Call on the name of the Lord
There is something wonderful in using the name ‘Christian’. When we say that we are “Christian” we are describing ourselves as people who have been given the name of ‘Jesus Christ’ to know the God we call on. In Jesus we know the very heart of God. Jesus himself tells us “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14). When early Church Deacon Stephen is martyred for his faith, we find him crying out to the Risen Lord, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7).
So, we can call on the name of the one who promises to be with us always. It is no surprise for us, therefore, to learn that the most common table grace amongst the Lutheran communities in Australia and New Zealand, is “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest. …”
Christians are taught to pray to Jesus. This is often a difficult thing for people of other religions who consider Jesus to be a noble prophet. Christians believe that the fullness of God is revealed in Jesus who is called “the Christ”. So we are ‘Christians’.
Dr Martin Luther explained what to do with the revelation of the Lord when he explained the Second Commandment in his ‘Small Catechism’. He wrote “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”. What does this mean? We should fear and love God, and so we should not use his name to curse, swear, practice magic, lie or deceive, but in every time of need call upon him, pray to him, praise him, and give him thanks”. The practice of Christian praying ‘calling on the name of the Lord’ was proclaimed in the very first Christian sermon ever delivered on Australian soil. Chaplain to the first fleet, Richard Johnson used Psalm 116 as the text for his message to the hundreds of convicts and military men who gathered together for their first Sunday worship, after they arrived in this ‘great south land’. The text reads: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.”
It is almost impossible for us to imagine what life was like for those convicts and others who arrived here in 1788. They knew severe hardship and suffering in the journey. Pastor Johnson knew to direct them to the Lord Jesus Christ and his promise to be with them and to provide for them. So he reminded them to call on the name of the Lord.
And the Lord promises to hear our prayer and to answer. Psalm 50 declares, “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me”.