Written by Steven Liechty
"God said to him, 'Your name is Jacob, no longer shall you be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.'" - Genesis 35:10
Today’s Scripture tells one of the several biblical stories of God changing someone’s name.
Sometimes the name change, as here, is a literal one. Jacob, a name that means, "one who follows," or "comes behind" (because he was born after his twin brother, Esau), becomes Israel, "one who prevails with God."
Other times the name changes aren’t literal but they are every bit as powerful. As when Jesus encounters a woman whose bleeding condition has effectively named her "unclean" and "outcast." Jesus re-names her "daughter," and says that she too is "a child of Abraham," which means that she belongs.
Many of us bear a name -- not literally -- that diminishes, distorts or disfigures us. These names may be secret ones, known only to us. Because of experiences of abuse or neglect that may have happened long ago, we may have come to believe that our real name is "unloveable" or "shameful" or "worthless."
God has a new name for you. It is "beloved," "precious," "wonderful." Our God is in the business of name change, heart surgery, and healing the deepest wounds.
Almost every week at the small church where I worship we sing a song titled, "I Will Change Your Name." The lyrics are powerful. They go, in part,
"I will change your name.
You will no longer be called wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid.
I will change your name.
Your new name shall be
confidence, joyfulness, overcoming one . . ."
There are several versions of this song recorded on the internet. Check out this one here.
Thank you, God, for your power to change my name, to heal my wounds and make me your precious one. Amen.
Anthony B. Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul's Letters to Timothy for a New Day, and he is also the author of Book of Exodus: A God is still speaking Bible Study. Read his weekly reflections on the current lectionary texts at www.anthonybrobinson.com by clicking on Weekly Reading.