Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Name above all Names (A Sermon for the Feast of Justin Martyr)

A sermon preached by the Rev. Jason A. Fout
in the Lady Chapel of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, St. Joseph, MI
June 1, 2005

Lord, be present in my speaking and in our hearing to your glory, amen.

Back in grade school, we had a teacher by the name of Mr. Bandman. Naturally, as you might guess, he taught…biology. Seriously, although he often claimed to have actually wanted to be a plumber growing up, he of course became a musician and taught band.

It raises the question just how much your name determines in life. We usually don’t feel the pull of our names, but some cultures both past and present have sensed that their name was their destiny, that it reflected some deep truth about that person. I suppose we might say that about Mr. Bandman.

Today we celebrate the feast day of the saint called Justin Martyr. As my church history professor joked once, when you grow up with a name like that, you knew you had a lot to live up to.

Of course, Justin’s last name wasn’t actually “martyr”, that was a designation given to him over time, as he became known chiefly for his costly act of witness to the Roman Empire in the second century. Unlike Mr. Bandman, his name didn’t become his destiny – his destiny became his name.

I think that we can see both of these tendencies in our name. Not necessarily in our family names, or even what we sometimes call our “Christian name”, our first names. But we have another name, one given us in baptism. It’s not a part of the current service and I’m not sure why it fell out of practice, but it used to be that the celebrant, in the baptismal service, would pronounce that name of the person – say, Jason Andrew Fout – and then would say “Christian”. This said in effect that our name was Christian, that that was a name by which we were identified, and indeed the most important name we have.

That name “Christian” is powerful. It means a follower of Christ, someone whose life is oriented towards a particular person, and holds that allegiance above all else. It is in light of Jesus Christ that all else finds its proper place. Rather like Mr. Bandman, we might often find that being named “Christian” narrows our options, helps us to grasp the future, to find our way. It might also mean that something else that we thought we wanted to do, like Mr. Bandman’s professed preference for plumbing, fades in significance.

There is another sense, though, that in following Christ, we become like him, repeating his work and words in different ways here and now. In following Christ we grow to embody fully and properly the image of God implanted in us. In this sense, we are given the name Christian not to determine our destiny, but to reflect it, as with Justin Martyr. And so may we continue as Christians to follow the one who has given us his name, and whose name is above all names – Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.


Blogger nope said...


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God Bless You.

Melissa K. W.
To see my family view this page. My Family

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005 9:42:00 AM  

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