• What’s Your Name?

    Posted Oct 18th, 2018 By in Pastor Brian's Blog, Why We Do What We Do With | Comments Off on What’s Your Name?

    It’s a very old practice for the minister to ask parents or sponsors bringing an infant to be baptized what the child’s name is. Specifically, “What is the Christian name of this child?” To us modern westerners it sounds strange. Is the minister that disconnected that he doesn’t even know the child’s name? We tend to ascribe a name at birth. I have a hunch they did the same thing in the early centuries of the church and in Israel as well. But the formal naming of the child was tied to circumcision in the Old Testament (Luke 1:59) and to baptism when it replaced circumcision in the New Testament. Evidence suggests that adult converts often changed their names at baptism. What this suggests, then, is that for Christians baptism is the beginning. It all starts here, in the water. Here the child begins his earthly journey. Here she is named. As one author has put it, “All baptisms are infant baptisms.” And the reason for this is that, “Baptism sets a new trajectory, initiates a new beginning, but every beginning is the beginning of something.”

    At baptism, the baptized puts on Christ.

    When the child is named at baptism, usually her first and sometimes middle name are given. Never is the last name given. And there are pragmatic reasons for that. Everyone knows that the child gets the last name of the parents, so it’s already known even if it has never been uttered. But in a way the baptized also receive a new last name as well. Paul says in Galatians 3:27-29,

    “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, theirs according to promise.”

    At baptism the baptized puts on Christ. What an image! Put on Christ like one puts on a jacket or a robe. Covered and clothed in Christ. At baptism social, racial, and even gender distinctions are obliterated because one’s identity is now that of being in Christ. And at baptism we become heirs of Abraham and to his promises. At baptism our parents give us first and middle names and God gives us the last name. We assume the last name Abrahamson. To quote the author from whom I drew that name,

    Abrahamson becomes the surname of every baptized child, and our identity becomes bound up with membership in this new family just as our identity is bound up with the surname inherited from our parents…

    You’re probably like me in that when you meet someone with the same last name you have you spend some time trying to figure out if you might be related—unless your name is Smith or Jones. I called a store recently and they asked for my last name. Some woman I had never heard of was in their system with the same last name. I began to wonder if she perhaps married a cousin or if there was a connection I didn’t know about. Were we related? We do share the same last name and all.

    In the waters of baptism, we become relatives. We take on the same last name and are claimed by the same spiritual Father and mother. In these waters children become children of God and And in these waters you, too, are reminded of your name and that you have been named and of the one who named you. Here we are reminded that we, too, are children of God and children of the church; and here we are reminded that all of the baptized—even the least among us—are our siblings. These waters are the thread that unites the church. Here there is neither Jew or Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

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