Every once in a while, in a public place, an old Confirmation student of 50 years ago, or a friend of other decades ago, will approach me with head cocked in curiosity, and say: “Are you still Arthur?”
Ie: Are you still the person of that name, who meant something to me as a person of the community, or as a minister, or simply a friend?
I assure them I am the same guy, though much older, and inevitably changed in looks. There is something about the name that triggers for them memories – of a relationship we had, of a wedding I performed for them, even of a sermon they heard that helped.
The name is still there, in their memory. And so we talk, and recall, and rejoice, if you will, in “the tie that binds.”
The congregation I served the longest, from 1967- 1994, is struggling now with a sense that its name evokes a period in American history when slavery existed in America, and cordial relationships with the Indian first Americans sank into conflict and even warfare.
In its Thanksgiving issue of this year, even The New York Times referred to the story of the coming of the Pilgrims to Massachusetts shore as a “myth” which the Times chose to diminish and disparage.
Alas, many Americans do not have their history quite right, and indeed, have forgotten much of the history they once knew, leaving us vulnerable to reinterpretation of a provable precious heritage of vision, of legacy, of way of government, in freedom. The Mayflower Compact, of life together in community, and even of architecture (church and otherwise), that was itself part of their vision.
All of which has led me to think upon names that are important in my life and America’s life, like Washington, and Lincoln, and Roosevelt, among people – or Boston, and Philadelphia, and Chicago, and Minneapolis, among cities.
And, what of “The Name that is above every name” – the NAME OF JESUS. After 2,000 years, the child born in Bethlehem is remembered around the world as “Jesus Christ,” as “King Jesus,” as “Lord Jesus.”
It is such a simple name in Jewry – not dramatic or royal as Caesar, or other politically powerful names.
But Jesus’ Name is precious because of His ministry, His stories, His healing, His hope, His transformative power in the lives of people high and low today.
It is Who He was, and what He did, and whence He came, and whither He went, that lifts His Name above all names.
Churches, across the world, bear hundreds, probably millions of names. Cathedrals are named after great Christian leaders and saints.
Some are named for what they do, and how they live as congregations of God’s people. They are holy because of those associations, their histories, their affect on people and movements.
Churches are precious places to people who were part of their life, “came to Jesus” there, who formed their life there, who were healed, even “saved” there.
May the churches we name and love be important to us because of good and great things that happened there, that God through Jesus, did there.
May the names be changed by what God in Christ did there to change people and the world.
Bless you and your churches,
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES