October 14, 2011

Names

Following is the article that my husband wrote for our Trinity Tribune (the church newsletter).


Are you really going to name her Apple?
Have you thought of Sage Moonblood... or maybe Moxie Crimefighter?

Names mean something, especially to the Christian. They surely aren't indifferent things, nor do you find the Saints of the Scriptures taking the names of people, places, or even animals lightly. You might think of Adam carefully naming the animals, Zechariah shocking his family by naming his boy John, the significance of the name Moses (out of the waters), or the occasion for Jesus death being the "place of the skull".
Everywhere one looks through the Scriptures, you don't find frivolity or even stupidity, but rich theological significance in names. Just think, every time you hear the name of Christ Jesus what lies beneath it is the declaration, "This one and not another is chosen (Christ) to save you from your sins (Jesus)!"

The last week of August, Kantor Lock and I had the beautiful privilege of taking a Continuing Education course from Dr. John Kleinig, a well-known and respected Lutheran professor from Australia. He said we should call him John, which not all professors do. Many like to be known more formally. He followed that up with me at a break by telling me if I didn't call him John, that would be insulting to him. Now, I have been around Seminary professors since I was one year old. Not many insist on being identified by their personal name, as not many want to have a personal relationship, though a few have. In any case, Dr. Kleinig, who made much of the significance of names and the theology of God's name, said "Call me John", and he meant it. That was readily apparent in how warmly he regarded not only me and the other students, but also my family throughout the week in class, outside of class, and in saying good-bye. He even invited my whole troop, all ten (soon to be eleven) of us, multiple times to his home in Australia. No "Call me Dr. Stuffy Pants" would do something so personal and gracious and perhaps even crazy like that, especially considering our brood. With his name he gave us personal access to him and all that was his, his home included. Apparently he meant it when he said, "Call me John".

Now, if you are familiar with the book of Exodus, you know of the significant event of the burning bush where God revealed to Moses the Divine Name. What Dr. Kleinig explained to us on the second day of class, from the Hebrew text, was that this was the giving of God's PERSONAL name to Moses. It wasn't a TITLE like Christ or Almighty. It wasn't a COMMON name like God or Redeemer. It was a personal name, like John, or Adrian, or Jesus. In doing so, God declared, "Dear Moses, don't be so worried and terrified and nervous in my presence. Call me by my first name, my personal name." It was unto Moses a Gospel name, a beautiful, comforting, saving name. "YHWH", Moses said, according to God's insistence in the Old Testament. "JESUS", we say according to his insistence in the New Testament. Again, it is as though God says, "Don't call me Dr. or Mr. or Rev., call me by my first name. I want an intimate, personal relationship with you."
Dr. Kleinig went on to explain that in giving Moses the Divine Name, God gave him everything. It was that gracious name of God that gave Moses access to everything that belongs to God, as the name Jesus does for us. Through it, Moses had received from God not only everything that belonged to God, but also the use of everything that was God's. In fact, along with the promise that God was with him, God's name was the only weapon Moses had to stand against Pharaoh, the superpower of the ancient world, and all the demonic spiritual forces that stood behind him. So, Moses used that name before the people, before Pharaoh, before Pharaoh's court of magicians and false gods, and especially before God in prayer. Of course, as you know, the weapon of the name of God and His presence was more than enough to do just that. By giving the name YHWH, God gave Moses and the Israelites Himself, and everything that comes with Him... use of His house, His gifts, His protection, His blessing, His rescue, His riches... everything!!!

Of course, the theology and the giving of the name of God have great bearing for us in the New Testament age as well. At the Ascension (Matt. 28), what does Jesus give us? He gives us two things: the promise to be with us and His name; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Of course, as you know, Jesus is with us in His church, in His word and it's preaching, and through His sacraments to be with us in our lives. Our baptismal font even declares that the Trinity is with us specifically in the sacrament of Baptism and there HIS NAME is upon us, blessing us, according to those sanctifying waters. As Dr. Kleinig said, " The name sanctifies everything it touches," especially the baptized! This is one reason that Christians have historically made the sign of the cross, to remember baptism and to remember that the name of God is upon us to bless us, according to our baptism.

There is an Old Testament tradition which is quite profound in the naming of babies. It is this, that your personal name was given to you in baptism. Not by your parents, but by GOD. You can even see this in the question asked of parents before baptism, not "What IS this child named?" but instead "What IS this child TO BE named?" It is to say the name hasn't happened yet, but will happen in the baptism. Liturgically or theologically speaking, Christian naming in baptism then belongs to God and not to us. A different way of saying it is, there in baptism, God gives you His name and access to Himself and there God gives you your name and defines for you in baptism your identity; who you will be and how your life will go. That is to say, your life (sola fide), regardless of what comes, will receive the blessing of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Because His name sanctifies and blesses everything it touches. That is to say God will be responsible for shaping this child and making them who they are and what they will be. This brings relief and tremendous comfort to the child baptized and to their worried and trepidatious parents!
There is an old custom associated with that tradition that is very rich and beautiful. God willing, and according to John's (Dr. Kleinig) encouragement, we are going to give it a try in a few weeks when our next baby is born. It is this: that the name of the child is first made public at the baptism. Before that, the other children of the house don't know it, the other relatives and friends haven't heard it, the parents don't even speak it to each other, until God places that name upon the child in baptism. Historically, the name then wasn't even a family name, or trendy name, or a name given without some thought. It was a Biblical name, or the name of a Saint, because it wasn't given by parents, but instead by our God in His church. You might see this practice at work in the naming of Luther, who was named for Martin of Tours, because he was baptized on that Saint's day.

Can you imagine the ramifications for the world, if all the churches returned to this practice and if everyone was named in baptism? Can you imagine if anyone wanted to hear your name for the first time, they would need to be in church hearing God's Word to do so? There would be some added excitement and anticipation to baptism and to the day and to the hearing of the name alongside God's name. Those who are lazy with the gifts of God would be compelled unto baptism, so their children could have a name and would benefit from it's blessing upon their children. Children might recognize, perhaps in a small way, that their identity and life isn't identified with what is meaningless or trendy, or is somehow to be carved out by them alone, but instead their identity is bound up in the life of Jesus and everything we are and what we will be are from Him. Whenever they pondered why they were named that which they are named, they would know it had to do with something bigger than them. That is was profound, and that their name had to do with the Christian faith and came from and with the name of their Savior, who loves them.

It was an enjoyable and profitable week with Dr. Kleinig. If you have more interest in the theology of the name, he has written an article entitled, "What is the use of naming God?" which I would be happy to share with you. He also had more to say about baptismal fonts, and their usage, and many other church rites and rituals which hopefully we have occasion to speak about or to learn of together.

Love to you in Christ,
Pastor Sherrill


So, in this article it explains why we did what we did this time when our baby was born.

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