I may have gone a bit overboard on the influence of names in my final sermon at Saint Paul’s. From a homiletical perspective, I took the hook too far. From a liturgical year perspective, I undermined my Rector’s ability to preach on names on the Feast of the Holy Name this Sunday. The Feat of the Holy Name is one of only a small handful of feast days that takes precedence over a Sunday, which means that when Christmas falls on Sunday, there will be no other Sundays in the season. Holy Name supersedes Christmas 1 and Epiphany occurs before we can have Christmas 2. So, what is TKT left to preach on this strange Sunday?
Well, names, of course. I’m sure he will take some time on the power that lives in the very name of Jesus (God saves), but knowing TKT and his love of the story of Moses, I suspect that he will also focus his attention on the Aaronic blessing that Moses speaks over Aaron and the people of Israel.
So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.
In the Israelite tradition, the name of God is so holy that it is not to be spoken. This name is the one given by God to Moses at the burning bush. Rendered in Latin Script as YHWH, it means something like “I am.” God is ever present. In the midst of bondage in Egypt, God is. In the midst of the joyful expectation of the Promised Land, God is. In the midst of famine, peril, and sword; birth, marriage, and triumph, God is.
While that holy name is not to be uttered, forms of us are all over the Hebrew language, including the other Holy Name we remember on the eighth day of Christmas. As I noted two weeks ago, the Hebrew form of Jesus is Yehoshua, and it is a combination of YHWH and shua, which means a cry for help. In the holy name of Jesus, we are reminded that God saves; that God is our very present help in trouble. Jesus is the Aaronic blessing of God personified. He is the face of God that shines upon us. The very image of God that gives us peace. Within his name is the very name of God – I am – God is.