Posted by: dacalu | 16 September 2012

Names

 

This morning, I had the privilege of worshiping with the people of Christ the King Episcopal Church in Tucson.  Here is the sermon I shared.

Readings

Proverbs 1:20-33 (“because they hated knowledge”)

James 3:1-12 (“the tongue is a fire”)

Mark 8:27-38 (“Who do you say that I am?”)

 

Sermon

Names are powerful things.

Now, I don’t mean to say that they have power in themselves

in some magical way.

Perhaps they do, but that’s not what I’m going for.

A name says something important about the relationship

between the namer and the named.

To call someone beloved,

means something profound.

It means your heart calls out to theirs.

It means you care for and delight in them.

Likewise, to call someone Lord

means you see them as someone

who directs and protects you.

When I name you,

it may not change who you are,

but it changes who you are to me.

And so, when Jesus asks “Who do you say that I am?”

it’s not a quiz;

it’s not a test to see if the disciples

have the right factual information.

It’s an opportunity for them to define themselves

– in relation to him.

At first glance, the passages in today’s Gospel may seem unrelated.

Jesus questions the disciples about his reputation,

then he explains his future,

then he tells them what discipleship means.

And there is this strange admonition not to tell anyone.

All these things come together in understanding who Jesus is

– in relation to us – and we to him.

 

Our age has many wonders,

not the least of which is indoor plumbing.

More, though I think of equality, freedom, knowledge, and communication.

We are blessed to live in the age we do.

And yet it also has its drawbacks.

We live in an age where people think that

names refer to exactly one thing.

We believe that there exists some privileged perspective of

law or science or morality,

from which a thing may be correctly labeled and understood.

We forget that names always have two subjects,

The namer and the named.

We forget that the Western endeavor of science,

once rested on the idea that the true nature of a thing,

the true name of a thing,

was what God called it.

God has the privileged perspective.

Don’t get me wrong,

I would never argue that science doesn’t work without God.

I just want to put context to the idea of naming and understanding things.

We always understand them in context,

both in the context of their environment

and in relation to those of us who observe them.

We exist in relationship with one another

and define ourselves by one another.

So you might not always have the same name.

How many of you go by more than one name?

 

Does this mean you are multiple people?

No.  But it does mean you relate to different people differently.

Let me ask you three questions:

My first question is this:

How do you name yourself?

Which of the names you go by comes closest to the name you call yourself?

Or do you have a completely different name,

that you meditate on in your hear of hearts?

How you answer this question says something about

which relationships are most important to you.

Do you call yourself “a follower of Christ”?

Not so common among Episcopalians, but not unheard of either.

What would it mean to look at yourself in that way?

What would it take to make you comfortable with that name?

Jesus says, “I do not call you servants any longer,

because the servant does not know what the master is doing;

but I have called you friends,

because I have made known to you

everything that I have heard from my Father.”

We are also called heirs and Children of God.

What’s more, we have been called the very Body of Christ.

Roll those names around in your head.

Ask who calls you by that name,

and ask whom you label such.

It makes a difference.

It makes a very profound difference,

once you realize that your identity arises

in relation to God and to one another.

With Adam, you have the ability to name one another.

Some names will stick and some will not;

some will be important and some will not;

but every act of naming is an act of power.

It sends a message to God and to neighbor:

this is how I stand in relationship with you.

You have been shaped by these names

and you shape one another.

With Peter, you have the power to bind on Earth and in Heaven.

These names bind you to one another

in healthy and unhealthy ways.

Every power comes with responsibility.

 

My second question is this:

How do you name us?

How do you name this place, this organization, this church?

Who are we together?

And does that have an identity to you?

My experience is that God calls us together,

and sends us out in groups to do the work of the Kingdom.

Jesus says “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,

if you have love for one another.”

Anglicans are Protestant in that we believe in an ever reforming Church.

We are Protestant in that we believe no institution stands

between us and God.

But we are also Catholic.

We know that Christianity cannot be practiced alone.

This is what is meant by “many sheep, but one shepherd”

and the “great cloud of witnesses.”

We live because we live together.

We become more real every time someone names us in love,

because our substance comes from those relationships.

Perhaps I could do it alone, just God and I…

but I’ve never been asked to do so.

We speak of yeast and leavening,

light and shining,

good news and evangelism,

gifts and sharing.

To be filled is to overflow

and so Christianity is all about community.

I like to say this:

“I acknowledge Christ as our corporate Lord and Savior.”

Which brings us to my third question:

“Who do you say that I am?”

Look inside yourself and ask, “How do I name God?”

For me, God is “Lord,” “Beloved,” and “Master.”

I feel a constant tension between

pursuing God as the love of my life

and going where I am sent,

acting as a representative and citizen of the Heavenly Kingdom.

For you it will be different.

How do you name God?

What is the relationship there?

 

Now that you have that in your head,

let me say this:

Names, like relationships, are two sided.

For me to call God Lord, Beloved, and Master

is to name myself subject, lover, and student.

The three questions I have asked

are three aspects of the same question.

A name means something.

A name has power.

When I look at the sign out front,

I see that this place bears the name: Christ the King.

It is a place for loyalty and fealty,

a place for call and purpose.

The Christ is the anointed one.  The one appointed and sent.

We believe that the Creator of Heaven and Earth sent this man to us,

this son, to rule over us and bring us into the family.

We believe we have a King who likewise delegates us

to love and serve on another,

and the world that was created.

We believe that we have the power to name

and to bind

and to love one another.

We are so full of that power that it overflows,

and every time we label a person,

we influence them – and ourselves – in the naming.

I call you “Beloved”

for I know that you are loved,

by God and one another.

I call you “Children of God,”

for I know you were made in God’s image.

What will you call yourself?

And what will you call him

who lived and died for you,

who called you friend,

and asks you to accept a name far greater,

far more challenging,

and far more wonderful,

than anything you could imagine for yourself?

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Responses

  1. This sermon was very meaningful and especially helpful when I am home recovering from an infection. Thank you, friend.


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