This reflection was preached prior to the congregation’s annual meeting on January 19th, 2020.
What’s in a name? What do our names say about the kind of person we are, or about those who have named us? I’ve been thinking about names and thinking about our gospel reading for today. Here we have John the Baptist talking about Jesus, and what does he do? He gives him a name. He calls Jesus the “Lamb of God.” The “Son of God.” His disciples call him “Rabbi.” “Messiah.”
And then there’s Simon, who Jesus re-names and says, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas,” or Peter. The Rock. And this is a good name for Peter who, even though he experiences doubts and difficulties in his life, he finds his identity rooted in Jesus Christ, and he becomes the stable, reliable witness that helps the church to grow.
What does your name say about you?
My name, Michael, is a question, “who is like God?” When I was a little boy I thought it was not a question. I would say to my friend, Josh, “My name is Michael, who is like God.” Boy I thought a lot of myself didn’t I? But it’s really a rhetorical question, “who is like God?” Well, I used to think nobody is like God, but I’ve changed how I think about that. We are all, in our own way, a piece of God. A spark of divinity. A little bit of light in the world.
What does your name mean? I looked up some of them and was surprised by what I found. Brock, is an old English word for Badger. Deb means “Bee.” Like a little fleeting bumble bee. Duke is a title of nobility. Heather is a flowering evergreen plant that thrives on the peaty barren lands of Scotland. Andrew is derived from the Greek “Andreios” which means, “Manly.” Rarr. Chris has different meanings, one of which is also Greek, “Christianos,” a follower of Christ. Susan comes from the Hebrew Shoshannah, which means a lily or a rose.
Our names have many different meanings. Sometimes we love our names, sometimes, we’re not that big a fan of them. There are even names that we call ourselves. We say we are worthless or useless. Others might say we are frustrating, irritating, difficult, awkward, hard to understand. These are words that can cut us down, hurt us, make us feel bad about ourselves. And that’s not good.
But there is a name for us that will never go away. A name for us that no matter who we are, no matter what we’ve done, no matter who we’ve made angry, no matter what mistakes we’ve made, things we’ve said, things we’ve let go unsaid…none of it holds up to the name which belongs to all of us:
Child of God.
YOU are a Child of God. No matter what anyone says. No matter what names anyone calls you. No matter what you might call yourself. You are a Child of God. And this name, this identity, is one that stays with us no matter what. On those days when we don’t feel like it we are a Child of God. On those days when we are hurting, we are a child of God. On those days we are lonely, we are a child of God. On those days we are depressed or anxious, we are a child of God. On those days when you’ve been torn down and feel like life just isn’t worth it, you are worth it because you are a child of God.
I want you to try something for the rest of the day. The next time you say someone’s name, I want you to add something to it. I want you to say “_____, Child of God” and then say what you wanted to say. You know, just do it in your head. “Hey Deb, <child of God,>” thank you for being here today. You see, naming who we are changes who we are. And If we all walked around remembering that every single one of us is a child of God, how would that change how we spoke to one another? How we interacted with one another? How we saw ourselves? .It’s worth giving it a try, right?
So remember who you are, Child of God. Remember who you are, and remember that God has made you good, whether you’re a badger, or a lily, or a bumble bee, or a Jo, or a Ralph, or a Janeen…
Who is like God? You are, you precious, wonderful child of God.