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Monday, April 13, 2020
O for a thousand tongues to sing my dear Redeemer’s praise,
the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of God’s grace!
The name of Jesus charms our fears, and bids our sorrows cease,
sings music in the sinner’s ears, brings life, and health, and peace.
“O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” (vv. 1–2) by Charles Wesley
Hymn 610, Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal
Shakespeare famously posed the question “What’s in a name?” The origin stories behind many of our given names remind us that names carry a great deal of significance. Those who gave us our individual names often did so with high regard for specific persons, histories, and character traits. For that reason, our names carry important messages about what our family values and sometimes who they hope we will become.
Similarly, when we hear within this classic hymn the phrase “the name of Jesus,” we are also speaking of a hidden gift. Invoking the name “Jesus” isn’t an incantation or spell. There is no magic behind it. However, when we speak the name of Jesus we give voice to a life-giving message of compassionate actions and transformative encounters in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The name of Jesus reminds us of his reputation.
Jesus’ work of healing, teaching, and building bridges across social difference, giving him the reputation of one who charms the fears that too often charm us. Those fears and sorrows were not completely eradicated as if by the snap of a finger. Rather, the power of Christ to redeem and heal comes through persuasion. Christ delivers us a message, through word and deed, that our lives can be wrested from worry and paralyzing doubt. God has overcome the world’s worst.
But how about us? The name of Jesus, his reputation and power as Messiah, do not belong to him alone. As theologian Rowan Williams reminds us, Christians “receive our name and identity in the process of baptism.” In our baptism, we realize that we too carry the name and reputation of Jesus and fittingly Charles Wesley wrote this hymn in remembrance of his own baptism. However, many times we who claim the name of Jesus can speak and act in thoughtless and selfish ways that are not congruent with his life. But what if each of our lives, across many circumstances, cultures, and languages or tongues, were lived in ways that benefit others, bringing life, health, and peace to neighbors and communities which need it most?
O that in many tongues the name of Jesus would inspire not fear of condemnation or of the wrath of his wayward followers but instead inspire confidence and hope. What song of praise will you let your life sing this day?
Holy God, thank you for the message of hope you bring our world. Your blessed name has put a new song of praise on our lips. May our life be a song that causes our neighbors to praise you. Amen.
Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Minister for Evangelism
Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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