“Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.” - John 6:47-48 (NRSV)
I’m pretty sure that nowhere in the Bible did Jesus introduce himself by sticking out a hand in greeting and declaring, “Hi there, I am King Almighty Christ Savior Emmanuel. And you are?” In fact, even though an angel suggested it and his parents affirmed it, I can’t even recall a time when he called himself by the name Jesus. Instead, the names he gave himself were both more strange and more earthy than the names others tried to give him.
Bread of Life. Son of Man. Light of the World.
Mother Hen. Good Shepherd. True Vine.
Gate. Prophet. Bridegroom.
Some of these names may be hard to say, may stick in your throat. In your conversations with Christ, how does it change you and your relationship if you try calling him by one of the names he chose for himself? You will not know until you try.
Jesus was likely not the first and was certainly not the last person to choose their own name. You may know someone whose given name no longer fits them, if it ever did. They may have asked you to call them by their chosen name instead. This name, when it is new to you, may stick in your throat, may be hard at first to say. How does it change you and your relationship with your friend if you call them by the name they chose themself? You will not know until you try.
Holy Friend of Many Names, we honor you by calling you the names you chose for yourself. Help us to also do so for all we encounter. Amen.
Jennifer Brownell is the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Vancouver, Washington, and the author of Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath, her inspiring memoir.