What's in a Name?

Pat Vine, Spiritual Director

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26 – Psalm 1 – 1 John 5:9-13 – John 17:6-19

Homily for Liturgy of the Word, May 16, 2021 (Pat Vine)

          May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, my Lord and my Redeemer. 

          What’s in a name?  When I Googled this question, I learned that Juliet voiced that question in Shakespeare’s play “Romeo & Juliet.”  Shakespeare’s belief was that a name means little…it is the worth of the individual that counts.  I both agree and disagree with Shakespeare.

When parents are expecting their first child, one of the challenges is deciding what to name their child.    What does the name mean?  How does it sound together with our last name?  Will it be subject to becoming a nickname?  Will it stay current or become dated in our child’s lifetime?  These are some of the questions parents may ask themselves in deciding what to name their child.    

          Names have significance.  They have power.  They define us.  They’re more than a group of letters bunched together to sound pleasant to the ear.  Names are more than a convenience allowing people to talk to each other.  Names are a gift from God.  Names contain God’s power, they give things meaning and bring us meaning. 

In Genesis, God said, “Let there be light.” And there it was. He named Light into existence.  God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” And there they were. He named the expanse sky and the dry ground land.  From that land, God made man and named him Adam (Earth). Then God gave the power of naming to Adam.  Adam named the animals and he named Eve (Mother of All).  And that power has been given to us in Christ Jesus when we name someone or something.

Have you ever been fearful and didn’t know the source of your fear?  If you calm yourself with a few deep breaths, turn inside to the very center of your being where God resides, and quiet yourself enough to absorb the silence, the source of your fear may come to you.  When that source is revealed and you can name the fear and where it came from, in all likelihood you will experience a freedom from that fear and a lightness in your spirit.  When we identify our fear by giving it a name and naming its source, then we loosen the controlling grip that fear has over us.  That’s the significance and power of a name.

          Prayer Team members who have prayed with others at the altar rail after our services have experienced the power of naming.  One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that a Prayer Team member can receive is a Word of Knowledge and when spoken to the person being prayed for, this word or name may bring an aha moment and a moment of physical, emotional or psychological healing.

In today’s New Testament reading, we hear that “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus prays to God “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world.”  And he further prays “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”  Through the name of God and through the name of Jesus, we receive knowledge and protection.  And our Book of Common Prayer ends most prayers “through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  We end our prayers in the powerful name of Jesus.

Interesting that we are encouraged to believe in the name of the Son of God.  Jesus said that if we ask for anything in His name, He will give it to us.

What does “in His name” mean?  Of all things, Miriam Webster gave me the answer!  It means “by the authority of.”  My sisters and brothers, we are given the authority by God to pray in Jesus’ name.  What a gift!!  It’s like the authority that our President has over our country, or our Wardens have over St. Michael’s or the authority of a teacher over their students or  parents have over their children.  We have God’s authority to use it in a Godly way over diseases and anything that stands in the way of God’s kingdom or God’s will being fulfilled on the earth.  Some common synonyms of the word “authority” are:  command, control, dominion, jurisdiction, power and sway. While all these words mean "the right to govern or rule or determine," authority implies power for a specific purpose but within specified limits.

Like Jesus’ disciples, we have been given authority over all kinds of impediments, illnesses and demons.  For example, led by the Holy Spirit, we can pray with God’s authority over someone:  “Let there be healing of this illness in Jesus’ name.”  Using God’s words when he created and brought light and sky and humans into being, the words “Let there be” become a powerful creative phrase in prayers for healing.  The word “Let” implies a letting go on the part of the person praying to allow God’s creative process and healing to take place.  Somewhere in the past I read that an author considered the word “Let” to be one of the most important words in the Bible.

It will be wonderful when we can regather to resume in-person worship.  As you know, a Committee to determine logistics and timing for this to happen has been formed and will meet this week.  We look forward to the day when members of the Prayer Team can lay hands on another’s shoulder and pray for God’s healing touch for them or their loved ones.  In the meantime, we can pray long distance for others over the phone or on Zoom in Jesus’ powerful name, with God’s authority.

So what may be keeping you from using the authority God gave you to pray for others?  Are you afraid that nothing will happen after you’ve prayed?

Here’s an example from my own life when I realized it was God who healed me and the person who prayed for me was like a wire plugged into God’s socket so God’s healing light could flow through him into me.  Quite a few years ago, I attended a healing service at another church.  I don’t recall the name of the man who had the gift of healing.  I knelt at the altar rail and the man laid hands on me.  I had asked to be healed of grinding my teeth at night.  After he prayed, I left the church thinking that nothing happened.  While walking to my car in the parking lot, I felt a warm heat come into my jaw and began to realize the healing I received.  I believe God was showing me that the healing came from God through that man.  That man was praying with the authority of Jesus’ powerful name!  The P.S. to this story is that my teeth grinding at night stopped!!  Hallelujah!

So I urge you to take the risk when you’re talking to a friend or neighbor who may be ill or hurting.  Offer to pray for that person in Jesus’ name.  Let us use this authority given to each of us by Almighty God to make this world a better place by ministering to one person at a time like Jesus did.  Then let go and leave the results to God.  Amen.