Tuesday, June 21, 2011

At the Name of Jesus

For Palm Sunday a few weeks back the epistle reading in the BCP was the famous kenosis passage from Philippians 2:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

When we read that in church on Palm Sunday and come to "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow," everybody is supposed to genuflect. It's a glorious passage, one which Christian children all should memorize.

Understandably the glorification of the name of Jesus has had a prominent place in Christian music, and when I heard this wonderful Cathedrals gospel song recently I had an urge to genuflect once or twice at the title phrase:

In a comment at W4 recently, Jeff Singer mentioned a new significance put on the phrase "Hallowed be thy name" by a priest he was listening to on the radio. The priest connected the phrase with the idea of martyrdom, based on the Jewish use of "sanctify the Name [of God]" to refer to martyrdom.

I do find that it's a bit difficult for the contemporary Western mind to grasp the notion of the Name of God as holy and thence to see that, when the Apostle Paul said that God has given Jesus "a name above every name" and that everyone will bow at the name of Jesus, Paul was associating Our Lord with a distinctly Jewish concept, a concept specially applied to God Himself.

While on earth, Jesus was constantly asking people who they thought He was. And He Himself said, "I and my Father are one," at which His audience, understanding Him quite well, tried to stone Him.

So when we praise and magnify the name of Jesus, we are, precisely, worshiping Him. We are worshiping Him as God, whose Name is holy.

Here is the wonderful tune King's Weston, by Vaughan Williams, to the Anglican hymn "At the Name of Jesus":

At the Name of Jesus
every knee shall bow,
every tongue confess him
King of glory now;
'tis the Father's pleasure
we should call him Lord,
who from the beginning
was the mighty Word.

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