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29 OT A ~ "Called by Name" ~ Rev. Benjamin Roberts, D.Min.

If Almighty God was going to have a draft for some kind of Fantasy Faithful Team, then Cyrus of Persia seems like a very interesting choice. He’s not from the hometown of the owner. He didn’t go to school in Jerusalem. Cyrus is not a member of one of the tribes of the Chosen People. He’s from Persia. Yes, Cyrus seems like a very interesting choice.

What we hear from Isaiah today almost sounds like the press conference or the contract offer. The Lord says to Cyrus, I have called you by name. I have anointed you and taken you by the hand. I have given you a title and I am going to open doors for you. The Lord God is going to do some really special things for this very interesting choice.

When the Hall of Fame plaque is cast in bronze for Cyrus, he will be remembered as the anointed one of God. We don’t see that title used too often, at least not in his time. Cyrus is the one who liberates the People of God from their bondage in Babylon. He sets them free and gives them everything they need to rebuild Jerusalem and its glorious Temple. Cyrus, the surprising choice for the team of God, did some remarkable things.

Now Paul, writing to one of the farm teams he managed in Thessalonica, reminded them of the faith, love, and hope that they were known for. The players in Thessalonica might have been known for their good deeds and charitable foundations. Maybe they were well known for the service work they did for their families, for their communities, and for the Church. Though Paul only mentions a few by name when he writes to the team in Thessalonica, all of them were called by name when they joined the team.

The Pharisees seem to want to play for a different team, or maybe even in a different league. They want to trick Jesus. They want to know if Jesus and his teammates have paid all of their taxes. They want to investigate. They want to see if there is financial and political corruption. And Jesus says, “Show me the coins for the taxes. Whose image is on the coin?” Those investigators said it was Caesar’s image. And Jesus said, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” The true ruler makes his mark, sets his seal, and places his image.

For many of us it was years ago, but for almost ninety people in our parish this week, the Lord Almighty will make his mark, set his seal, and place his image. On Monday night, eighty-eight sponsors will present their candidates for Confirmation, each by name. Like Cyrus, and Moses and Paul, and Martha and Mathew and Mary, on behalf of the Bishop, I will call each of them by their name. I will anoint them on their forehead and say, “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” I call them by name. I will anoint them and seal them. I will take them by the hand and say, “Peace be with you.” I will greet them with the words of the Risen Jesus. I will have prayed over them. I will have prayed over all of them. I will call upon the Father saying “Send the Holy Spirit to be their helper and guide. Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the Spirit of wonder and awe in your presence.” The Almighty Father will call up more members for his team in our midst. We who have been sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit and called by name now have more players on the field. God is making his mark, setting his seal and placing his image. Through the prayer and anointing of Confirmation, the Holy Spirit is making us more and more into the image of Jesus Christ. We belong more and more to him.

The Lord has called us by name. He has anointed us with his Spirit. He has made us part of his team. And even now, the bronze is being poured for our plaque in the Hall of Fame.

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