“Arming the hopeless”
Philippians 2: 5-11
Robert Zimmerman, Marian Robert Morrison, Stefani Joanne Agelina Germanoth, Alecia Moore, Paul Hewson, Ramon and Carlos Estevez, Peter Parker and Rene Phillips. Or maybe better known as Bob Dylan, John Wayne, Lady Gaga, Pink, Bono, Martin and Charlie Sheen and Spiderman. And that last name, Rene’ Phillips was what the internet stage name generator gave me for our brother in Christ Tim Moult.
Wikipedia says stage names are often taken because their real name may be: hard to pronounce, already used by someone else famous, difficult to spell or unintentionally amusing or alternatively taken to project a desired image or to retain anonymity.
What’s in a name?
The meaning behind the name Timothy, Tim is “honouring God” and if ever Tim has or will live up to his name it is today as he honours the Saviour in his Baptism.
As a side, the 2011 list of most popular names in the USA puts Timothy in 123’RD spot, one ahead of Steven in 124 TH-what are the chances. Similar, as I was Baptised as a 29 year old and then both ordained and called as your Pastor last year, I make it that you will able to call Tim as your Pastor in the year 2032.
But today Tim honours God. But not by what he has done as it is not of us that we come to faith, but from the work of the Holy Spirit in us. But truly Tim, having been given free will honours God because he has not rejected the gifts of his Saviour, and given our human characteristics and tendencies that is no small thing.
Thirty or so years ago a professor concluded his historical studies regarding humankind’s quest for the “way out” or a “saviour/s” and identified four categories:
The “Creative Genius”; (2) the “Saviour with a Sword”; (3) the “Saviour with a Time Machine,” one dreaming of a utopia or an archaic past which never existed; (4) the saviour as a “Philosopher, Masked as a King.”
From these studies he concluded that eventually history rejects all four with the first to fail being the swordsmen, the next the archaists and the futurists, the next the philosophers, until only gods were left in the running. False Gods who fall away until we stand and gaze with our eyes fixed upon the further shore and then a single figure rises from the flood and fills the whole horizon, the God Incarnate in a Man, the Lord Jesus Christ.
On Palm Sunday the Gospel reading tells us of the marked change of tone from Jesus entry and the joyful shouts of “Hosanna” to the tension filled hours of Christ’s Passion ending in cries of “Crucify him” and this is the background for the outcome of the priceless confession by the apostle Paul in Philippians and background for the confession thirty years ago by that professor and behind the confessions of Tim, me, you and all Christian’s today.
Our confession of Christ the saviour. Jesus Christ, God’s surprising and amazing gift given to people who have looked to other “gods” for help. Jesus Christ, the divine one who allowed himself to be humiliated and suffer an agonizing, shameful, and criminals death to rescue our lost and dying humanity.
What’s in a name?
At Christmas we speak of Jesus as “God with us”. At Pentecost as “God in us” and on Palm Sunday and Easter as “God for us”. In Jesus our Lord we have hope, peace and joy and this Easter we should shout it from the mountain tops. Every day we should shout it from the mountain tops, but the problem with communicating the truth of the Gospel is the problem of getting out the way-of not confusing, not perverting, not exploiting and not manipulating it, but letting it be heard in its truth and purity.
A week before our class was to be ordained a Pastor said to us that when it happens, something will happen and you will feel different and in truth I did-for about ten minutes. Fortunately, how I feel is not the cornerstone of the Gospel. The corner stone, the only stone is Jesus Christ whose promises do not change due the whims of our sensitivities.
It is not our job to judge where people are at in relation to God for only he knows the heart and as evidenced by the salvation of the thief on the cross, God sometimes does his business in ways that we cannot apprehend or expect and we pray and carry hope for all those that come before us that too they may fall under his grace.
I carry that hope with me for many I know and have known. I even carry an expectation that God will shower them with His grace.
But Christ gives us something better than a “worldly type” of hope, he gives us his hope and when we read the word “hope” in the Bible (like in 1 Peter 1:13—”set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ”), hope is not wishful thinking. It’s not “I don’t know if it’s going to happen, or I hope it happens.” That’s absolutely not what is meant by Christian hope.
Christian hope is when God has promised that something is going to happen and you put your trust in that promise. Christian hope is a confidence that something will come to pass because God has promised it will come to pass.
Christian hope, Christ’s hope is sureness-and so that we can live in that he gave a command to his apostles, to “Go to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt: 28-19), as “They who believe and are baptised will be saved” (Mark 16:16).
To be baptised and believe is what brings the sureness like we know when the storms and floods approach and threaten to overwhelm, yet amongst it we see a rainbow-a gift from God to bring us sureness against what may seem. In baptism, when the flood of our own sin threaten to devour us we see his sure promise in baptism and know that it will never devour us.
Last Thursday at men’s shed I heard a great comment I’d never heard by C.S. Lewis “Humblest in hall, fiercest in fight”.
Brothers and sisters in sin we stand at the foot of the cross of our Saviour and humbly admit that we have no power of forgiveness and salvation other than in Christ and this is most certainly true.
And brothers and sisters in Christ, though our sin, fear of death and the devils deceptions show their teeth and threaten to crush us, they cannot bite for the fight has been won by Christ and all who are baptised and believe are most certainly God’s children.
Friday night in Sydney I watched as Bruce Springsteen and his band performed at a breath-taking pace for three hours and ten minutes without a break. It was pinch yourself stuff and I knew that this was something truly, truly special. It was everything I expected plus much more and I will never forget it. But two things “particular” struck me. Firstly the guitarist had painted in big print in homemade fashion on his guitar “Arm the hopeless” and after about two hours Bruce said “while in Sydney we are supporting the NSW food bank in collecting for the needy, so when you leave if you can we would appreciate it if you could support those here tonight who are doing God’s work in the frontline”.
Tim, you and me, we are in the frontline carrying the knowledge of our sin, carrying our hurt and carrying the fear of knowing what we are really like. But “humble in hall” we know that in crying for mercy Christ bestows to us the release from ourselves and gives us his truth and his strength. And “fierce in fight” when you reminded of yourself and of your peril, turn to Christ and know that in baptism and belief you don’t need a stage name or to be something you’re not, for Christ has armed the hopeless that you know that your name has been written in the book of life.
Rejoice for today because we have seen something truly, truly special in Tim’s baptism. And I rejoice, that before me today I see a group of people living in the frontline of God’s kingdom, knowing the truth of Christ for themselves and in living in that truth, and in living a witness to that-maybe more of the “hopeless” will be armed and made free in the truth of Christ”.