Written by Steven Liechty
Martin B. Copenhaver
"Thus says the Lord: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine." - Isaiah 43:1
Many people have called me Marty . . . once. I always correct them: "My friends call me Martin." I don't like being rude, but I dislike the name Marty even more. But there is more to it. Quite simply, Marty is not my name. I do not feel addressed by it. It is someone else's name.
It is almost axiomatic that nothing is as musical to the ear as the sound of one's own name. That is not from sheer vanity. Rather, we long to be addressed, for words to find us where we live. Each of us wants to be recognized as an individual. We yearn to be known and known by name. The use of one's name symbolizes such ties between people and can actually help create them.
So when scripture says that God calls each one by name, it comes as a welcome assurance. It implies that God is not an impersonal force. If God knows me by name it means that God is a being and, what is more, a being who seeks to be in relationship with me. It is one of God's ways of reaching out to me—in all of my particularity, who I really am. That's why, when God calls me by name, I am quite sure God uses the name I feel most addressed by, the name I hear in my dreams. That is, when God calls me by name, God doesn't say, Rev. Copenhaver or Marty. Rather, God calls me Martin because that's not just my name. It is who I am.
O God of many names, I rejoice that you call me by my one name, the name I hear in my dreams.
Martin B. Copenhaver is the President of Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, Massachusetts. He is the author of several books, including the forthcoming Jesus is the Question: The 307 Questions Jesus Asked and the 3 He Answered.