What’s So Special About Jesus? No Other Name

by admin on November 12, 2013

Reflections for 10 November 2013
Acts 4: 1-22

I grew up in a mixed neighborhood in Canton, Ohio. Kids were either from Baxter School or St. Joe’s—Katlicks and the rest of us.

Neighborhood squabbles among us kids were usually definitively settled when the three Harmon girls—yelling and screaming a litany of swear words that would make a sailor blush—would end the rampage by proclaiming, “God’s on our side!” and then stomping into their house and slamming the door. That was that.

Does God pick sides? And if he does, wouldn’t it be prudent to find out what side he likes?

More to the point. We live in an increasingly confused religious world. People are killing each other over religious persuasions. In Christian news Jerry Falwell was known to have said: “Muhammad was a terrorist.’ Pat Robertson concurs, “[He] was a robber and brigand….Islam in a sham” Franklin Graham: Islam is a very evil and wicked religion.” While back the President of SBC: God does not hear the prayers of Jews.

All this gets international press with a firestorm of reaction: arrogance, shame, who do these guys think they are anyway? Of course a lot of that reaction came from people who adhered to a sham religion or whose prayers God doesn’t hear to begin with.

So….does God play favorites? Does he like one religion better than another? Such exclusive claims that we hear daily make us nervous. Unless, we are on the good guy side.

This is a tough question. And the position offered by fundamentalist theology, and even the Catholic negotiating skills of the Harmon sisters centers on the adage: the best way to win an argument is to always begin by being right.

It also finds its focus in this Bible reading from Acts. No other name, St. Peter claims. No other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved. Is this a claim of superiority? It has been for nearly 20 centuries.

That does make you nervous. It’s un-American to say the least. Because our culture thrives on options, choices, selections. We invented the cafeteria for the food line. We’ve got it for spiritual food, too. Private, non-offensive, freedom of religion. It might really be freedom from religion.

Is Christianity the superior religion? Do we hear in Peter’s word that we are better? God’s on our side….or is this an invitation to consider a truth in life?

By no other name is salvation to be had than by Jesus. Peter is saying that human issues are just too great to be met head-on by a philosophy, ideology, or political analysis.

Text: Peter and John have healed a crippled beggar in the name of Jesus. Not a magical formula but the recognition of the power of the risen Jesus—alive and on the loose.

This is the first open opposition to the church. “By what authority?” The scene ends in a soon to be repeated action: round up the usual suspects and toss em in the slammer.

Here is Peter’s defense—not much of that as it is a call to repentance by the religious leaders. “Turn away from your self-centered and sullen ways and embrace the only possibility for a turned around life—JC.” It’s a call to consider by what truth the hearers live.

Couple ideas:

1. No other name than Jesus.
This truth is personal. In fact, the God of the Bible is personal and quite capable of interactive relationships. This is the essence of human life. The ability to interact with others.

As persons we grow only through interaction. Sometimes through painful ones; others pleasant and joyful. I’d rather read a book about swimming than get into the pool and actually practice by breaststroke. We become better persons when we interact with God.

In Jesus we can see the face of God, not some unmoved mover or cosmic particle out there. Jesus doesn’t present an esoteric teaching, but rather the practical foundation for living compassion, forgiveness, generosity, humility and hope.

That practical foundation accepts hardship as the pathway to peace. Suffering and pain are part of life. In Jesus the face of God turns not away from the world’s pain, but embraces it, shares it, stands in it…to redeem it. Think of the touching example of last week when Pope Francis touched and interacted with that badly scarred man, the little kid interrupting his speaking, or the newlywed couple with clown noses.

People stay away from church because of world events. They can’t understand how God would allow this. If god submitted himself to the cross, then suffering is part of the salvation equation.

I’ve said: Come and see if there is anything to Jesus. Allow Jesus to see if there is anything to you.

2. No other name by which people are to be saved.
Troublesome word “saved” We think that saved = escape from bad outcome; undesirable future. Something over the rainbow. Saved = get out of the tight spot.

NT salvation is life right now. I don’t live tomorrow—yet. And when I try to do that, today gets all fouled up.

Jesus didn’t minister to begin a new religion; he came in the flesh to craft the souls of men and women. He came to give life—abundantly.

Christianity give two gifts:

1). Join God.
2). Join us.

1. Living life in its fullness dealing with life’s perplexities and not just niceties. How we deal with life’s crises is who we really are. Some religions teach: flee world; ignore world; take over world. Christianity —love the world.
2. Community. We can’t bear life alone.

2. Jesus is the cornerstone.
This implies a building. The cornerstone literally holds the whole place together. Most of us are diamonds in the rough. Trying to figure out if we’re nuts, psycho, weird, normal. We have these revelations into self: being a nice guy, mean dude.

How to make sense of these experiences? Yin/yang? Karma? Fate? It might just be that this dichotomy, this split personality, this “torn-to-pieces hood” (Wm. James) is just human life. ML: simul…..

In late 80s Aaron Antonovsky (Unraveling the Mystery of health: How People Manage Stress and Stay Well).

–75% of disease affects 25% population. You would think there would be a more equal opportunity malady.
—stress alone can’t make disease.
—past illness can’t predict future sickness.

Concluded that people with “sense of coherence” were the ones who stayed healthy. It caused people to deal with life more realistically and less anxiously. It allows people to make more resourceful responses to the challenges of the daily grind.

The Christian church wants to say that Jesus is that sense of coherence. That is what “no other name” is about. It has nothing to do with triumphalism, and everything to do with humility.

One of the images of Jesus is shepherd. Good shepherd. To be shepherd you need sheep. Contrary to myth, sheep aren’t sweet and nice; they are dumb and stubborn. They need constant cajoling and hustling. They need the voice of the shepherd guiding them and they need to listen.

When Peter made his daring claim of no other name he was asking, “Whose voice are you listening to?” He may as well be standing here today. This is an ageless inquiry.

A culture is known for its celebrities. Who are our celebrities?

Am I supposed to pattern my life after the Kardashians? Maybe Tom Cruise, but only if you squint.

A culture is known for its monetary values. Am I supposed to listen to Madison Avenue and Rodeo Drive? You run out of cash and they’ll drop you in a NY minute.

What do you believe in? Whose voice are you listening to? What sense of coherence do you have? Is there room for your imperfection in your own little world?

Or do you need a whole new religious frame of reference? Where else can the world’s religious intolerance be healed? Where else can political extremism be ended? Where else can vengeance give way to forgiveness, reconciliation, love?

This is the claim of the gospel truth—no other place; no other name; no other savior—Jesus Christ.

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