Names are important part of society. Photo: iStock
Names are important part of society. Photo: iStock

SPIRITUAL MATTERS: So much hinges on a name

Change is interesting! Someone once said that life is a continuous process of getting used to things we hadn’t expected. This can sometimes be quite challenging! But I, for one, need challenges – and some adventure – in my life.

My biggest challenge undoubtedly arrived in 1966 while living and working in London. I determined to leave the UK and carve a new life for myself in Australia. It was a life-changing decision in every respect for it paved the way for many more rich adventures in my life.

The latest has led to me (with Janine) accepting an opportunity to fill a four-month interim ministry-vacancy in the Uniting Church on Norfolk Island.

So here we are, settled among the beautiful island people on this tiny speck of land – 1600km east of the mainland – where astounding natural beauty proliferates and more than 200 years of extremely rich history is evident at every turn!

This experience is another steep learning curve which includes remembering the names of all the people in our new congregation – a challenge that reminded me of the captain and three sailors clinging to the hull of their sinking ship – looking hopefully at a three-man liferaft.

Shouting to make himself heard, the captain addressed the remnants of his hapless crew: “Men”, he said, “this business about a captain going down with his ship is nonsense. As you can see, there’s a three-man liferaft, and I’m going to be on it. The one who fails to answer the question I will ask him will be the one to stay behind.”

He addressed the first sailor: “What unsinkable ship went down when it hit an iceberg?” The sailor responded: ”The Titanic, sir.”

“Correct. Now” the captain said – yelling into the howling wind and addressing the

second sailor. “How many people perished?” The man called out: “One thousand, five hundred and seventeen, sir.”

“Very good” responded the captain. Turning to the last sailor he asked: “And what were their


Ah, names are very important. Everyone responds well if we remember their name when meeting for a second time. And while most of us seem to struggle, others are very good at remembering names.

Some years ago, I watched a television show that featured a guy with an incredible ability to remember names. He was introduced to every member of the large audience before the show. Then, when the cameras began to roll and the show went live, he’d leave the stage and, one by one, speak briefly with every person seated in the studio, correctly addressing them by name – from memory!

It must be a special gift. One that I’ve often wished I had!

But we all remember God’s name. And the name of His son, Jesus.

Probably because we learnt these when we were very young – usually as swearwords or in a blasphemous way! Which is quite tragic really – especially when, in the Ten Commandments, God expressly forbids us to “misuse the name of the Lord your God. For the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name”.

God has other names too: He’s the King of kings; He’s the Lord of lords; He’s Creator; and Father.

Likewise, Jesus is also known, honoured and worshipped as Emmanuel; Saviour; Christ; and Messiah.

Yes, affectionate nicknames aside, we honour others by using their names correctly and respectfully. Extending this to embrace the name of God in this new-year would be awesome!

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