One of the questions that I often asked people, while working as a hospice chaplain, was about the origin of their name. It’s a question that can elicit all kinds of interesting responses! Some peoples’ stories about their names are funny or sweet. Some peoples’ stories are deeply meaningful and tell of connections to ancestors and loved ones who go back many generations. Names, as we know, are important. They are tied to our identity and they can sometimes change, in positive or negative ways, the dynamics or course of our lives. There are times when a person might choose to shed a name that no longer suits them. There are other times when one might take on a new name, reflecting an intention to live somehow differently.
Our scripture reading from Genesis this week focuses on Abraham and Sarah, who started their journey as Abram and Sarai. But in their relationship with God and as a part of the covenant between them and God, they received new names. We’ll spend some time thinking about what that meant for them and what our names and labels mean for us, as people of faith, today.
You’ll find included in this week’s sermon note a link to the second session of our Lenten Series called “Spiritual Practices for the Wilderness.” This week we’ll explore a practice called Spiritual Geographying. You are invited to view the video and practice the practice! You are also very welcome to join the Monday evening group at 6:30 where we’ll have a chance to debrief our experiences of the practice and share questions, insights and learnings.
I hope you’ll join us for online worship at 9:00 as we offer our praise and thanks to God, as we connect with God’s love, community and call and as we explore our faith together. Please know that all are welcome to join the Wednesday Bible Study that reviews the scripture and sermon topic from the previous Sunday and reflects on the questions that are listed below. If you’re interested in joining us from 11:30 to 12:30 on Wednesdays, please notify the church office or Pastor Lori and we’ll send you the Zoom link. Drop-ins are welcome! Looking forward to being together on Sunday!
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 (NRSV)
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.
God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”
Questions to consider:
- What’s the story of how you got your name?
- What “name” or “label” have you shed in the course of your lifetime?
- What new name have you been given or taken that on? How did that happen?
- If God were to give you a new name, what would you hope it to be?