Posted by: Johnold Strey | November 28, 2009

Sermon on Jeremiah 33:15-16


Text: Jeremiah 33:15-16


When it was first constructed in 1966, it was called the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena.  Over the years, it has been known as the Oakland Coliseum Arena, the Oakland Arena, the Arena in Oakland, and The New Arena—basically all variations on a common theme.  But on October 20, 2006, the arena in Oakland where the Golden State Warriors play their home games was renamed, The Oracle, at least for the next decade.  Oracle, the Bay Area software company in our own back yard, paid an undisclosed price for the naming rites to the Oakland Arena, and for the next ten years the Golden State Warriors will call their home court by its new name, The Oracle – sometimes called simply, The “O”.

This is nothing new to us in the Bay Area.  In the relatively short amount of time that the San Francisco Giants have played in their new downtown stadium, the lighted letters with the field’s name have displayed three different titles: first it was Pac Bell Park, then SBC Park, and now AT&T Park.  The San Francisco 49ers home stadium has gone through the same naming metamorphosis.  We all knew it as Candlestick Park, then we woke up one morning and it was 3-COM Park, and later we blinked and it was renamed Monster Park.  Now it’s back to Candlestick Park and looks to remain that way.  The constant name changes were so ridiculous that Sports Illustrated writer Peter King referred to it as “Candle3Monsterstick.”

Do these corporate sponsorships and naming rights do any good?  Somebody must think so, because all sorts of big-name companies would love to get their corporate name on a professional sport team’s stadium.


So what does all this naming talk have to do with our service today?  In the First Lesson for this first Sunday of the church year, something very significant was renamed.  Unless you are an expert in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, you probably didn’t catch what the new name was, and without an explanation, you probably won’t catch it when you hear these words again.  But there is a significant new name applied to a group of people in Jeremiah 33.  Let’s start by listening again to the last two verses from this morning’s First Lesson.  “In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land.  In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety.  This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord, our Righteousness.” 

The verses I just read come from Jeremiah chapter 33.  Why is that so important to note?  There is an almost identical prophecy ten chapters earlier, in Jeremiah 23.  Both prophecies talk about the “righteous Branch” that will come from David’s line.  That was Jeremiah’s way to talk about Jesus, the promised Savior, who was a descendant of King David.  A popular hymn we hear this time of year, “Behold, A Branch Is Growing” (Christian Worship #47), picks up on that imagery.  Jesus is the Branch from the family tree of King David, the great King of Israel around 1000 B.C.  Centuries before Jeremiah, God promised David that the Savior of the world would be born from his family tree.  That’s the “righteous Branch” that Jeremiah talks about in chapter 23 and also here in chapter 33.  Jesus is the holy Son of David whose innocence and holiness is credited to those who trust in him so that they may stand before God as his righteous children.  Jesus is the “righteous Branch” of King David who would eventually journey to the tree of the cross where he would experience God’s just punishment for sins on behalf of the world so that we might be set from sin and hell.

But what about the new name?  I mentioned previously that Jeremiah chapters 23 and 33 contain a prophecy about Jesus that is almost identical – almost.  In the very last sentence there is a tiny word change, but this word change has tremendous significance.  Jeremiah said in chapter 23, “This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord, our righteousness.”  Ten chapters later, Jeremiah now says, “This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord, our righteousness.”  In chapter 23 Jeremiah says that this promised descendant of King David would be named the Lord, who is our righteousness.  In chapter 33 Jeremiah takes that name for Jesus Christ and applies it to something else: “This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord, our righteousness.”  That little word “it” refers back to the city of Jerusalem mentioned in the previous sentence.  Jerusalem was the capital city of Judah, the group from the original nation of Israel through whom Jesus was going to come.  But the prophets often referred to Jerusalem in a symbolic way.  Jerusalem was a picture of God’s people gathered together as one.  And with that image of God’s people assembled together, Jeremiah takes the name of the Lord and applies it directly to the Lord’s people and followers.  Jeremiah renames all who would believe in Jesus by giving them the name of Jesus.


A name change isn’t all that noteworthy if has to do with an athletic stadium, but a name change is extremely significant when it involves a person.  We have heard the occasional news stories about newborn infants abandoned by their parents.  A number of states have enacted laws that allow birth parents that feel they are unable to be proper parents to leave their newborn at a hospital.  A foster family is contacted, and very often that foster family wants to adopt the baby.  Perhaps a few months pass for all the legal paperwork to be completed.  When all of the law’s requirements have been met, that previously abandoned baby is now adopted and given a new last name.  That new name is more than a legal technicality.  Think of the statement that name gives.  That new last name means that child is legally a member of that family.  That new name means that baby has a place to truly call home and a family that truly loves the child.  That kind of name change is extremely significant!

You and are were like that abandoned infant—yet worse.  We were not left abandoned by God.  No, because of our sinful condition, you had I legally and spiritually left the family of God.  We were helpless and hopeless on our own.  The sin in our life’s record merely confirms what we already knew.  Did our recent family Thanksgiving celebrations reduce God and his goodness to a mere afterthought at best?  Are we content to slowly coast our way into eternity, with little interest to grow in the Word and supply what is lacking in our faith (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:10, from the appointed Second Lesson)?  Does the impending final judgment Jesus warns us about in today’s Gospel (Luke 21:25-36) seem so unimportant that we never stop to consider how our sinful thoughts and ways threaten to put us on the wrong side of Christ’s judgment?  Because of our sinfulness, you and I deserved to be deserted.  In fact, it is worse than that, for if there is any family we and our sinful baggage belong to, it is Satan’s family.

But at some gracious point, you were given a new brand name.  At your baptism, you were delivered from the clutches of hellish abandonment and brought into the arms of your loving Lord.  At your baptism, you were given a new name, the name of the Triune God, the name of Jesus, the name, “Christian.”  And that name change is extremely significant!  When the name of Jesus was applied to you, it meant that you became a part of Jesus’ family.  When the name of Jesus was applied to you, everything Jesus did for you became yours.  You have been given the name Jeremiah mentioned in our reading: “The Lord, our righteousness.”  Your new name means that, through faith in Christ, you stand holy and blameless before God, because Jesus has given you his perfection.  Your new name means that everything Jesus did to forgive your sins and redeem you from hell when he died on the cross counts for you personally!  Your new name means that you have been connected to Jesus’ death and resurrection, and because Jesus rose from the dead, you too will rise from death when our Lord returns at the end of time.  Your new name means that you are ready for Jesus’ Second Advent, because Christ’s return will mean your entrance into a new home where we will celebrate our new name for all eternity.


Will The Oracle have a new name in the next decade?  How many more name changes will the Giants’ home stadium go through in the next decade?  Who knows?  In the end, it really doesn’t matter.  Some name changes deserve nothing more than a quick mention in the paper—and maybe a collective yawn!  But other name changes deserve a celebration.  The new name God has given you deserves such recognition.  Through the First Advent of Christ and because of your baptism, you and I have been given the name Christian.  As we wait for the Second Advent of Christ, stay connected to the name you have been given, the name of Jesus, the name that saves you from sin and secures your new home for all eternity.  Amen.



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