The chosen hymns for this week, All hail the power of Jesus name! and Lord, For The Years can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
Giving names is so important. It helps to identify things and people – although sometimes it can be confusing.
What’s the difference between a buffalo and a bison? No – not the joke, but a real question. Nothing – same thing but a different name!
A few years ago, a friend often talked about this marvellous person she knew – Liz Thomson was her name.
She would tell me Liz said this, Liz did that, Liz went there on her holidays and so on. After many months – even a few years – it dawned on me I knew this person.
But not as Liz Thomson (her married name) But as Betty McDonald– her name before she was married! Same person, but known by different names!
Names are important. Everyone has a name – and as we have seen, some can have several names.
One of the hardest things a parent can do, I think, is to choose a name for the prospective baby. Some refuse to do it until the baby is born – we’ll see what he/she is like and choose a name to fit hem/her some say. (Though how my grandparents looked at my dad and decided he looked like a George is beyond me!)
Others have a favourite name already picked.
Our first names – or forenames – are the ones we are generally known by. Certainly, they are the names we are called by those familiar to us and those close to us. Sometimes the name is one which means a specific thing – Anne means grace for example, Joshua means Yahweh saves or Yahweh is generous; Joseph means may God increase; David means beloved; Mary means wished for child and so on.
Your surname too helps define you – you may be a mac or an o’ like McDonald – son of Donald or O’Connor – grandson of Connor. Or called after an occupation – like Taylor or Baker, or after a place like Scotland or Hamilton and so on.
And of course, these are not just names but a history or tradition passed down to us.
When we share names, our family of origin is identified, or our place of birth, or our occupation, and we may be risking something of the reputation of that institution, group, or family, by what we say and do.
Names are important.
In our Gospel reading Jesus gives Simon a new name. He calls him Peter – the rock.
Now I don’t know what your image of a rock is, but I think of it as something hard and steady. Something not easily moved. Something permanent – lasting for centuries. Something always there.
I wonder what Simon thought of his new name? or the other disciples? Simon is not one in the Bible that I would automatically think of as being rock like – steadfast and not easily moved.
Simon Peter to me is more like the rock that moved – shaky in his faith, inconsistent, headstrong, frequently getting it wrong.
But ultimately, a man of great faith. One of the leaders of the new sect of Christians who proclaimed Jesus as Messiah, crucified, dead and buried, but also risen and alive in his disciples.
We too bear the name of Christian – followers of Christ, followers of the way.
What is our discipleship like? How are we managing to project the name of Jesus in our world?
Does the world know we are Christians by our love?
Does the light of Christ shine through us?
These are hard questions.
We are one body, made up of different parts. And we belong to a larger body – the body of Christians throughout the world. Together, we can be the rock, on which the church is built.
We don’t do it on our own, but empowered by the spirit, together we can make a difference.