We are synonymous with our names, in the sense that they identity who we are. People have been known to change their names precisely because they want the new beginning that they hope a new name will bring. To change your own name is one thing; but having your name changed by God is quite remarkable.
God promises that Abraham and Sarah will become the parents of many nations, and from them even kings will descend (Genesis 17:4-6). The name Abraham means “ancestor of a multitude,” and Sarah means “princess,” every girl's dream, since Sarah is to be the foremother of royalty. Sarah is the only woman in the Bible to have her name changed by God, a significant fact in itself that a new day is dawning.
Faithful people are called upon by God to change. It has been so throughout the biblical story. From the calling of Abraham and Sarah to the conversion of Saint Paul, faithful people have had to change. And not just changed on the surface, either. In the Bible, a change of name is deeply significant. It alerts us to a radical transformation, a new identity, a change of course that is unalterable.
Mark 8:31-38 Cross Words
The eighth chapter of Mark represents a fork in the road. Suddenly one of the arrows is pointing toward Jerusalem. Jesus knows where he is going and why. The disciples want to stick with Jesus, while at the same time they want Jesus to follow them along a different path.
Jesus asks the disciples what people are saying about him, and then asks the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter has the correct answer, that Jesus is the Messiah. This is Peter’s great declaration of faith.
Immediately after this confession of faith, Jesus begins to talk about his death and resurrection. Peter is not ready for such news. He imagines something far different for the future of Jesus. Petulant Peter has good intentions as he tries to persuade Jesus that he does not have to die. Jesus reprimands Peter, who goes from being the star student to being called “Satan!”
Jesus is describing the demands of discipleship. It is not an easy path, but one filled with sacrifice, suffering, and service. The disciples are not happy about this taking up of their crosses in order to follow Jesus. They aren’t quite ready to lose their lives for him and for the sake of what he’s teaching. They prefer to maintain the status quo rather than to live and love as radically as Jesus is doing.
Rev. Bryan Jackson
For “The poor to eat and be satisfied,” the poor must be adequately defined. This can be dangerous. Given the notion of “poor in spirit,” perhaps all are poor at one time or another. Lest we forget, the Psalms are poetry at its finest, and they seem to leave it up to us to define need. Preaching the Psalms is one of the great undervalued disciplines of homiletics.
Years ago, Wedgewood Church, the inland of Liberal Lectionary Resources, developed the innominate habit of feeding the homeless. Are the homeless self-determined as poor? Some of the homeless will say they live the life closest to that of Jesus: wandering with a purpose. Dominion, after all, belongs to the Lord, and all will “go down to the dust,” homeless or not.
The poetry of the “poor” may very well be the best avenue for future generations to be informed about God and the sacred, and such rhythmic literary work may contribute the finest sermons available.
Rev. Dr. Chris Ayers
Genesis 17:1-17, 15-17
“Is Your Wife Breast Feeding?”
Now that’s the last question I would expect anybody to ask me. But it’s the precise question the Earthfare employee asked.
“No,” she’s not breastfeeding I responded. Who do you think I am, I thought, Abraham married to Sarah. I’m fifty-three, going bald. Do I look like a guy who would have a trophy wife? Breast-feeding, that was 21 years-old.
“My wife told me to get Fenugreek for her head congestion.”
The Earthfare employee showed me the Fenugreek box. It clearly had on it “healthy lactation for nursing mothers.”
She proceeded to go to her computer to check on other uses for Fenugreek. I told her, “It doesn’t matter what you find out I’m getting it. My wife said she wanted Fenugreek and I’m getting it.”
Fenugreek (also called Greek Hay and wild clover) has been used for centuries, both as herb and spice, and as natural home remedy for various ailments. The latest finding about fenugreek reveals that it may be the key to fend off cold virus. My wife was desperate. I was desperate to help my desperate wife.
Hats off to Sarah and Abraham for having a child with one foot in the geriatric ward.
Old or young, barrenness is a feeling many congregants experience. Your sermon can touch their place of tremendous pain. Pray for them, that life will come forth even from their barren places.