Whats in a Name?

Oban, Scotland, June 2009

Last night, by way of an evening service, Murray Broome led us in a piece of Bibliodrama. That is, the 25 or so of us who were there at the time acted out a selected piece of scripture; in this case, the story of Jesus' conversation with the disciples in Matthew 16:13-19. What struck me, as we lived out this familiar old passage, was the whole business of names, which I have written about before. I realised again, that names don't so much define the thing or the person being named; rather, they define us who are doing the naming. Jesus asks his disciples "who do you say that I am?" If I call Jesus "quack" or "charlattan" or "prophet" or "Son of The Living God" it defines me as the sort of person who will look at a specific set of information -ie the available data on Jesus life - and come up with that particular evaluation of it; an evaluation which may or may not tell others something about Jesus but which will certainly tell them a whole lot about me. This is the point about Jesus' teaching in The Sermon On The Mount about calling someone a fool. This is the point about Jesus' many teachings on forgiveness and on loving enemies.

If I name someone an enemy, they are not affected in the slightest. They are unlikely to be changed by my opinion; they will probably not even notice or care what I think of them. But the naming of them as enemy lays out in broad daylight, for everyone to see, the hurts and anxieties I have harboured concerning that person. Hold onto the name "enemy" and I hold onto the hurt and I am shaped by it. I hold it and am harmed by it; note: me, not them. If I do as Jesus suggests and rename them as "beloved", they may similarly be not much affected, but I shall be free.

I noticed also that immediately after Peter names Jesus "Messiah", Jesus in his turn names Peter as "the Rock on which I will build my church". What occured to me last night was that when that piece of name calling occured, unpredictable Peter was the least solid, least rock-like person you could ever wish to encounter. It was as he heard Jesus' name for him and as he began to rename himself that his character changed.

"Who do you say I am?" asked Jesus. His naming of Peter invites Peter to ask "Who do I say I am?". The answer to both questions can have powerful effect.

Comments

Anonymous said…
"in my Father's house there are many mansions." - but I must say I do rather like the idea of some comfortablel hotels (well stocked with Islay whisky bottles behind the bar) instead....Jo
Jules said…
Dear Ven. Kelvin,

So true. Great insights.

Equanimity meditation practice, or loving-kindness mediation is, I think in essence, quite similar to this.

However the Anglican way of meditation, the desert father's teachings, Christian saint's teachings/writings, and Christ's teachings work best for me on a personal level, regarding this issue.

Thanks for putting this contemplation in such a succinct and helpful Christian way!
Easy to understand when expressed clearly, yet hard to put into practice! :)

"Hold onto the name "enemy" and I hold onto the hurt and I am shaped by it. I hold it and am harmed by it; note: me, not them. If I do as Jesus suggests and rename them as "beloved", they may similarly be not much affected, but I shall be free."

Thank you.
Yours in Christ,

Julian