Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 21 Dec. 2014, Advent 4
Year B RCL: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Canticle 15 The Song of Mary; Romans: 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38
What's in a Name? ...(A) Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet...1
Names mean something despite the implications from the lines Shakespeare has Juliet speak in the tragedy, Romeo & Juliet.
The name Rose comes from a name that indicates “fame” & “sort” as in a “type” or “kind” of something2. The flower we call a rose has a claim to fame beyond Shakespeare's writing about it.
The name Luke, whose Gospel we read today, means “bringer of light...”3. Certainly Luke's work brings light to us about Jesus.
In our Gospel, the angel Gabriel, whose name means “man of God”4, brings Mary a message, saying: “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” A bit more than 6 months earlier he brought good news to Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth, Mary's old & barren cousin [whose name means “God is my oath”5] will have a son who will be named John.
Long before this, Gabriel is the messenger to the prophet Daniel. So Gabriel has been God's man, God's messenger, from the Hebrew scriptures to the Christian scriptures. I wonder if Gabriel is still bringing God's message to people. I wonder if God has fewer messages for Gabriel to deliver because God counts on Christians – you & me – to assure people “The Lord is with you.”
Part of the Good News we are called to deliver is that Jesus IS Lord & because of Jesus we can trust that God loves us. Jesus means "Savior" or "God saves"6 “His name expresses his identity & his mission. Since God alone can forgive sins, it IS God who, in Jesus his eternal Son made man,...save(s) (us) from (our) sins".7
The name Jesus “is given to our Lord because 'He saves His people from their sins.' This is His special role...(By) cleansing (us) in His own atoning blood.., by putting in (our) hearts (God's) sanctifying Spirit.. (he) will save (us) from all the consequences of sin...”8 This IS Good News that we are called to share.
How we are called & how we share it can be as varied as the meaning of our own names. It may be big or small, near or far, as is the case of one saint born in Georgia & remembered during December in the book Holy Women, Holy Men: Lillian Thrasher, who died in 1961, was born in 1887 in Brunswick, GA9. Her name is from the flower we call the lilly, which symbolizes innocence, purity & beauty.10 The story of her work as a missionary in Egypt is one of beauty. She tended more than 25,000 children in the orphanage she founded & ran in Egypt, the 1st orphanage established there, which continues to minister today & for which 85% of its support is from Christians in Egypt.11
This support is remarkable & a testament to faith: think of the reports on the burning of Christian churches there. I can testify 1st hand to the ostracism & low esteem in which Christians are held that John & I witnessed & learned about 20 years ago from Christian friends there.
Any of us may be called to action far away like Lillian or be called to action much nearer. Whatever ministry God calls each of us to, wherever God leads us to bring the Good News, we must remember: God – not you or I – sets the time frame & the agenda.12 “God is the caller; you are the receiver...When God extends a hand to you, it is in God's time, not yours.”13
Whatever calling you receive from God, ultimately you are called to be like Mary: a God Bearer. And this includes you my Beloved Brothers in Christ! God calls each of us in a unique way to this highest of callings to carry God's Son, Jesus, into this world.14
“God is calling you to be pregnant with the Holy Spirit.”15 And that includes you my Beloved Brothers! God calls you to be pregnant – filled – with the Holy Spirit.
“God is calling you to put aside all the plans the world has for you & to follow a different plan...How obedient are you right now? Are you ready to say, 'Here I am, Lord. Use me.”16
Dios Habla Hoy: La Biblia. 2da Ed. Nueva York: Sociedad Bíblica Americana. 1983.
The Four Translation New Testament. Minneapolis: World Wide Publications. New York: The Iversen Assocs. 1966.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1985.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints. New York: Church Publishing, Inc. 2010.
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Gabriel.html#.VJW-_drABg. Accessed: 20 Dec. 2014.
http://www.behindthename.com. Accessed 18 Dec. 2014.
http://www.biblical-baby-names.com. Accessed: 20 Dec. 2014.
http://www.catholic.org/clife/jesus/jesusname.php. Accessed: 20 Dec. 2014.
http://www.inspirationalchristians.org/biography/lillian-trasher/. Accessed: 19 Dec. 2014.
http://www.meaning-of-names.com. Accessed: 18 Dec. 2014.
http://www.sheknows.com/baby-names. Accessed: 18 Dec. 2014.
http://www.thinkbabynames.com. Accessed 18 Dec. 2014.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Kautz, Richard. A Labyrinth Year: Walking the Seasons of the Church. Harrisburg: Morehouse. 2005.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 8 Dec. 2014.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
Ryle, J.C. http://www.jesus.org/is-jesus-god/names-of-jesus/what-does-the-name-jesus-mean.html. Accessed: 20 Dec. 2014.
Tenney, Merrill C. Handy Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. 1965. P.58.
“You Shall Call His Name Jesus”. http://www.sermons4kids.com/. Accessed: 18 Dec. 2014.
1 http://www.enotes.com/shakespeare-quotes/what-s-name-that-which-we-call-rose. Accessed: 20 Dec. 2014.
3 http://www.biblical-baby-names.com/meaning-of-Luke.html Accessed: 20 Dec. 2014.
4 Tenney, Merrill C. Handy Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. 1965. P.58.
5 Ibid. P. 50.
8 Adapted by http://www.jesus.org/is-jesus-god/names-of-jesus/what-does-the-name-jesus-mean.html from J.C. Ryle's The Gospel of Matthew. Accessed: 20 Dec. 2014.
9 Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints. P. 126-127.
11 Ibid. Holy Women, Holy Men. And http://www.inspirationalchristians.org/biography/lillian-trasher/. Accessed: 19 Dec. 2014.
12 Kautz, Richard. A Labyrinth Year: Walking the Seasons of the Church. P. 1.
14 Ibid. P. 2.
15 Ibid. Kautz, Richard. A Labyrinth Year: Walking the Seasons of the Church. P. 2.
16 Ibid. Kautz, Richard. A Labyrinth Year: Walking the Seasons of the Church. P. 2.