Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Journey Begins with a Name (Sermon)

For the second time in the past few weeks, I'm preaching tomorrow without notes.  The following constitutes the bits and pieces I've written down ~ the illustrations that flesh it out are mostly in my head.  I hope.


One verse in the Gospel of Luke tells us:  After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Where did your name or names come from?  I have a project for you: I want you to get together with one or two other people and tell one another:  What are the stories of your names?  Where did they come from?  What do they mean?  Have they turned out to reflect the life you’ve lived?


Anyone want to share a story or two with the rest of us?


Names are important, aren’t they?  The process of naming is important.  Young parents-to-be pour over baby names books – the top names for 2011 were Sophie and Aiden.  (Comment)  The fashions change – my own kids grew up in a world of Matthews and Emilys.  In my generation, the names Brenda and Tom were popular.  Older generations include Harolds and Ednas.

Names represent, first of all, the love parents lavish upon their children.  Time – research – family histories – even family arguments.  

God told Joseph what Jesus’ name would be in a dream. 

They represent a child’s heritage – who and what matters to the parents.  Favorite relatives.  Best friends.  Characters in books.  (My stepsister Thea, named for a character in a Willa Cather novel.) Joshua: God saves.  Jesus's heritage as a Jew. 

Identity – who claims you, before you know who you are, or even that you are.

Jesus – Son of God, belonged to all. 

We like to imagine that we choose who we are.  We make a lot of important decisions in furtherance of our claim to self-identiy: who we marry, what work we undertake.  But long before we are able to make such decisions, God is at work, naming and claiming us.  In baptism: Our real last name = child of God.  Beloved child of God.

When Jesus is brought to the temple, Anna and Simeon recognize him.  They know he is the long-awaited Messiah.  They know that we can all claim him as our own. 

Something to live into. 

At the end of his life, Jesus lives into his name: He saves us all, by dying and rising again.  

How do you live into your name, the one your family gave you? 

How do you live into the name God gives you: God’s child?  God’s beloved child? 

Jesus’ journey, the one that ends not with death but with life, begins with a name.  The name the angel whispers to his earthly father in a dream.  The name he is called during the ceremony of circumcision.  The name that represents love,  that represents all that is important, that identifies him and that offers him something into which to live.  Love.  God saves.  Because God loves. 

What about your name?  As your journey begins anew this year, do you know that God claimed you as God’s own beloved son or daughter?  Do you know that God has invited you into the great journey toward ultimate love?  

Remember your name – your beginning.  Remember that it marks you as a pilgrim on a journey. 

Your name, God’s beloved, has been yours since you were born.  It’s the name which God whispers in your ear: You are my beloved. It’s the name into which you live, as you go forth to share the love of God.  Amen.


  1. Robin, this is a very thought-provoking sermon. I especially like the question: "How do you live into the name God gives you: God’s child? God’s beloved child?" Your people are very blessed to have you as their pastor. God bless all of us as we ponder that question.

  2. iLike!!

    How was it without a manuscript?

  3. I am liking this without-a-manuscript thing. Maybe I'll post about it later. I seem to be changing my whole approach to preaching, which is quite surprising to me!

  4. Superlative preaching!!!. Precise, brief and brisk.

  5. Powerful,concise and straight to the facts.