Do you have a nickname?
Maybe growing up someone gave you a nickname? I had a few. And I am sure you did too. But these names change over the years. Parents call their kids sweet names. Friends give each other names because of something they did or didn't do. Spouses call each other terms of endearment. These are nicknames that people give to each other. They are important because they tell a deeper story about the relationships that we have with one another.
But they are not all the same. My nicknames are not the same as yours. And that is because our relationships are different. My parents, friends, and spouse have names for me and yours do for you. This is good. We are unique and have been given different people, friends, and places who love and call us different names.
But in this world, there are some who call us not names of love and endearment but names of destruction and death. While at times it might come from those same people who love us, there is something or someone lurking deeper in the background. Names of destruction ultimately come from a mysterious evil led by the evil one called Satan. The Scriptures remind us of this in the book of Ephesians 6:12, "For 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." These unseen evil forces cause us pain and destruction label us for despair. These unseen evil forces name us for destruction. These unseen evil forces cause war and rebellion in the world.
But thanks be to God that this is never the final world. When God names, He creates. In the beginning, when God speaks, He created everything into existence. By saying orangutang, Niagara Falls, and light He created something by giving it a name. This is how God has worked from the very beginning. And it’s how He works today as well. The devil, the world, and our sinful self may label things for disruption and destruction, but God always has the final word.
In John 18, when Jesus is standing before Pilate, he doesn't know what to label Jesus. Some people call Him the messiah, others a prophet, and others a madman trying to stirrup a rebellion. At the end of their conversation Jesus would be labeled a criminal and sentenced to death. At this moment, the evil forces of the world rejoiced. They thought they had won. But God always gets the final world. By Jesus' death, God named His people holy. By Jesus' death, God named His people forgiven. By Jesus death, God named His people redeemed. Here at the cross where Jesus was nicknamed a criminal, God named you holy and redeemed.
So this week, stay in this name. No matter the good names or the bad names you are called. We always have one name that transcends them all. It is established in the cross and placed upon you in your baptism. Stay in this love. Stay in this mercy. Stay in this peace both now and forever more. Amen.
Pastor Jacob Schultz