Alan Neale

Writer • Speaker

Sermon “The Name to Remember.” Sunday January 1st 2017. Trinity Church, Newport RI. The Reverend Alan Neale.

At a point in each sermon (8am and 10am) I felt very deeply the Spirit of God at work within me and it was very emotional. I am fascinated it was at different points in each sermon. Ah the mysteries of the work of God within the human psyche.

Sermon audio below and then sermon text.

Sermon Preached at Trinity Church, Newport RI
Sunday January 1st 2017
The Reverend Alan Neale
“The Name To Remember”

One of the many hilarious scenes in “Four Weddings and a Funeral” occurs when Rowan Atkinson plays the part of an ingénue, uncertain and hesitant vicar (yes, such figures do exist!). He is marrying his friends but bumbling begins as he pronounces the names… Ghost becomes Goat, Geoffrey becomes Godfrey, Sinjon becomes St. John, Jane becomes John, joined becomes jobbed and lawful becomes awful. Names matter.

This afternoon I marry Jessica and Christopher, I had better start practicing!

Remembering names is seen as the essential prerequisite of successful personal relationships; from Dale Carnegie onwards devices and systems have been suggested to facilitate name recall. I think one of the most dangerous is to associate the name with an object… the object not always flattering can sometimes be uttered under stress. Not a good idea.

Carnegie writes, “There is power in remembering names. By doing so, you convey to the other party that you consider them important and valuable and in their view, you become a valuable and coveted resource.”
In fact, Dale Carnegie considered this observation so critical that he included it with his principles on human relations:
Principle Six: Remember that a person’s name, to that person, is the sweetest, most important sound in any language.”

Today, January 1st, was long the festival of “The Circumcision of Jesus” but in the 1979 Prayer Book this was changed to “Feast of the Holy Day”. Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy tend to keep the old feast title, I checked with the website of St. John’s on the Point that bastion of orthodoxy; Father Humphrey has chosen Name not Circumcision but surely not, I hope, for the reason of delicacy.
Anyway, on this day something very rare happens in the annals of allotted Scripture readings – Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament Epistle and Gospel all speak of “The Name.”

Numbers 6:27 “My name will be placed on the Israelites, and I will bless them” – the beneficent name.

Psalm 8:1,9 “O Lord our God, how excellent is your name in all the earth” – the exalted name.

Philippians 2:10 “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth” – the dynamic name.

Luke 2:21 “He was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb” – the liberating name.

I fear that I tend to forget the spiritually potent and the sacred power of the name, Jesus. Maybe I’m not alone?

World faiths all are vehement and vocal when their holy names are abused, even misused and yet… the Christian Church seems generally mute and commonly indifferent as to the molestation of the name of Jesus; I pray this is not in the name of political correctness.
Friends, one of our resolutions for 2017 should be to cherish the name of Jesus; to use it lovingly and effectively. And when we hear a friend or colleague use the name harshly, consider saying “You know, that name is very special to me.” It has long been my practice when someone harshly, thoughtlessly uses the name of Jesus to comment, “I’m glad to hear you pray!”

I do not think we need systems or mnemonics to remember the name Jesus; but we need inspiration to recall the name in times of stress and strain, of joy and success, of fear and hurt, of wonder and happiness. Here we need “name recall” indeed. We know the name Jesus but we need recall the presence of Jesus in all of our lives.

John Newton was born in London, July 24, 1725. His mother died when he was seven years old. Aged 11, he accompanied his father, a sea captain, on a voyage. For several years his life was one of dissipation and crime. He was disgraced while in the navy. Afterwards he engaged in the slave trade. Returning to England in 1748, the vessel was nearly wrecked in a storm forcing solemn reflection upon him, and from that time he was a changed man. A chance reading of Thomas à Kempis sowed the seed of his conversion. He was then twenty-three.  It was six years before he relinquished the slave trade, not then an unlawful occupation. In 1754, he gave up sea-faring life, and began religious work. In 1779, after a 15 year long curacy at Olney, Newton became Rector of S. Mary Woolnoth, in London, and there he died, Dec. 21, 1807, His published works are quite numerous, consisting of sermons, letters, devotional aids, and hymns. He calls his hymns “The fruit and expression of his own experience.” He wrote this hymn among many others…

1 How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
in a believer’s ear!
It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds,
and drives away our fear.

2 It makes the wounded spirit whole
and calms the troubled breast;
’tis manna to the hungry soul,
and to the weary, rest.

5 Till then I would your love proclaim
with every fleeting breath;
and may the music of your name
refresh my soul in death.

Dale Carnegie wrote “‘Remember that a person’s name, to that person, is the sweetest, most important sound in any language.’”. Not true Mr. Carnegie, to me the sweetest, most important sound in any language is JESUS.

The repentant thief cries out, or maybe whispers, “Jesus, remember me”. Is this not this the most perfect and simple prayer for us this 2017?

I think so.
AMEN