Benediction Online

Sunday, March 11, 2007

What's In a Name?

Jill and I have started the search for our new dog. Two candidates so far are Caviar and Gertrude. How do people come up with names for their dogs? or their cats? or their children for that matter? and what about names for God?

In our first reading this morning Yahweh declares, ‘I AM THAT I AM… this is my name for ever and this is my title for all generations.’ There is always a slight problem with reading ancient Hebrew – they didn’t write the vowels down – so scholars struggle with translating passages like this, but I AM THAT I AM is the translation that works best. Both the names Yahweh and Jehovah are attempts to translate this Name, the name of Moses’ God and ours.

But Jesus mainly talked about God as Father or Abba, Pappa. This must have been astonishing for the people of his day. Certainly they were used to the idea that prophets like Moses or patriarchs like Abraham had two way conversations with God. But for someone to be so intimate with God that he called the divine Abba was outrageous.

Our youngest cat is named Lu Shien after the very elegant martial artist in the movie Hidden Tiger, Crouching Mountain. But we often call her other things like Lucy Pusy, Sproglet and Little Smudge. Those are our family names, our pet names for her. Whenever we love someone dearly, closely, intimately, we have a special name or names for them – sweetheart, darling, mi cielo.

What do you call God? When we gather together we use formal language “Our Father who art in heaven”, “Our Lord Jesus Christ”, “Holy Spirit”, or the archaic “Holy Ghost”. But what do you call God in private? What is your pet name for God?

Let’s read Psalm 63 again:

O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; *my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.
Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place, *that I might behold your power and your glory.
For your loving-kindness is better than life itself; *my lips shall give you praise.
So will I bless you as long as I live *and lift up my hands in your Name.
My soul is content, as with marrow and fatness, *and my mouth praises you with joyful lips,
When I remember you upon my bed, *and meditate on you in the night watches.
For you have been my helper, *and under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice.
My soul clings to you; *your right hand holds me fast.

These are intimate words. ‘O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you’. These are the words of a lover. Are you God’s lover? “My soul clings to you, your right hand holds me fast’.

One of our parrots, Bunny, the umbrella cockatoo, loves to be stroked under his wings. He has a special place there under the shadow of his wings where he loves to be touched. It is a very intimate personal place… the psalmist writes, ‘under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice’. We can be as near to God, as intimate and up close personal as if we were nestled in that special place under the wings.

God longs for each one of us to come to Godself in love and devotion. Last week in the Gospel reading Jesus said of Jerusalem, ‘How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings’. God wants us to gather under God’s wings in that soft, downy, intimate place.

What’s stopping us? What prevents you from cuddling up with God?

We can use our breath prayer to help us open ourselves up to intimacy with God. Let’s take a few moments now to do that together.
Please close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
Find that place inside you that feels like home. Think of someone who makes your heart smile – perhaps it is a close friend, a sweetheart or a child or grandchild, or a pet. Let yourself think of them and feel your heart open.
Now turn your attention to God with that same loving openness.

And as you breath in say to yourself ‘I dwell in the shelter of the Most High” and as you breath out say ‘I abide under the shadow of the Almighty’.
I dwell in the shelter of the Most High… I abide under the shadow of the Almighty.’
I dwell in the shelter of the Most High… I abide under the shadow of the Almighty.’


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