By Adam VanDop
Yesterday morning while in church, our pastor encouraged us early in the service to get up and greet those around us.
I personally love this time. It is a time of freedom where I don’t feel stuck in my spot in the pew. People get up and move around; smiles and handshakes abound. A good friend was sitting in front of me, he turned around, shook my hand, and as if saying my name, he said, “hello pastor.” I thought about saying, “hello chicken farmer” in return, but he had already turned around to shake the hands of others.
Then later on in the service, our pastor started to preach, a sermon called, “Breakable Containers of Grace.” He shared what the church would look like if we as people were to choose who were in it. One of the lines he used was that the pastor would remember every name of every congregant, past and present. That would be some special, mystical person with an incredible memory.
This got me thinking about my own struggle with names and working in ministry.
Memory has never been my strong point,
ask my wife, she’ll agree;
ask my parents, they’ll give a nod;
ask my teachers, they’ll sigh and say "Yup.";
ask my youth, and they’ll tell you how many times I’ve met them.
I’m not proud of this; it is an honest struggle that I continually ask the Lord for help with, and over the course of time – I’m getting better. I could tell you many stories of times where I have failed and caused hurt.
I want you to now remember (or look up) the story of Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3). Moses was doing what he did, tending to his father-in-law’s flocks, when he noticed a bush was on fire. This bush didn’t burn up, must’ve been weird.
Then God spoke through the bush to Moses. After Moses got the message, that he was to go to Pharaoh and deliver the people out of his grasp and bring the people to a much better land, he asked for one more detail.
“God, what’s your name?”
And God replies,
“I am who I am.”
Weird comes to mind once again, as that’s not really a name I would pick for my next kid. What the name is, as I have heard before, is that it is the pure essence of being, of simply existing.
What God’s name is implying is – I exist. I am more than just alive, I have been, and am, and always will be, never ceasing to end, a name that implies God’s omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Moses wanted to know this because when he goes to the people (the Israelites, as well as Pharaoh) and says that his God has commanded him to save His people, they’re going to say,
Well, that’s great, thanks, but what’s his name?
It’s like we as people cannot identify what is happening, until we fully know who it is we are talking to. I get it all the time – “oh, you’re John’s son!” – and then the conversation continues as if I have been known all along.
God could have easily picked any other name, perhaps Adam, perhaps Elousia, but He picked a name embedded with deeper meaning. His name communicates to all those who would have heard it (past and present and future) that His name is greater than all other names, be them individuals or other gods.
Throughout the Bible you see God being referred to as Lord, from the Hebrew, YHWH. It is sometimes pronounced as Adonai, or Jehovah. God choose this name for Himself, so that he could be known.
The practice of naming is one that is taken seriously, as that is the name of the person for life, they will have that with them where ever they go, it becomes who they are.
My parents choose my name to be ‘Adam’. Not entirely sure why, other than that they really liked the name. And I will have it for life. It is my name. It is how you know me.
My wife and I choose ‘Tyana’ for our daughter. We loved the name; it means ‘Princess.’ She will have it for life. It is how we know her, and how she will be known to you.
Our friends, family and others who are close – deserve to be known by their names.
Our youth deserve to be known by their names. Because it is simply who they are. It lets them know that we are truly interested in them. It lets them know that we wanting to know who they really are.
So I ask that the Lord will give you what it takes to get to know all the people around you, in a way that is meaningful to them – so that you might be blessing in their lives.