New Names And A New Covenant
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.”… God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, But Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations, kings of peoples shall come from her.”
~ Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
For the ancients a name, any name is not simply a conventional designation, but rather an expression of a being’s place in the universe…A proper noun has a mysterious identity with the person named, denoting the nature and function of the person. The name is not simply a label but is so closely linked with the bearer as to contain something of his/her character…To indicate that God is taking possession of their lives, God changes the name to Abraham and Sarah.
~ Sister Vandana
Holy God of ancient glory,
choosing man and woman, too:
Abra’am’s faith and Sarah’s story
formed a people bound to you.
to your covenant keep us true.
~ William Boyd Grove
Naming is important in many cultures today. In some places, it is important to repeat the name of a parent r grandparent in the name of a child. In other cultures it is inappropriate to name anyone after someone who is still living. Naming becomes a community effort in certain tribal cultures. Often a name means something or is descriptive of a desired attribute. In the United Methodist Church we are baptized using our given and middle name, not our family name.
O God, we bear the imprint of your face;
the colors of our skin are your design,
and what we have of beauty in our race
as man or woman, you alone define,
who stretched a living fabric on our frame
and gave to each a language and a name.
~ Shirley Erena Murray
“The beginning of wisdom,” the Chinese proverb teaches, “is to call things by their right names.” Not by names we make up to trivialize them, not by names we use to deride them; not by names and titles we use to hide them from themselves but by their “right names.” Think about the names you’ve been given in life. Are they your ”right name?”
~ Joan Chittister
These reflections are for use during the week of February 28 – March 6, 2021 and based on the lectionary for February 28.
Joyce D. Sohl
Joyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, quarterly retreats, and art exhibits.