One Shows There is an Awful Lot in a Name
You still find the name of God in courthouses. Usually it's used in a solemn way: "So help me God." "May God have mercy on your soul." But there's more to not misusing God's name then solemnity because there is an awful lot more to His name then the mere sound of the letters. God Himself indicates how important the use of His name is to Him in that this is the only Commandment that carries a specific threat. "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name." Our own Large Catechism shows the same awesome respect saying, "Misuse of the holy name is the greatest sin that can outwardly be committed" (I, 56).
The name of God is how we know God. He is not as the Masonic Lodge claims, "The nameless one of a thousand names." He's not like the country boy who says, "Call me whatever you want; just don't call me late for dinner." You don't know the true God if you know a Supreme Being, the Grand Architect, the Big Man Upstairs. Scripture says the name of the Lord is a strong tower; victory over our enemies, blessedness, and salvation. That's an awful lot in a name, isn't it?
That's why Moses is at such pains to know it. When God appears in the burning bush and sends him to Israel, Moses asks, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, What is His name?' Then what shall I tell them?" What would you tell them? "God sent you;" "the Father sent you;" "the Lord sent you." No, we would say, "Jesus sent us."
We got to Christmas early tonight; that's understandable since at Christmas we hear that God's "name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." At Christmas we find out that although no man can see God at anytime, the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father has made Him known.
Those are familiar passages to you; maybe too much so. Maybe you hear them, but you don't hear them. Listen to Jesus then in John 17: 6 praying to His heavenly Father "I have manifested Your name to the people whom You gave Me out of the world." You only know the name of God, the right God to pray, praise, and give thanks to through who Jesus is and what Jesus does. You only know the saving God, the helping God, the blessing God in, with, and under the name Jesus. Scripture is very clear on this. Acts 4:12, "There is only one name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved," and that name is Jesus.
How awesome is that? A name that can rescue from sin, death, and the power of the Devil? A name that everyone on the earth, above the earth, and even under the earth will one day bow to. You know how in olden times "Stop in the name of the king," could really stop someone? The Name of God still has the power to stop sin, Death, and the Devil. Then why don't we who claim to believe that these unholy 3 have been stopped from carrying us away in God's name have more respect for His name? In fact, I think we show more respect for people's names then for God's. I can't say for you but at the airport when I pick up luggage with someone else's name on it, I quickly put it back.
God's name is how He labels His property. That's why the explanation includes satanic arts as a misuse of God's name. Satanic arts are things like psychics, horoscopes, Ouija boards, fortune tellers, witches, and spirit conjurers. And no you can't consult them just for fun anymore than you can consort with a prostitute or shoplift "just for fun." These are violations of the 2nd Commandment because the future and the realm of the dead, the two areas these things have to do with, belong to God. God hasn't given the realm of the dead or the future to men. He has posted it. You Texans know what that is. You know if you go into posted land you are trespassing. You don't belong there because it has someone else's name on it.
Although the satanic arts always get the most attention from children in confirmation, it is not the most serious misuse of God's name. According to the Large Catechism: "The greatest abuse occurs in spiritual matters. These have to do with the conscience, when false preachers rise up and offer their lying vanities as God's Word" (LC, I, 54). But that doesn't seem that big of a deal to you, does it? False teaching doesn't seem as serious as witchcraft or sorcery. Think again.
How angry you'd be with me if I put your name on my car loan. How angry you would be if I put your name on a salacious letter to someone else's spouse. How angry you'd be if I said that you said something you did not. Yet it's no big deal when the Baptist preacher says God says babies are not to be baptized. It's no big deal when the Methodist preacher says God says Jesus' Body and Blood are only represented in Communion. It's no big deal when the Catholic priest says God says His Son is to be sacrificed daily. It's a big deal if I put your name on anything that doesn't belong to you or on what you didn't say, but it's no big deal to us if others do that with God's name.
You ever seen a movie directed by Alan Smithee? They're out there. That's a fictional name. The real director didn't want to have his name associated with the movie for some reason. This might have happened to you. You might have been so upset with a joint effort at school or work that you said, "Take my name off it." This is why Christmas should amaze you.
Read Isaiah; see how idolatrous and dark the people of God had become. Chapter 8:19 castigates them for violations of the Second Commandment. They inquired of mediums and necromancers. Then Chapter 9 begins, "But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguishThe people who walked in darkness have seen a great light." Then come the familiar words, "For unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given." This was the message God sent on Christmas night to shepherds who were cut off from the Old Testament church of their day. "For you is born today as Savior which is Christ the Lord." What had Israel done to deserve such a gift? What had the shepherds done? What have you done?
God should take His name off the world project; God should take His name off the movie of mankind. Instead God sent His Son into the project, into the movie. God allowed His good name to be soiled with the sins of the world. The perfect Jesus allowed Himself to be called malefactor, criminal, Beelzebub, demon, heretic, and guess what? God actually casted Him off as such. God actually held Him guilty of all the sins of the world. Any sin you can think of; all the sins you don't want to think of, and all the sins you have forgotten about yourself or anyone else were put down under Jesus' name.
Jesus claimed them as His own. Those sins aren't in your name any longer. So in Baptism God called you by name and you are His. In the name of Jesus, God sends your sins away from you. In Jesus' name you come to this altar and have access to the Body and Blood, the life and salvation that are here for sinners.
Ready to turn the corner again? Ready to stop looking at how the Second Commandment can always convict you to how it is a gift to you? You're familiar with how the Jews will not say the Sacred Four Letters, so afraid are they of misusing the name of their god. Though God's name is misused among us from every "Oh my God," to "God," to "God damn," still God gives us the privilege of using it. How honored we feel when someone important says "use my name" to get us into a privileged place. Though we misuse the name of God literally everyday, still God says, "Use My name."
This is important because remember: His is the only name by which we must be saved. Calling on God in Jesus name, for Jesus' sake brings rescue, help, and salvation. I've told you before the story of the death row inmate that haunted me ever since I read it. In the days when Joe Louis was a world famous boxer a man is being strapped into the electric chair at Angola State Prison, Louisiana. As the guards back away, he begins to beseech, implore, beg the only god he knows: "Joe Louis help! Joe Louis save me! Joe Louis don't let me die!"
That doesn't have to be you. You know the saving name of God and though we deserve to have it removed from our heart, mind, and lips God the Spirit through Word and Sacrament keeps it there so you may call upon it in every trouble. That name is too powerful to be wasted as an exclamation; that name is too wonderful to be used as a curse; that name is too awful to be used in any other way but worship.
Our translation closes with the direction to "call upon it every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks." The Latin version doesn't say this. It has the word adoremus before "pray, praise, and give thanks," that is, "Let us worship by prayer, praise, and thanks." Do you see how you are being delivered, pulled out, rescued from yourself? The name, the name, the name is to be the object of your prayer, praise, and thanks. It's not about how your feel, what you think, how much you can believe. It's about name of God. In what circumstances can you not worship by praying in God's name? In what situation can you not worship by praising His name? In what place can you not worship by giving thanks in His name?
Haven't you ever wanted to forget someone as if you never knew their name? Well yours is the name you get to forget in the worship of Jesus' name. That's a promise in Revelation. Jesus says there: "I will give you a new name which no one can know except the one it's given to." Instead of sinner, saint; Instead of lost, found. Instead of dead, alive. What may or may not happen in a courthouse most certainly happens here in every Divine Service. Here the name of God always helps us; here in God's name we always are mercied. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Advent Vespers (20111207); Second Commandment