Sunday, January 29, 2012

4 Epiphany

January 29, 2012

Psalm 111; Mark 1.21-28


+ Well, you know I had to do it. You know that on this Sunday—this Sunday on which we have our Annual Meeting—I had to do a bit of what I do well. I am a good cheerleading. There’s just no getting around it. There are just so many great things going on around us here. And we should be thankful. There is much to be thankful for on our Annual Meeting Sunday.

It is one of those glorious moments for us here at St. Stephen’s when we realize that following Jesus means following him to a moment in which it all just sort of comes together. When being a follower of Jesus is like being part of a well-oiled machine.

Any of us who have been in the Church for any period of time knows that these are rare moments. The Church very rarely feels like a well-oiled machine. But when it does—let me tell you, it’s pretty sweet.

Most of us who here this morning have come from other congregations or denominations that, for whatever reasons, have not been functioning well. There is a reason why we have found St. Stephen’s and like it. We have seen dysfunction in our past. We have seen what it’s like to not be following Jesus as we should. We have felt frustration and disappointment.

But…I think we need to clear. Those moments of frustration and disappointment and, yes, even dysfunction—they too are important to growth. Those moments too are important as we follow Jesus wherever he might lead us. To be a follower of Jesus means we follow him wherever he goes. And sometimes the places he leads us are not always pleasant places to be.

In the beginning of our Gospel reading for today, we find Jesus in a place, at first, in which he is being marveled at. People are amazed by his teaching. It is, certainly a high point for those followers of Jesus. It is a moment in which the decision they made to follow him has been, in some very real way, validated.

And then, in the midst of that adulation, those followers find themselves confronting evil. There, in the middle of all that praise, comes a person possessed by an evil spirit. It was, no doubt, an unpleasant moment. Can you just imagine? Just when things seem to be going well, there’s a crazy, possessed person in their midst.

For us we have been confronted with things like this as well. Well, maybe not crazy, possessed people. Dear God! But we do know a few things about evil. For all the grand and glorious things we see on occasion as followers of Jesus, we are also reminded that there is still injustice and oppression and sexism and homophobia and a multitude of other really horrible things going around us in the world and in our society.

We see evil. We know evil. We are confronted with evil on a regular basis, and especially in those moments in which we really don’t want to confront evil. But, what Jesus’ encounter with the evil spirit shows, however—and, again, as we all know here—is that evil is not quite what we thought it was.

Yes, evil has much power in this world. But it does not have ultimate power. Evil does not—nor does it ever—win in the end. History has shown this again and again. And, in following Jesus, when we confront evil and injustice and oppression and discrimination, we know full well that these things will all one day be cast out. They all will be quieted. And goodness will triumph ultimately in the end. We know this as followers of Jesus. We know this because we know that’s what it means to follow Jesus.

Here at St. Stephen’s there have been ebbs and flows. There have been good times, and there have been bad times in our history. And there will continue to be ebbs and flows, and good times and bad times. It’s just the way life is.

But what we realize now, in this wonderful moment, is that when God’s blessings flow and we can feel that Presence of ultimate goodness at work in our lives, we like those people who witnesses Jesus casting out the evil spirit, are amazed. We wonder and we marvel at what is happening. And hopefully, like those first followers, we are motivated. We are motivated to continue following Jesus, as parishioners of St. Stephen’s, wherever he leads us. We are motivated to continue to stand up and speak out against evil when we are confronted with it.

That is what we have always done here at St. Stephen’s and that is what we will continue to do. We do this, because that is what followers of Jesus do. As we look back over the fifty-plus years of ministry at St. Stephen’s, we see that many wonderful things have been brought to fruition here.

A few weeks, we had a visitor who shared with me how amazed she was that this seemingly small congregation in north Fargo has produced some major ministries that are still felt in our wider community. Stepping up to the plate and doing important things as followers of Jesus is what we have always done here and continue to do. And as we all know, in both good and evil, there are consequences to all of our actions. When we do something, whether it be good or wrong, there will be a consequence. When we do good and step up the plate and defend people, the good consequences of those good actions have far-ranging effects, so far ranging in fact that we might never even fully realize what they do. And in those moments, we are often amazed.

Yesterday, on Facebook, I saw a wonderful cartoon. It shows a person, kneeling, with his hands folded in prayer, before Jesus. But Jesus is surrounded by people. One is in a wheelchair. One is bandaged. One is on crutches. Some have soiled clothing it looks like. The caption of the cartoon is a quote from the person praying: “Why is it that whenever I ask Jesus into my life, he always brings his friends?”

Well, we know full well here at St. Stephen’s that’s exactly what it means to ask Jesus into our lives. We know that when we decide to follow, he going to bring his friends with him. His friends who are naked and oppressed and marginalized. And when we follow Jesus, he isn’t always going to lead us through sun-lit fields full of easy pathways.

When we follow Jesus, he leads us, again and again, to his friends. He leads us again and again down paths in which we told to help people who we might not normally notice or deal with and make their lives better. We are called again and again to feed the hungry and heal the sick and to try, in whatever we can, to make other’s lives in some way better. And, as we journey through our Church year toward Lent, we know that following Jesus means following him on the Way of the Cross, a path that goes through a place of darkness and violence and through a moment in which is seems that evil triumphs and goodness loses.

Of course, we know better. We know good always wins. That is what we are celebrating this morning. The fact that, yes, we have been through those dark moments. We have been through those lean years. We have been through moments when it seems as though Jesus was leading us through desert wastes and arid lands.

But this morning, in this moment, he is leading through a verdant land. And as we follow, we are seeing amazing things. And it is good.

So, let us rejoice and be thankful on this Sunday of our Annual Meeting. Let us be thankful for all that we have been given in this past year. And let us look with joy into a future of unlimited possibilities.

“You have shown your people the power of your works,” we prayed in our psalm for today.

We have seen the power of God’s work in our midst. And on this morning we can truly say that is wonderful and glorious. What more can we do on this beautiful Sunday, but rejoice?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

2 Epiphany

January 15, 2012

1 Samuel 3.1-20; John 1.43-51


+ I can be, shall we say, a bit of a jerk sometimes—especially to my fellow clergy. They need to have someone be jerks to them occasionally.

This past weekend I met with my good friend, the Reverend Ann Anderson. Ann, as some of you may know, is an Episcopal priest at Gethsemane Cathedral here in Fargo. Although I wasn’t feeling well this week because of duodenal ulcer that has been wreaking a bit of havoc with me, I went out with Ann because occasionally we just need to talk and vent a bit. At some point in the conversation we had on Friday night, I announced, quite loudly, trying to prove a point I was making and trying to predict the future about a certain issue:

“I am the prophet in your midst…”

To which Ann looked at me very incredulously and just dramatically rolled her eyes and then said something I can't repeat in church. As she should have.

Trust me, I am no prophet. I was never called to be a prophet, nor would I want to be.

But…I will say this: I have been called. No, not three times, like the prophet Samuel. But just once. And when it happened, I was just a boy, just like Samuel. I was thirteen years old. I was Lutheran. And I was walking in, of all places, a cemetery. Some of you have heard this story before, but it’s one that is so much a part of who I am and where I’ve come from that I will probably tell the story again and again until my dying day.

That day I didn’t hear a voice, like Samuel. And I don’t think I ever audibly said, “Here I am!” But the fact was, that day, I knew God wanted me to be a priest.

Often in our lives, we have those moments. They’re brackets in our lives. Or joints. Our life was going along one way and then BAM! something happens and our lives are following a completely direction than we intended. Sometimes, more often than not, it’s a relationship with someone that does it to most of us. For me, it was the priesthood. There were moments in the years that followed in which I found myself questioning my calling.

A few years later I received another just as valid, just as legitimate calling—to be a poet. And for many years I felt conflicted. Should I be a poet and a teacher of poetry? Or should I be a priest? I hadn’t yet realized that it was essentially a dual-vocation.

But there were moments when, after deciding on setting my nose to the grindstone to be a priest, when I was envious of fellow poets and poetry teachers. While they gained tenure, published, won awards, cultivated their writing careers, kept up on with the latest trends in that insular world of poetry, I was in ensconced in the equally insular world of the priesthood.

As I pursued my goal of the priesthood, I was paid very little as I worked in one thankless minor church job after another. I had one set back after another. I went to seminary. I studied theology at three different schools. And ten years ago next month, I was diagnosed with cancer. There were feasts, there were fasts, there were famines. But at no point, even in those moments when I reached what I felt were spiritual and personal “rock bottom” moments, did I ever doubt that calling in my life.

I was truly able to say to God in those dark, cold moments, “Here I am. Do with me what you must. I am trusting you to get me through.”

I preserved. I kept on keeping on, as the old saying went. And I kept on looking.

In today’s Gospel, we find Philip saying to Nathaniel, “Come and see.”

And we find Jesus telling Nathaniel, “You will see greater things than these.”

For all those low points in my life, there were just as many and more high points. There were miracles, the recovery from illness, the saints—true, living saints—that I have met—and still continue to meet—and walked beside, I too have seen great things. And although I have not seen heaven literally opened or angels literally “ascending and descending,” I have seen the veil between this world and heaven lifted many times—oftentimes here at this altar at the Eucharist. And I have seen angels ascending and descending in the guise of fellow travelers along the way.

Like Nathaniel, who would have a series of low points in his own life (legend says he would die a particularly horrible martyrs death of being flayed alive, forced to walk, skinless in the desert, before being headed), through it all, he kept looking. And in looking, he saw. This is what it means to be a disciple—a follower of Jesus.

Despite the setbacks, the illnesses, despite the people who are out to trip you up, there are also the rewards—the high points that are better than any other high points.

Now, I am telling you the story of my priesthood, here. But for all of us, it’s the same when we talk about being Christians. Being a Christian means being a follower of Jesus—being a minister of Christ And being a disciple is a difficult thing at times. No one, when we became Christians, promised us sparkling, light-filled moments and rose gardens every step of the way. Actually, when we became Christians, we became Christians—all of us—in the shadow of the Cross. When we were baptized, we were marked with the Cross. That was a quaint, sweet little sentiment. It meant we were baptized into following Jesus wherever he left in his life and ours—the good times and the bad. And as a result, we have faced our lives as followers of Jesus Christ squarely and honestly.

This is no cult we belong to, that promises us that if we do this and that we will be freed from pain and suffering. As followers of Jesus, we know that, Yes, bad things are going to happen to us. There will be illness, there will be setbacks, there will be broken relationships and conflicts with others, there will be loss and there will be death. And we know that there will be many, many people out there who want to trip us up and who want us to fail. Following Jesus means being able, in those dark moments, to look and to see. When surrounded by darkness, we can see light. When stuck in the mire and muck of this life, we can still look up and see those angels descending and ascending on the Son of Man, the One we have chosen to follow.

As I look back over these past many, many years, I realize they have been the most productive and fruitful years of my life. More than anything, as I look back over these last years, I find God weaving in and out of my life. As I look back, I find God, speaking to me, much as God spoke to Samuel in today’s reading from the Hebrew scriptures.

God, whether I was listening or not, was calling me again and again by name. God is calling each of us by our name. God is calling to us again and again. Our answer is a simple one. It simply involves, getting up, looking and seeing, and saying to God,

“Here I am.”

Here I am.

And when do that, we will find that, like Samuel, God is with us. And—in that glorious moment—we will know: God will not allow one of our words to fall useless to the ground.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Baptism of Our Lord

January 8, 2012


Genesis 1.1-5; Mark 1.4-1

+ There are few things that I love more than when people start talking about all the great things happening here at St. Stephen’s. And let me tell you, they have been talking. Just this past week I was asked by some—from another churches:

“So…what’s the secret of the current success at St. Stephen’s?”

I’m usually pretty baffled by that question. It seems to assume there’s some great, well-thought-out plan. The fact is, there isn’t any grand, well-thought-out plan. At least, not on my part.

But, I think it’s a good question, and it’s good for us to think about it. It’s good for us to ponder it and to delve deeply and honestly into the why we are doing so well here. I think I personally am not able to articulate what’s happening.

But, this past week, I came across a wonderful quote by one of the best spiritual writers out there right now, the Episcopal priest, Barbara Brown Taylor, who, I would say, does a pretty good job of articulating what’s going on. Taylor writes:

“When I hear people talk about what is wrong with organized religion, or why their mainline churches are failing, I hear about bad music, inept clergy, mean congregations, and preoccupation with institutional maintenance. I almost never hear about the intellectualization of faith, which strikes me as a far greater danger than anything else on the list. In an age of information overload, when a vast variety of media delivers news faster than most of us can digest--when many of us have at least two email addresses, two telephone numbers, and one fax number--the last thing any of us needs is more information about God. We need the practice of incarnation, by which God saves the lives of those who intellectual assent has turned as dry as dust, who have run frighteningly low on the bread of life, who are dying to know God in their bodies. Not more about God. More God.”

More God. I think she nails it on the head with that.

I have found from many of our new members, this is one of this things (along with our open acceptance and our strong peace-and-social justice stance) that they love about St. Stephen's— a strong sense of spirituality backed up by action, in other words (i.e. rather than talking about worship of God and ministry, we are worshipping and doing ministry): We do that very well here.

And we also realize that we are all searchers after God here. In other words, what’s happening here is more than just social. We are more than just a social-justice organization. Any of us can find social-justice organizations out there, and they probably do social-justice better than we can any day.

And we are more than a church that intellectualizes out search for God. We don’t just sit around talking about God and pondering God.

We, at St. Stephen’s, put our money where our mouth is, so to speak. Rather than just talking about God, we actually worship here. We worship here in the liturgy—in our encounter with Christ in our Eucharist—and we encounter God in the music we sing. We, more talking about worship, actually worship here. God is real to us because we truly experience God here.

And we more than just talk about social justice here. We actually do it. But we do it not because it’s the popular thing to do or because we are pressured by society of the Church. We do it because it stems from that real Presence of God we experience here. We do it because our relationship with God compels us to go out and do ministry.

In other words, what we do here is we, by our worship, by our ministry, by what we do, by what we have been conditioned to do to some extent by our very baptisms, is help God in bringing God into the our midst. We are further the Kingdom of God. We—on this first Sunday of Epiphany—are in fact helping that epiphany of Christ in our midst.

This past Wednesday we commemorated the Feast of the Epiphany, which occurred on Friday. Epiphany is a beautiful feast, though I think it’s a bit anti-climactic, following Christmas. At our Wednesday night Mass, I shared some thoughts from Fr. John-Julian, an Episcopal priest and a member of the Order of Julian of Norwich in Wisconsin. He started out, in his talk, by reminding us that this word, Epiphany, comes from the Greek word epiphaneia, which means, “manifestation” or “showing forth”. He then went on to explain that the Epiphany commemorates four manifestations of Christ in his life:

1) The adoration of Shepherds at the manger in Bethlehem, which we commemorated essentially on Christmas Eve

2) The Visit of the Magi or the Three Kings, which is very much the traditional understanding of what Epiphany is.

3) Jesus baptism by John the Baptists in the River Jordan, which we commemorate this morning.

And 4) Jesus’ first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.

In today’s Gospel reading, we find what Fr. John-Julian and many other Christian thinkers call a Theophany. Theophany means “A manifestation of God”, but today we see it in a very profound way. We actually find the very Trinity—Father, Son and holy Spirit—being revealed—the Father, in the voice that proclaims, “You are…my Beloved; with you I am well pleased,” the Son in the flesh of Jesus and the Holy Spirit as the dove that descends upon Jesus.

It is an incredible event—in the lives of those first followers and in our lives as Christians as well. Here the standard is set. In this moment, it has all come together. In this moment, it is all very clear how this process is happening. Here the breakthrough has happened.

For us it’s important because we too are still experiencing the benefits of that event. From now on, this is essentially what was spoken to each of us at our own baptisms:

“You are my Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

For most of us, we have no doubt taken for granted our baptisms, much as we have taken for granted water itself.

Yes, I know: I preach a lot about baptism. And I don’t just mean that I preach a lot about how much I like doing baptisms. I preach often about how important each of our baptisms are to us because they are important. In a sense what happened at Jesus’ baptism happened at our baptisms as well. And when we realize that, we also realize that Baptism is THE defining moment in our lives as Christians.

Whether we remember the event or not, it was the moment when our lives changed. It was the moment we became new. It was, truly, our second birth.

I am so happy that we do something as simple as commemorate our baptisms here at St. Stephen’s. I asked early last year for many of you to search out the dates of your baptisms. And you did. And we remember those dates in our prayers here in the Eucharist each Sunday. I like to encourage people to find out the date of their baptism.

Of course, as you know, I always look for a reason to celebrate, but baptism anniversaries are truly great opportunities to celebrate.

I often reference my best friend from high school, Greg. As you know, he is a die-hard atheist. Well, I did manage to find out the date of his baptism—July 16—and, much to his chagrin, the poor man receives a baptism anniversary card on his baptism anniversary. Whether or not he appreciates it is not really the most important thing. The important thing is that, even despite his atheism, which I actually respect and, in a very real way, understand, he still belongs to Christ. He was marked by Christ in his baptism for all eternity. And nothing he—or anyone else can do—can change that.

That’s why I think Baptism is so very radical. In our current Prayer Book this bond is probably best defined. After the Baptism, when the priest traces a cross on the newly baptized person’s forehead, she or he says, “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own for ever.”

This is essential to our belief of what happens at baptism. In baptism, we are all marked as Christ’s own. For ever. It is a bond that can never be broken. We can try to break it as we please. We can struggle under that bond. We can squirm and resist it. We can try to escape it. But the simple fact is this: we can’t. For ever is for ever.

No matter how much we may turn our backs on Christ, Christ never turns his back on us. No matter how much we try to turn away from Christ, to deny Christ, to pick Christ apart and make Christ something other than who he is, Christ never turns his back on us. Christ never denies us.

What Baptism shows us, more than anything else, is that we always belong to Christ. It is shows us that Christ will never deny us or turn away from us. It shows us that, no matter what we might do, we will always be Christ’s. Always. For ever.

In this way, Baptism is truly the great equalizer. In those waters, we are all bathed—no matter who we are and what we are. We all emerge from those waters on the same ground—as equals. And, as equals, we are not expected to just sit around, hugging ourselves and basking in the glow of the confidence that we are Christ’s own possession. As equals, made equal in the waters of baptism, we are then compelled to go out into the world and treat each others as equals.

And that’s what we do well here at St. Stephen’s. For us, Baptism is not some quaint dedication ceremony. It is the event that still provokes us and compels us to go out into the world and make a difference in it. Our baptism doesn’t set us apart as a special people above everyone else. It forces us out into the world to be a part of the world and, by doing so, to transform the world.

So, in those waters of baptism, something incredible happened for us. We went into those waters one person, and emerged from those waters as something else completely. It was an incredible moment in our lives, just as it was in the life of Jesus, who led the way and showed us that Baptism was an incredible outpouring of God’s love and light into our lives.

So, with this knowledge of how important it is, let us each take the time to meditate and think about our own baptisms and the implications this incredible event had and still has in our lives. When you enter this church, and when you leave it, pay attention to the baptismal font in the narthex and the blessed water in it. Touch that water, bless yourselves with it, and when you do, remember you do so as a reminder of that wonderful event in your life which marked you forever as Christ’s very own. And let that water be a reminder to you that you are called to go now from this church and from this Eucharist we have shared in, to love.

To love, full and completely. To realize that we are equally loved by God—no matter who we are or what we are.

And as we go from here, let us listen for those words—those beautiful, lulling words—that is spoken to each of us, with love and acceptance:

“You are my Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Holy Name

January 1, 2012

Numbers 6.22-27, Psalm 8, Galatians 4.4-7 and Luke 2.15-21


+ Those Episcopalians like myself who identify themselves as “Anglo-Catholics” are, let’s face it, a strange lot. We do some strange things—or at least that’s what I’ve been told by others—both Episcopalian and non-Episcopalians.

On Friday night I did a wedding at Gethsemane Cathedral here in Fargo and afterward, at the reception dinner, a young man—a Lutheran—who seated at my table said to me: “So, I noticed you kept nodding during the service. What’s that all about?”

At first I had to think about it. I was nodding during the service? And then it hit me. Oh, I was nodding at the name of Jesus.

I said, “Well, some Episcopalians nod every time the name of Jesus is mentioned. I’m one of those. It’s a simple way of paying homage to the Name of Jesus.”

This young man sat back and pondered this for a while and then said, “I like that, but I don’t know if that’s gonna go over too well at the Lutheran Church in Milnor.”

Maybe not.

But, for me, it is important to do this simple act because it keeps me on my spiritual It keeps aware that this name of Jesus that we are celebrating today on this Sunday of the Holy Name is special. It is different. We do pay a little more special attention to Jesus’ name when it is mentioned.

This particular day of the Holy Name of Jesus, used to go by another name in the Episcopal and Lutherhan Church. It was once known as the feast of the Circumsicion of Our Lord. We have kept the feast, but we’ve changed the name, probably for good reason.

On the eighth day following Jesus’ birth, he, like all Jewish males born in his time, was brought to the Temple, circumcised and named. This name, Jesus or Joshua, Yeshua in Hebrew, was a common name in his day.

There are two differing translation of the name: One is “God with us.” The other is “God saves,” or more specifically “God saves us from our sins.”

Today is an important feast on one hand because what it shows us is that we do truly have an intimate relationship with God. God is no longer a nameless, distant deity. God has a name—or rather the God who came to us in Jesus has a name.

We all know how important names are. Our own names are important to us. They define us. We have been trained to respond when we hear our name called. We, in effect, are our names. Our names and our selves are bound inexorably together. Our name is truly who we are.

The same can be said of God. In the Old Testament God reveals the Divine Name as Yahweh. Yahweh is such a sacred and holy word to the Jews that it can not even be repeated. In a sense, the name Yahweh becomes so intertwined with Who God is that is becomes, for the Jews, almost like God. It is the Name God revealed to Aaron.

God said, “they shall put my name—Yahweh—on them and I will bless them.”

The message here to all of us is that to have a truly meaningful relationship with anyone—to truly know them—we need to know them by their name. So, too, is this same idea used when we think about our own relationship with God and, in turn, God’s relationship with us. God knows us by name and we know God by name.

This is important. God is not simply some distant Being we vaguely comprehend. God is close. God is closer than we can even imagine. God knows us and we know God. We know each other by name. This is why the name of Jesus is important to us. That is why we give the Name a certain level of respect. That is why I, and other Anglo-Catholics, do that little nod every time his name is mentioned.

Like the Name that was revealed to Aaron, so has the Name of our God been revealed to us. And like the name Yahweh to the Jews, the Name of Jesus is holy and sacred to us Christians.

We have all seen the IHS symbol in churches. Not many people know what IHS stands for. Some people think they are initials for “In his service” But they are not initials. They are the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek. They are the letters Iota, Eta and Sigma. Whenever we see the HIS symbol, we are to be reminded of the Holy Name of Jesus.

There was an old belief that the IHS devotion was started by a 14th century Franciscan priest, St. Bernadine of Siena. For St. Bernadine and for those who followed Bernadine’s devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, nothing was more holy and more sacred than the Holy Name of Jesus.

Certainly even for us, the Name is a vital and important part of what we believe as Christians. The collect for the Feast of the Holy Name today recalls that the name of Jesus is the “sign of our salvation.” I don’t see that as a sweet, overly sentimental notion. I see it as a very important part of who we are as Christians. I also don’t see that nodding at the name of Jesus as an overly pious action.

I see it as a sign of respect for Jesus at a time when his Name is widely abused and misused. We’ve all done it. We’ve all sworn, using the Name in a disrespectful way. We have not given the rightful respect to God’s name in our lives, even when we know full well that a name is more than just a name.

A Name is, in a sense, one’s essence. Certainly in Jesus’ case, it is. Jesus is “God with us.” Jesus is “God saving us.” By this very name we have a special relationship with this God who has come among us We belong to this God whose name we know.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that God belongs to us. Rather, God is with us. All of us. God, in Jesus, has come to all of us. God in Jesus knows each of us by name. Certainly those of us who are Christian know this in a unique way.

When we were baptized, we, like Jesus eight days after his birth, were named. At our baptism, were signed as Christ’s own forever. We were claimed by God by name. By Baptism, our own names became holy names. By Baptism, God came to know us by name and because of that, our names are sanctified. We bear in us our own holy name before God.

So today—this day we celebrate not only God’s holy name but our own as well—and in the days to come, take to heart the fact that God’s name is holy and sacred. Be mindful of the words you use and be mindful of that name of Jesus in your life. But also be mindful of your own holy name. When you hear your own name, remember that it is the name God knows you by and, as a result, it is truly holy. In sense our own names can be translated as “God with us.” When we hear our names, let us hear “God saves us.”

And let us be reminded that God knows us better than anyone else—even our own selves. Claim the holiness of your name and know that God in Jesus is calling you to your own fullness of life by name.