January 15, 2012: “You’re going to call me WHAT?”

Posted on : Jan 12th, 2012 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

As a child I learned the rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me!”

Today those words seem so naïve!   Kids have always been hard on each other, but today’s name-calling and bullying is totally out of control.  The number of kids who commit suicide because of bullying and name-calling is frightening and unbelievable.  In spite of all the “shocking” stories of kids who are driven beyond despair by bullying, some tormented to the point of taking their own lives, it just keeps happening.

What’s in a Name?  Today we know there is A LOT!

Names can be used to torment or tear down, to debase or destroy, to oppress or to hurt.  But they can also be used as an expression of love and kindness, of tenderness and care, of compassion and intimacy.  Just about every couple I know has a “special name” for their spouse or partner.  Sometimes it’s just the inflection in our voice that differentiates a loving or a not-so-loving intention by the one addressing us!

In the ancient world, the name parents gave to their child was not just something “to call the kid.”  It usually bestowed meaning or a blessing on the person.  For example, in Hebrew “David” means “beloved.”  Daniel – my name – means “servant of God.”  In Hebrew, “Dan” means “servant.”  “El” is one of the biblical names for “God.”  Put them together and you get “servant of God.”  “Irene” in Greek means “peace” or “one who imparts peace.”

Before Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph, like all parents, had to figure out “what to call the baby?”  Selecting a baby’s name is one of the hardest tasks parents have!  In Matthew 1:21 we are told an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said: “You shall name him JESUS because he will save the people from their sin.”  “Jesus” meant “Savior or Deliverer.”  Thus Jesus’ name expresses what it is Jesus is to be and do.”

Naming is important.  Last Sunday we had so many experiences here that named “who we are.”

We said goodbye to Kobie and welcomed into God’s family Jeff & Jade’s daughter, Elle, as she was baptized.  In Baptism God “calls us God’s own as we are named a “Child of God.”  In the reception after the service Henry shared how Kobie helped him through his mother’s death and his sister’s diagnosis with cancer.  Laurie shared how Kobie had opened our hearts and minds to experience the Bible as “Ancient words, coming to life in our lives.”  Randy shared the profound hope that we experienced through Kobie’s sermon the Sunday after Prop 8 passed, and equal marriage [temporarily] ceased [for the second time in our State].  If you missed that Sunday, Kobie spoke about her journey growing up as a white girl within the racism of Apartheid in South Africa.

Then after Kobie’s reception, before David Muller’s memorial service, Ginger Hemingway, without being asked, went to the janitor’s closet, hauled out the mop and mopped the floors, so the Social Hall would be ready for David’s service.

An hour later, we had one of the largest attended services in the history of our church as people gathered to remember David Muller.  The sanctuary was full to overflowing and people were still coming in.  Without a word from me, our members brought over as many folding chairs as they could fit in the sanctuary.  They put chairs in the aisles, up in the chancel (front raised area of the Church) and in front of the front pews.  Even with that, people still stood throughout the entire Memorial service.  Afterwards, person after person commented to me that they had never experienced such a gracious and welcoming church in their lives.

Then Kobie sent me this in an email on Monday.  She wrote:

“When we drove back home yesterday, Cara was really sad, saying she wished there was a way she could keep on attending at WeHo.   And then when I tucked Leo into bed last night I found him crying, upon asking him what was up, he said he was sad that we will not be going to church at WeHo anymore.…. We all are surely going to miss WeHo dearly.”

That’s who we are and how we live as a community of faith.  This is what the name “Christian” used to mean before some “Christians” began bullying almost anyone who wasn’t like them.  This is what “Church” used to mean before some Christians re-branded the name to mean “judgmental, mean-spirited, or exclusive.”

Don’t be fooled – this IS what it means to be Christian and TO BE Church!



~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

Isaiah 49:13-16

God says,

“I will never forget you.

Look and see:

I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands.”

Shout for joy, you heavens!  Exalt, you earth!

You mountains, break into happy cries!

For God consoles the people and has compassion on those who are afflicted.

But Zion said, “God has abandoned us!  God has forgotten us!”

Then God said, “Does a woman forget her baby when she is nursing it or fail to cherish the child of her own womb?

Yet even if a mother could forget, I will never forget you.

Look and see: I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands.”


Matthew 1: 18-25

An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said:

“You shall name him JESUS – [‘God Saves’] because

he will save the people from their sin.”

This is how the birth of Jesus came about.

When Jesus’ mother, Mary, was engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her husband, an upright person unwilling to disgrace her, decided to divorce her quietly.

This was Joseph’s intention when suddenly the angel of God appeared in a dream and said, “Joseph, heir to the House of David, don’t be afraid to wed Mary; it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child. She is to have a son, and you are to name him Jesus – “God saves” – because he will save people from their sins.”

All this happened to fulfill what God had said through the prophet:

“The virgin will be with child

And give birth,

And the child will be named

Emmanuel” – a name that means “God is with us.”

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of God had directed him, and they named him Jesus.

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