Names Mean Something

Hi, Pastor.

If you’re looking for something to hang the sermon off of this week, a really effective golden thread that weaves its way throughout Genesis (17: 1-7, 15-16) and Mark’s Gospel (8:31-38) is the importance of names and naming things.

You might think it’s low-hanging fruit, but dig deeper there…I think you’ll find some profound insight here. So many sermons will focus on Jesus calling Peter “the Satan,” and the scolding lessons that will come from thinking that Jesus had come to take the easy way out of the Divine work, but I’m just gonna throw it out there that the church doesn’t need another sermon like that.

It really doesn’t.

Either the hearer will feel shame because they, like Peter (like all of us?) miss the mark, or they will feel their ego swell because they don’t believe that about themselves and really we don’t need any more tearing down or puffing up in the church. That deflation-inflation rhythm has led to a mass exodus over the years, and rightly so.

What we need is an invitation to go deeper not pull a moral from it all.

Like, what if this whole Peter episode was less about Peter missing the mark, and more an invitation for Peter to reflect more deeply on his name? Jesus had just one short episode earlier called him “The Foundation,” and it might be worth noting that a) that’s something to live into and b) even foundations aren’t infallible.

And notice Jesus doesn’t name Peter “Satan,” but in saying that out loud perhaps he’s asking Peter if he’s forgotten who he (Peter) is. “Remember, Simon, what I’ve named you…”

Remember who you are.

And for the assembly that name is given in baptism. It’s not “Brian” or “Shelita,” it’s “Beloved.”

It’s, “Child of God.”

Because, here’s the truth BELOVED, this world is gonna call you all sorts of names.

It’s gonna call you lazy.

It’s gonna call you wealthy.

It’s gonna call you a son-of-a-bitch.

It’s gonna call you a slut.

It’s gonna call you a fag.

It’s gonna call you a role-model.

It’s gonna call you a star athlete.

It’s gonna call you intelligent.

It’s gonna call you single, partner, parent, aunt, loner, Democrat, Republican, patriot, Communist, lover, fighter.

It’s gonna call you stupid.

And it’s important to remember, Beloved, so that you don’t do that deflate-inflate rhythm on a daily basis, that all of those names can be stumbling blocks when twisted in the wrong way, and though they try to stick on you like Velcro, the waters of the font have washed it all away in favor of:

Beloved.

Abram gets a new name. Sarai gets a new name. Simon gets a new name (and he’s asked to remember it!).

And so do you.

I say all this, too, because names become important for us in other ways, too. Because when a Beloved is given a true and rightful name, or they choose one for themselves, that, too, deserves honor and respect.

Like, no pretending you can’t pronounce a name that’s from another culture. That kind of privilege degradation has been pulled by white people for a long time. It’s a way of saying, in not so many words, “You’re not one of us, and I don’t have to bother learning your name.”

They are Beloved, just like you, so don’t try to pretend they’re not.

And like, when our Trans siblings identify that their birth name does not fit their gender and have found a name that suits them well, we honor it, by God.

They are Beloved, just like me, so no getting around that fact just because it’s confusing for our simplistic understanding of gender or not “we’re not comfortable” with it. Want uncomfortable? Try living as a gender you don’t identify with…

Names mean something. Names are important. And on this road to Calvary that we call Lent we’re offered a chance to reflect on what we call one another and what we’re called by God.

And I just think it’s an opportunity we shouldn’t pass up, Beloved.

Who Needs Sleep? Well, You’re Never Gonna Get It…

Sleep and I have a sordid history.

I’ve been gifted (I PREFER TO SEE IT AS A GIFT!) of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), and so for much of my choice-informed life I’ve chosen experience over going to bed.

In college I would regularly start my school work at midnight, closing up shop at 4am and rising at 7:15am just in time for my 8:00am Greek class, my participles all accounted for.

I got good grades. I got poor sleep.

I both lost and gained weight in college. Up and down. It made it hard to buy clothes.

No, that’s not correct. I had no money to buy clothes.

It made it hard to fit into the clothes I had. Too loose, too tight, too much inconsistency.

I fully believe that my sleep habits affected my weight. Affect my weight. It certainly affects my food choices. Skipping meals, or eating high calorie dishes to get energy because I was just. so. tired.

Am. tired.

These habits have followed me off and on throughout my life. Being a parent has exacerbated the sleep issue. By the time the boys are in bed I’m tired as all get out, but they just got to bed so those twilight hours are the only ones I have to myself.

It’s a real struggle.

Add into the mix the desire to workout (in the morning? night?) and to meditate (morning? night?) and to write consistently (morning?! night?!). When the day begins at 6am, there are breakfasts to be made and kids to get up and out the door.

The night feels like it’s really the only time…for everything not work or kid related. But by nightfall my body has said “peace out,” and my brain has this big error message scrolling across it and my old patterns aren’t working anymore like a quilter who is trying reproduce a stitch by memory, only the fingers aren’t as nimble.

And also, let me be perfectly honest as a parent: by 8pm if I get one more request, one more touch, one more anything I might just spontaneously combust into a ball of feeble utility.

You know?

The pandemic has made these sleep issues worse. Insomnia has crept in as an uninvited houseguest, sometimes banging around on the pipes of my brain for no reason other than to make perfectly clear that redundancy causes my neurons to go on the fritz.

This week’s experiment with getting into bed at 10pm, come hell or high water, is in its infancy, but I’ve already noticed three things.

First: I’m not missing out on much. Late night TV is largely banal. I console myself with the idea that I can always watch the rerun anyway…and then never do, which seems to be a deceptive pattern that works for me so I’ll keep it.

Secondly: I’ve had to say no to work. A lot of times I’d crank up the old hamster wheel laptop again after the boys are in bed to finish a report, an excel, a writing project, a blog…the past two nights I’ve thought in my midday brain, “I can finish that later tonight” only to realize that, no, I can’t.

And probably shouldn’t. I have to get to bed.

St. Ruth of the Bader-Ginsburgs once wrote that, “You can have everything in life, just not all at the same time.” I’ve come to realize this is true about sleep for me. I can work or I can sleep. And now, at this point in my life, sleep is the more needful thing.

And, finally, the last two mornings I’ve gotten up at 5:00am consistently without even really wanting to crawl back in bed. The most productive periods of my life have been marked by early rising. It’s felt good to want to get out of bed, to meditate in the twilight hours, to make coffee and read and see the first news (always the freshest takes!) and take stock of the universe before the pitter patter feet tumble out of their trundle beds.

In the scriptures we regularly read that the Christ sought a place by himself to pray and be alone, and slept when he had the chance. In the Hebrew scriptures we know God instituted a sabbath, meaning that there were times to work and times not to work. The people turned that into a commandment, when really I think it should be seen as permission.

I’m seeing it as permission.

I have FOMO, but I’m choosing not to miss out on sleep right now. It’s my stage in life. Who knows how long I’ll be in this stage, but it’s time to get back into a better relationship with sleep.