I remember back to just before Brooks and Jonathan were born, how Vickie and I tried to come up with names for them. I always seemed to lose and Vickie always seemed to get her way. My grandmother wanted me named after her father. My mother didn’t like the name Silas, thank God. Names have to do more than just sound good, they convey a story or message. William means “determined protector” Jonathan means “given by God” Silas means “of the woods” Jesus means “God is salvation.” The angel said to Joseph, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”– which means, “God with us.”
All of us have friends who are hard to imagine with some other name. Butch, can you see him in your mind? Grace, can you see her in your mind? It’s like someone saw these people before they were born and knew exactly what to call them. But of course, that’s hardly ever the way it is with names. You get a name, then you grow into it. Maybe he’s Butch because that’s what he was given and, over time, he became as he was called, Butch. Grace, probably too big, too high sounding a name for a wild little girl romping about the house. But over time, called Grace she became Grace, gracious, graceful.
Other people sometimes bestow names upon us and sometimes these names become nicknames. Fraternities are bad about that: Goofus, Jock, Zeus, or The Beast: Family nicknames: Peewee, Squeekie, etc. Sometimes such names represent our cruelty toward others rather than our love. Fatso, Hunchback, Chubby, etc. Can you feel that pain, do you know that pain, the pain of a name that hurts, traps, confines, cuts to the heart?
Our scripture is an interesting lesson about names. Luke who writes this gospel, gets into medical details. Doctors are that way. They will go through this long explanation and at the end you simply want to say, “Well, is that good or bad?”
On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. There is no name only the “crippled” woman, the “bent over” woman. Everyone has a name, why not Mary, Lydia or Elizabeth? She doesn’t have an identity other than that of a victim. She doesn’t have a family.
She doesn’t have an occupation. All she has is a deformity!
Jesus said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. She is there for everyone who so named to the deformity of their lives. Just a drunk, Grossly overweight, A retard, Gimp, Stupid, Nerd.
Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites!
Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
Jesus calls her a daughter of Abraham and not a victim anymore. Abraham is not only the great granddaddy of Israel, Abraham is also a blessing from God because she is his heir. She is no longer the crooked woman. No longer the prostitute,
no longer the liar, no longer the murderer, because God has healed and God has forgiven.
Do we see the power of the name? Paul says, Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, in our church, when we baptize someone, we announce who it is that is being baptized and baptize them in the name that is above of every name. That person’s identity is permanently sealed in Heaven. When we pray, we close the prayer in that name that every knee shall bow to.
No matter what we are named, no matter what we have been called, we now have a much more determinative and revealing name, a Christian. You are also a son or daughter of God. Whatever else we may be called we are a Christian. Stand up straight, act like it, go in peace.