Monday, May 19, 2014

Strange names in a strange world

1 Peter 2:2-10, Easter 5 A, May 18, 2014

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
What is in a name? How does your name impact you? 

Sometimes, we are named after our relatives. For example, my middle name is Clair, after my grandmother. In a way, my grandmother’s legacy continues with me - and my other cousins who also are named after her.

Sometimes, people are given odd names that nobody knows how to pronounce. For example, my great friend and mentor is Thais Hudson, but we call her Ti. She is named after a French opera character. In this opera, a Christian monk decided that it was his duty to convert Thais, a pagan courtesan. He fell in love with her even as she became Christian. 

Sometimes, names come with too much baggage or expectation. For example, Brett tells me that there are students with names like Messiah or Princess who seem to always find their way to detention.

We see some pretty odd names in our scriptures too. The Lord often asked the prophets to do weird things for the sake of their ministry, including naming their children with theological statements. The Lord told Isaiah to name his son Maher-shalal-hash-baz, meaning, “The spoil speeds, the prey hastens.” Can you imagine having a name like Maher-shalal-hash-baz? Hosea’s kids weren’t any luckier.

First, the Lord told Hosea to marry a prostitute, so he took a woman named Gomer as his wife. When their first son was born, the Lord told Hosea to name his child Jezreel, meaning “God sows.” This is an odd name, but not necessarily a terrible one. Then, Hosea had a daughter, whom the Lord named Lo-Ruhamah which means, “Not pitied.” Just like her name, the Lord would no longer show pity to the people of Israel. 

If that name wasn’t bad enough, the Lord told Hosea to name his third child, Lo-Ammi, meaning, “Not my people.” With the birth of this child, the Lord no longer claimed the Israelites as his own.
These poor, innocent children were given ominous names that they bore for their entire lives. 
Wherever they went, they were signs of how the Lord turned away from Israel. These children, Jezreel, Lo-Ruhamah, and Lo-Ammi, were used as theological statements.

But it gets better! The Lord also uses these children for good. The Lord speaks in Hosea of a time when the Lord will sow Jezreel in the land. The Lord will have pity on Lo-Ruhamah, and the Lord will claim Lo-Ammi as His people. Lo-Ammi will reply, “You are my God.”

So, essentially, God will sow the one named, “God sows.” God will have pity on the one named, “Not pitied.” God will claim as His people the one named, “Not my people.” Our good Lord will turn everything on its head and use for good Hosea’s kids with those unusual names. 

This, this is what Peter references in the second lesson. He quotes Hosea, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” In a way, Peter is saying that time is now. Now that Christ has lived, died, and been resurrected, all of humanity is included in God’s people. Even the Gentiles, like us. Once we were not the chosen people, but now we are God’s people. Back then we had not received God’s mercy, but now we do. 

This is good news for us. We are God’s people. God does love us and forgive us of our sin. We are now chosen as children of God to do God’s work in the world. Through our work, we may proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord. 

We are not individuals going out alone into the dark world. We are a united congregation gifted with the light of Christ. We work together to fulfill Christ’s mission. And beyond our congregation we join forces with our synod, all Lutherans, and all Christians to be the people God has called us to be. 

Alone, we might not be able to do much, but together we can be amazing. Together, we can change the world. Together, our living stones stack on top of Christ our cornerstone to create a spiritual house. Our building and our property are not the church. We are the church of Christ. 

Christ is our cornerstone, our capstone, our foundation. Christ is the beginning, the middle, and the end. We are nourished by the spiritual milk of scripture, and in communion we have tasted that the Lord is good. In our baptism, we have been marked with the cross of Christ forever. The Lord claims us as His own and sends us out to be little Christs in the world. 

God has given some really odd names over the years to the faithful. Unsuspecting children grew up with names that they could barely pronounce. From Maher-shalal-hash-baz to Lo-Ammi, God used these children’s names to share his message. In this spiritual house, God gives us a new name: Christian. This is not just a name, because it also proclaims our identity as children of God. Through Christ, God calls us to beautiful ministries to serve God, our neighbors, and each other. We are children of God, and we are doing God’s work. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment