Get their names! That’s a well-known evangelism technique; or it could be argued that it is a hospitality technique. Get their names; find out who they are as people. We like to be known by name. Take the time to share a name in worship today. Your name and the name of the one you are talking to. Declare that this is judgment free on forgetting names day. Give your name when you speak, and ask the name of the one to whom you speak.
Why? Well, our text is about naming, in part. God seems to care about names. In the conversation with Abram, God renames him, and then God renames Sarai too. She is a part of the covenant, not just added baggage. Knowing names is knowing the people, at least in part. It says you care about them.
At the same time, we go beyond our names and take on a new identity in Christ when we enter into covenantal relationship with God. Or perhaps it would be better said that we become more fully ourselves when we walk before God with our whole selves. God doesn’t ask us to set aside who we are, but enables us to use the gifts within us to serve the kin-dom and the community of faith.
So, this might be a day of examining our names; both the one we were given at birth and the one we claimed at our baptism. Of course, in our tradition, we don’t rename those who come before us for baptism, whether children or adults. But we do take on the name disciple, the name of follower. We take Christ’s name as our name – Christian.
The deeper question, of course, is how do we walk before God in the name we have been given? How do we represent that for which we live and breathe and have our being? Testimony is a powerful way for us to hear and experience this walking before God life. Who in the congregation has a story to tell about commitment, about covenant, about grasping hands with another follower to help and be helped on the journey. These could be stories of success, or, perhaps more meaningfully, stories of failure and accepting the grace to start again. We’re not so much looking for heroes as for real human beings with bruised knees and humility. The biblical take on heroes is different from popular culture. Let’s be real with one another.
More importantly, let’s be real with God. Walk before me, says our God, and be blameless.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.