What’s in a name?
For some of us our name is just something our parents thought would roll off the tongue easily. For others our name may be honouring a past matriarch or patriarch of the family or other beloved relative. Depending on your surname these days, parents may need to consider names that prevent opportunities for ridicule when combined directly or initialized with a surname due to suggestive nuance, popular culture or other reasons. Some genuine examples include: Mr Chris P Bacon, Mr Kash Registrer, Ms Krystal Ball, Mr Jed I Knight and Ms Tahra Dactyl. Although offering some humour to those not bearing them, they are nothing to laugh at. That is unless you decide to hyphenate your surnames when marrying, as Daniel Jack Hardy and Rachel Kathryn Harr did, thereby giving us Mr and Mrs Hardy – Harr.
The last sentence of today’s reading is all about a name.
The Book of the Acts of the Apostles 11:19-26
Those who had been scattered by the persecution that arose because of Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but Jews. There were some Cypriots and Cyrenians among them, however, who came to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks as well, proclaiming the Lord Jesus.
The hand of the Lord was with them and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to go to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith. And a large number of people was added to the Lord. Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the Church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.
We are reminded by Luke that it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians. Apparently, it was an insult or an offensive name. Throughout history other examples of names that were reclaimed by insiders to identify members of their group include, Yankees, Poms, Impressionists, Methodists, Protestants and Jesuits. Similarly, the name Christian stuck and it came to mean follower of Christ, which is what those who proclaim Jesus as Lord are supposed to be. For many of us, our baptismal records are the only written thing that might allow us to verify that we are Christians by name. But, how do we know that we are indeed followers of Christ? Imagine for a moment that being a Christian was again declared a crime as it was at times in the past (and is still in some places) and that baptismal records had been hidden to protect us from persecution. If accused of being Christian, could we be convicted on the evidence of our lives? Would our way of living give us away as Christians?
Luke identifies that Barnabas’ actions and faith were visible to him and others and records this in Acts. We are also aware Jesus expected the evidence of his own life and works to be convincing as we read in John’s gospel: The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me. Yet he says: you do not believe. Maybe the evidence of our own way of living is not enough for others, but is it convincing for ourselves? As we look at the way we live, do we feel assured that we live our faith consistently? I am confident we are at least not totally inconsistent in our thoughts, our actions and our words as we seek to live our lives as followers of Jesus. But we need to let the Lord be the judge, since we are not good judges in our own case.
Let us Pray: Father God, as members of a school founded on the faith and teachings of Jesus, may all we do, say and think convict us of walking in the way of Jesus. May we show love for you with all our heart and soul and mind and strength and love our neighbour as ourselves. We give you thanks for this community and ask you to continue to bless us as we seek to serve you our school, our homes and our communities. Be with all who are struggling at this time, enfold them in your arms and may they know your presence and may ease it their anxiety and bring them peace of mind and clarity of thought. Guide us in all we do to be your people in this place and help us all to continue to grow in learning, faith and community. This we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Reverend Mark Leam