“Your Reputation & Your Good Name” ~ Northwood UC January 16, 2022
Isaiah 62:1-5, Psalm 36:5-10, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, John 2:1-11
The Reverend Dr. Dorothy A. Jeffery
There is a saying in business - your reputation is your most valuable asset. I am sure you have heard it in TV and radio advertisements. There is an intangible asset in a business called ‘good will’, that is the value put on company’s reputation. Of course, this principle does not apply only in the business world - it applies to our community, professional and personal lives. It also applies to our perception of God. Linked to this is the fact that our name carries our reputation. A good name, character or attributes, (God’s gifts), and how we use them all factor into reputation. Today’s scriptures address them all in one way or another.
First a Good Name: Who gives you your name impacts your reputation. As parents we name our children - because we like the name, because we want to honor a family member or a great person, because we want some of the strength and character of the name sake to be transmitted to our child. In business, companies often change their names to better express who they are and what they do, To capture our attention, To distance themselves from their not too successful past (if you think cynically).
Often name changes are more manipulation and flash rather than an expression of real change in the company. Name changes happen in the medical science too. In the past two years we have seen the CoVid-19 virus name changed from “Wuhan virus”, or Chinese Virus to CoVid-19 or (SARS-CoV-2) for clarity and scientific accuracy, and to avoid finger pointing or presumption of the origin. We have also seen the variants of concern named from alpha, beta, delta and now omicron. Many churches may engage in name changing for the sake of a change with no substance or change in direction. Committees are named teams, tasks are named ministries, personally, I do not see a need for a name change without a change in direction. If we are not going to do something differently, do not change the label. Although it is possible to change a person’s name, it is less common than changing a business name but it seems common to change a name for political correctness reasons.
In Hebrew Scriptures the names used are often descriptive of the person, situation or place named. This is a feature of Hebrew literature. So, we see in the Isaiah reading today name changes for Israel. Actually, there are two name changes. …The KJV of the Bible gave the Hebrew names, but thankfully, for our reader Dan, they are left out of the newer NRSV which we heard today. In the KJV at v. 4 Isa 62:4 Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken (Azubah); neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate (Shemanah): but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah
The old name: Azubah = forsaken; becomes Hephzibah = My delight is in her. The old name Shemanah = desolate becomes Beulah = married. Beulah may be the only name familiar to you, and even so Beulah is not very common today.
We see here God giving the name. A new name to Israel. The name carries much weight because it was given by God as the prophet tells us. The giving of new names signals a new day in the relationship between God and the people. New Jerusalem is not bricks and mortar but the Spirit of God, a feature of both human and God's life. These are changes of promise and blessing, and are a source of joy. Real change will happen. There may still be difficulties but God’s promise for the people is steadfast and sure. God takes these forsaken and desolate people and says: I'm going to do something with you. The passage reveals God as One who is willing to transform a discouraged and humiliated people.
God's people receive names that indicates God delights in them. Have you ever considered that God delights in you?
Friday, January 7, 2022 CBC the Current morning show was about finding fun in these CoVid times of isolation. One authors interviewed talked about paying attention and intentionally looking for moments of delight and marking them with an ! (pointing her finger up in DELIGHT) then sending a text or Instagram photo of this moment of delight to a friend. “A delight chain”.
This is a way of making connection and looking for the positive each day. By retaining these posts, she could look back for these intentional moments of experiencing delight and live them again. The author and science journalist is Catherine Price who talked about why now is the time for a fun-tervention. This is a way we can create the conditions to feel joyfully alive. Her book is “The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again”. See link to podcast at end of this message.
The Psalm today does not use the technique of names but clearly is a recitation of the attributes of God. The Psalm extols the reputation of God, the attributes of God cascade down through the whole cosmos starting with the steadfast love, faithfulness, righteousness, judgments, and salvation from the heavens, the clouds, the mighty mountain, the great deep below the earth. The character of God is built into the very structure of the universe. All this concludes with 8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” Life of the world depends on God's steadfast love which is precious - a refuge. The reputation of God is affirmed and clearly annunciated.
In the gospel reading from John the reputation of Jesus established as glory in actions of miracle at Cana. This is more important than the miracle (or more properly ‘sign’) that Jesus works by turning water into wine. The story is not intended to establish Jesus as a purveyor of wine. It is to show that the gifts of Jesus extend beyond the needs of the moment for health or safety. They extend to celebration of life itself through the sheer abundance of the gifts Jesus brings to humankind even beyond what we can ask or comprehend.
So, we have seen that our reputation is a valuable asset exhibited through a carefully and appropriately chosen name. But the reputation and name only carry this esteem if our character, our attributes, are worthy. That worth comes from the sources of our character, which in 1 Corinthians 12 is described as Spiritual gifts. The variety of gifts come from a single source (God) for a common purpose.
We all have some of these; they are different for each one of us. They are intended for the common good, not for our own glory or benefit. God is revealed by the Spirit in the diverse community of the church. The community experienced a great diversity of spiritual gifts. Gifts are tarnished if we are jealous of the gifts of others, or if we covet the attributes of others. Some of you may have taken an ‘inventory’ of gifts. But take caution. It is not a tally sheet where we compete to see who has the most in quantity or quality. Spiritual gift inventories are a tool for reflection on our own gifts.
The Spirit of God gives many and diverse gifts to create an interwoven richness of the whole. No one gift is greater than any other for it is the same God working in all of them. It is in looking at the whole people that one is able to get a glimpse of the incredible richness of God.
No one member of the Christian community at Corinth (or in your own community) could reveal what God was like. But in the diverse gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracle-working, prophecy, discernment, ecstasy and interpretation, the wealth of God is seen. The Christian community becomes an epiphany - a revelation of God’s glory - as God is manifested in the people.
"There are varieties of gifts" but the word for ‘gift’ could also be translated "assignments" of gifts. Somewhere I seem to remember reading a quote from Maya Angelou (who died in 2014 but still is often quoted). She said that a mentor of hers used to tell her "Assign yourself!" various projects for self-improvement. Think how it would change us if we thought of our gifts not as something we receive with thanks but also as an assignment from God.
So ... God names us and gives us a job to do!
May we take up that assignment, and protect our reputations - by our actions, words and use of spiritual gifts.