What’s in a name?

Choosing names for our children is a fascinating exercise connecting them with their past and with our hopes for their future.

For the Hebrews names spoke of the character of the one named.

As Abram and Sarai are given a new purpose and direction in which to walk they become Abraham and Sarah. The God who asks them to walk is El Shaddai, variously God Almighty or the one who is “sufficient”  to nurture the infant people of choice.

The Psalmist refers to the Lord, a phrase that usually refers to YHWH, the unpronounced name of God.

In Mark before our reading the nature of Jesus is explored through the names that people have used to describe him – John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the prophets. Peter responds with the name Messiah, but demonstrates in our passage an incomplete, culturally bound, understanding of its meaning. Jesus hides behind the elusive Son of Man title.

We, the male and female followers of Jesus, learn that we must give up ourselves, our names. In this we take up the cross and Jesus’ name to become the people of the good news.

Paul, in Romans, reflects on Abraham’s, “Hoping against hope… being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”  This resonates with the second of the understandings of El Shaddai above. Paul refers to “…Jesus our Lord,…” connecting him to the name of God from the Psalm as well as making the implied political statement that Caesar is not Lord.

These are a few of the many names for God given in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Many, because one is insufficient. Which ones resonate with you? Which ones stretch your understanding of God’s nature?

Graham Booth

Lay Preacher