by David Phelps

"Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person." - Mother Teresa

March, 1998

Recently, I received a singular honor from our five-year-old daughter, Monica. She got some toy dinosaurs to add to her collection and, as usual, proceeded to give them names. There's an apatosaurus named Donna, a triceratops named Sarah, a parasaurolophus named Rosie . . . and a velociraptor named Dave. The last one is, of course, named after me. This is all the more unusual because she normally names her toys after characters in movies or television shows, and because she rarely gives them names that are masculine.

Names have special significance for us. They tell who we are -- and whose we are, as in Johnson, which means "son of John." Similarly, others can tell that Monica is my daughter, because we share the same last name. When someone is expecting a child, they give a great deal of thought to the name they will give it: Should it be a modern name? A traditional name? A family name? A Biblical name?

Ancient peoples believed that knowing the name of a person or thing gave them power over that person or thing. As Rev. Harry Smith, former Director of Metro Ministry, points out, this is why Moses asked God in the burning bush, "'If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, "The God of your fathers has sent me to you," and they ask me, "What is his name?" what shall I say to them?'" and why God replied, "'I am who I am.'" (Exod. 3:13b-14a) Sometimes, Monica will try to get away with calling me "Dave." My standard response, "That's 'Daddy' to you," reaffirms our relationship; we are not equals, and she is not on a first name basis with me or with her mother, Charlotte. My boss calls me "Dave," while I call him "sir," not "Steve." People who don't know me well often call me "Jim," in an effort to be familiar, since my first name is actually "James." The people who really know me call me "Dave."

As I said, I consider it an honor to have one of Monica's toys named after me. There's something special about someone having enough respect, admiration and love to take your name. If you attended our wedding, you may recall that when my wife, Charlotte, and I exchanged wedding vows, I promised her "all the honor of my name." There is a certain honor in having a velociraptor named after you. It means that someone thinks your name is worth something.

For centuries, people have taken the name of an itinerant carpenter who died a criminal's death (Acts 11:26b). During the season of Lent, we rediscover the one whose name we bear, the life he lived and the one he represented. As the song says, "there's something about that name:"

"Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! There's just something about that name!
Master, Savior, Jesus! Like the fragrance after the rain.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! Let all heaven and earth proclaim:
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there's something about that name."

As Christians, we bear the name of "Jesus the Christ," an honorable name, one that identifies us as members of the family of God (John 1:12-13). The name "Jesus" means "savior," which identifies Christ's role in our lives; we are children of God, and brothers and sisters of the savior. We should be proud of our "family" name, and eager to tell others who -- and whose -- we are.  Further, we should be prepared to welcome others into our "family" and invite them to share our name.

"Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:9-11 RSV)


Copyright © 1998 by Maplewood UMC