means "essence". When Jews call God haShem, "the Name" they are also calling Him "the Essence".


There is enormous power in a name when we grasp it's essence, rather than treat it as a word/thing. It is the "Essence" of Yeshua/Jesus/Christ that has to be found and not just the sounds and the symbol.

ML1959 said...

I am Christian. But I need to point out that there are many non-Christian Universalist Friends. And they are thriving in the Spirit without any personal connection to Jesus of Nazareth. This is not open for debate. It is a simple fact.

phil said...

Micah--it is difficult to convey in a post the power, emtion, memory, grief, suprise and gratitude I felt reading your message. you strike an old and buried hunger. you remind me of when I first encountered the name of Jesus. You revive hope in me with your words. I have been and continue to be desperate for a community where the true power of Jesus is manifest, felt, recieved. I am embarrased for that desperation yet no other word can convey the need and desire

Ben said...

Words, words, words that our friend who you presume to "label Jesus" would never use.
Have some humility, these words have given our faith a bad name for tooo long.
If you really want to get this right, sit quietly in meeting and meet with the one who just might be able to bring you light, maybe yourself.
I know I risk sounding patronizing here but I'll take the risk.
These words are bringing us down as fast as any culture/society may be.
Your bible and words are of course good for only one thing,(as explained in that scripture), a commitment to charity, that's it, all the rest, though interesting is words.

Jonathan said...

"I have seen vivid examples of the difference it makes whether our meetings together are explicitly gathered in his name."
Please name/describe/explain a few of these. What kind of difference did it make?

Bill Samuel said...

Jonathan, I was very active in a liberal meeting for many years. Everyone was amazed when we had a gathered meeting, because it was so infrequent. In the meetings I knew, it seemed generally accepted that a gathered meeting was an unusual happening.

Then I began worshipping with a few others in the Name. We had gathered meetings week after week. I really began to understand the promise, "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20, TNIV) Christ didn't mean once in a blue moon; he meant every time! And Christ always keeps His promises.

What I am talking about is a palpable and powerful sense of God's presence among those gathered, leading us and guiding us in love.

So don't focus on a method of worship, doctrine, social concerns, etc. Always focus on Christ as the head of meeting.

Micah Bales said...

@Anonymous Thank you for this further exposition of the scriptural basis for our understanding of "name" as "essence." This is very helpful.

@Phil I am grateful to know that this post has struck such a chord with you. God is standing with you in your sense of desperation. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." (Matt 5:4) You are blessed, Phil.

I pray that you will continue to seek out the Lord's presence - in your own life as an individual, and also in community with other believers. Feel free to email me if you would like to correspond as you continue down this road.

@Jonathan This is a very good question! I think that Bill gave a good answer. For my part, I think that my friend Tyler put it best when he said, "Jesus is where relativism ends."

When we acknowledge Jesus as our risen Savior, we see who God really is. When we submit ourselves to him as a body, opening ourselves to his working in our life together, miracles happen.

One thing that has been very present with me recently have been the times that I have seen Jesus left unnamed in our gatherings as Friends. I have sensed that a real spiritual damage was done; because we did not seek him, we did not find him - at least not as fully as we might have if we had named our desire for his presence.

I do think that it is essential that we gather together in a spirit of contrition and humility. We must recognize our own desperate need for his living presence to help us to change our lives and become more like him. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." (Matt 5:6)

Anonymous said...

Sigh,
Could we not try to at least get the name right?Easu or something----

Simon said...

I'm struck by the parallel drawn with being deeply in love with another person, wanting to proclaim it and shout the name of the loved one from the rooftops. In human relationships this intensity is seldom very durable and can even appear illusory in hindsight, leading us to decide it wasn't "the real thing" and to keep looking elsewhwere. A deeper and more durable love is likely to move on from blind infatuation, through periods of doubt and even conflict, towards a more resilient, if less exciting, trust and certainty in which there is still passionate conviction but this may be more apparent to ourselves and others in the way we are with the loved person and the way we talk about them, than the loudness and frequency with which we say their name. Spiritual discovery (or revival), either personal or collective may follow a similar course and Quakers are not an exception. For me the 'name' of Jesus is neither primary or secondary but inseparable from his example and teaching which I want to keep striving to follow and share with others.