January 11, 2015: I Will Change Your Name.

Posted on : Jan 8th, 2015 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

In our journey through the book of Genesis this summer and fall, we encountered many people whose names are changed. Abram becomes Abraham, Sarai becomes Sarah – those aren’t too dissimilar, however, Jacob becomes Israel –which is a big change. In the New Testament, Saul becomes Paul, which is another big change – not so much in spelling and pronunciation, but in meaning.

As we discovered this summer, when God changes someone’s name, the name change is for a reason.   In most of the Bible, names are not just something you are called. Your name signifies your destiny or what you are called to be. For example, “Jacob” means “one who follows.” He was named such because he was the second born of twins. His twin brother, Esau, was born first. Jacob followed after Esau’s birth. But when was a grown man, he wrestled with God – all night long – and God prevailed, so his name was changed to “Israel” which means “God prevails.”

Saul in the New Testament was known as a ruthless persecutor of Christians. He hated those who followed Christ or even spoke of the risen Christ. He was as feared among Christians as are the terrorists who behead those whom they hold captive today. Damascus today is still not much safer then when Paul was there. Damascus is located in violent, war-torn Syria.

While Saul was walking on the road to Damascus, he encountered the risen Christ and his life was completely changed. To signify that life change, Saul chose a new name, Paul. Today he is best known as “St. Paul” or “The Apostle Paul” who wrote about a third of the letters that make up what we Christians call the New Testament.

One of Jesus’ own disciples, Simon, is renamed “Peter” signifying that he, Peter, will become the Shepherd of the community after Jesus’ death. To this day, the head of the Roman Catholic Church follows in the tradition of adopting a new name upon election as Pope. The newly elected Pope takes on a new name, signifying the change in his calling as he becomes the successor-Shepherd of the sheep.

So what about the rest of us? Actually, our name is also changed when we are baptized. Our family name becomes “Christian.” Some Christian traditions take this so literally, that they will, only baptize people using a biblical name. This was/ is especially difficult for girls’ and women’s names because there are so few women named in the bible!

Because most of us don’t literally change our name after our Baptism, this sense of God changing our name – our life, our life-path, isn’t always taken too seriously. But, if we were to put the name change thing into a more contemporary setting, it might. There is a contemporary song based on this biblical theme. It’s called “I Will Change your Name.” Here are some of the lyrics:

This Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus. It’s always celebrated on the Sunday after the Epiphany. On this Sunday we focus on the meaning of baptism and how our lives are changed by baptism. I came upon these words that I think offer us not only a contemporary meaning of baptism, but a deeply insightful one as well:

More on Sunday. Happy Baptism!




~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Mark 1: 4-11

Mark tells of Jesus’ baptism by John.

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Child; with you I am well pleased.”

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