April 3, 2016
Watch a video of this sermon here.
When my older son was in third grade, he decided to change his name. The name he had been given at birth was no longer an option. A girl in his class had the same name. It was spelled differently, but it sounded the same. They were both Gail. And that would not do. So for several months, he tried out different options. The one that lasted the longest was “Spike.” Over the summer, the name thing seemed to be less of an issue, but when school began in the fall, I wondered what he would want to call himself. I didn’t have to wait long to find out. On the afternoon of the first day of fourth grade, I got a phone call from my son’s teacher.
It seems she had distributed index cards to each of her students at the beginning of the day, and had asked them to write across the top of the card their full names, as those names appeared in her official records. Then she said, “Underneath your full name, write the name you want me to call you. For example, if your name is Robert but you want me to call you Bobby, write it down so I’ll know.” My son had written “Gail Young II” across the top, and underneath that, he’d written, “Kevin.” The teacher wanted to know where this name had come from. I had to think a minute. It did sound familiar. Then it struck me. Kevin is Bruce’s middle name. My son, Gail, had decided to name himself after his step-dad, Bruce. That name has stuck, more or less, for more than 25 years.
“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare’s Romeo once asked Juliet. While a rose by any other name might smell as sweet, in the Bible, a name has great significance. A name carries with it the essence of a person’s character. Your name defines what kind of person you are. But what happens when your name changes? As we move from the shock of Easter morning into the beginning of the Christian era, we find a group of Jesus’ followers who struggle to define their identity. Like my son, who had to try on several names before he found one that fit the way he saw himself and wanted others to see him, these early followers of Jesus didn’t know quite what to call themselves. Continue reading