Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet” (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet). What is in a name? In these passages, we hear many names, some of which are new and different, others have been mentioned previously, but take on new meaning. Abram becomes Abraham. Sarai becomes Sarah. God becomes God Almighty, El Shaddai, more accurately translated as “God of the Mountains.” Through baptism, we are renamed “disciples of Christ.” And in Mark, Jesus is again identified as Son of Man, Messiah.
Abraham and Sarah were renamed by God. They did not choose their names for themselves, but had these names placed on them at a significant moment to mark a new beginning in their relationships with God. These new names signify a promise for the future. God will make from Abraham and Sarah a multitude of nations. No longer is the promise for Abraham alone, but Sarah specifically will have a role as mother/grandmother of the nations.
Some of us have various names we use. Nicknames, chosen names, birth names. Sometimes we change our names completely. Each of these names carries a significance for us and to us. But the most important name we will ever carry is the one we gain at baptism, “disciple of Christ.” Our renaming through baptism also signifies a new status, a new purpose. No longer do we belong to ourselves, we now belong to Christ. And with that belonging comes certain benefits and obligations. We bear the name Christian and we are to follow Jesus Christ’s living example of what it means to be in right relationship with God. What does the name “disciple of Christ” mean to you?
-----written by Renee Smithback
Bartlett, David L and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B, Vol 2. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 50-73.
The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Vol I. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994), 455-461.
The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Vol IV. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), 761-766.
The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Vol VIII. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 623-629.
The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Vol X. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002), 499-507.