Why were you given your name? What does your name reveal about who you are? Today we are given our names for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes we even change our names to something we would prefer. In the Bible names are pretty important things. A name revealed your essence. And sometimes, when your essence changed, God gave you a new name. Today’s reading from Genesis is one of two versions of the covenant between God and Abram, which establishes circumcision as the sign of that covenant. It is a covenant which changes both Abram and Sarai, and so God changes their names to Abraham and Sarah.
Last week I proposed that Lent is a time to slow down; to be still and silent; to listen more deeply. It is, I suggested, a time to pay attention to the three questions that shape us: whose are we, who are we, and what is ours to do? It is a time to reflect on how our experience and understanding of God shapes how we see ourselves and what our lives are about. Lent is a time then to hear the invitation to deepen that understanding, to let go of some images and embrace new images. In light of that, what name would God give you today, and what name is God inviting you into this Lent?
Our gospel story today should shock us. Jesus says that the way to understand God is through crucifixion. It should challenge so many of our ideas about God and what God wants of us. It should challenge our ideas about ourselves.
William Loader says, “Clearly we are being offered an alternative model of being. It is for our gain, in our interests, to consider it. That is the appeal. So there is no thought of our abdicating responsibility nor of our being asked to do what we do not want to do. We are being challenged to want something different. Instead of thinking only of ourselves and believing that it is to our good to gain wealth and avoid any path which leads to suffering, we are being challenged to be generous, giving of ourselves, even when it may mean suffering. The first image of ourselves and our good is to be set aside; instead we are to embrace the way of Jesus, of self giving love. Then we will find ourselves, our true selves. The merging of our will and being with God’s will and being, and therefore with love which cares for others as well as for ourselves, is the way of discipleship. It is also the way to real humanness - and the way of Jesus, and ultimately also of God!”
May this lent continue to be a time of making room to listen so that we might find our true selves in God’s will and being.