CALL & RESPONSE :
One: Dear Lord we come before you on this day to praise your name.
All: Like Moses, You have called us each by name.
One: We come to praise you through prayer, song and act.
All: We wish to know You as you know us O Lord.
One: Although we cannot see You, we know You are there.
All: It is through Your call to us that we know You
One: It is through the beauty is this world we can understand You
All: You have called us here today to be one with You and one with each other.
One: O God we are your people and your children.
All: Call us to be of one mind and one spirit with You on this day
“I Have Called You by Your Name…”
George W. Bush, in an airport lobby, noticed a man in a long flowing white robe with a long white beard and flowing white hair. The man had a staff in one hand and some stone tablets under the other arm. George W. approached the man and inquired, "Aren't you Moses?" The man ignored George W. and stared at the ceiling. George W. positioned himself more directly in the man's view and asked again, "Aren't you Moses?" The man continued to peruse the ceiling. George W. tugged at the man's sleeve and asked once again, "Aren't you Moses?" The man finally responded in an irritated voice, "Yes I am." George W. asked him why he was so uppity, and the man replied, "The last time I spoke to a Bush I had to spend forty years in the desert." Names are very important to how we define ourselves in addition to how we relate with each other. Everybody has a name whether they like it or not. Even if it is just a last name that they are known by, they still have one. It could still be that Thompson boy, the Smith’s daughter but it is still a title. This would certainly have been the case in the ancient world as well. However, if someone knew your name in the ancient world it could be said that it was a source of pride and honor. Because someone didn’t know your name unless you had done something great, built a theatre, aqueduct or were some world renowned artist like Michaelangelo. The point is that if someone knew your name, they definitely knew you or knew of you. Especially in the ancient world. Email didn’t exist, there wasn’t Facebook, and a trip into town could take several hours or even days depending on where you lived. Therefore, if someone knew your name, you had done something to allow your name to stick in their mind. OR, they were so inspired or taken by you that they saw it fit to commit your name, and essentially who you are to memory.
Because we are all known by names. When someone says your name there is baggage that goes with it. I mean to say that my name isn’t just eric. It’s Eric Pagé. Furthermore, it’s not just that either, it’s the son of Michael and Barbara Page, brother of Stephanie and Patrick, classmate of Thomas and Jesse, history major, student at the United Theological College and a candidate for ministry. For better or for worse, our name defines us.
I don’t know if anyone is familiar with the website “Urban dictionary”. It is a website on the internet where you can type a word into the search bar and it will give you a definition of that word. However, it’s not a proper definition, it’s more of a bizarre and hip way that a given word can be defined. For example, if you type my name into that site what comes up for me is “A masculine name from the Old Norse name Eiríkr, derived from ei "ever" and ríkr "ruler". Danish invaders first brought the name to England. A famous bearer was Eiríkr inn Rauda (Eric the Red), a 10th-century navigator and explorer who discovered Greenland. This was also the name of kings of Denmark, Sweden and Norway.” And of course there are more definitions of the name but you get the point. Someone’s name is more than a title, a name carries someone’s entire history with them, their entire being. And as I mentioned earlier this was especially true in the ancient world. Knowing someone’s name, and therefore arguably knowing who they ARE implies that you were in some form of relationship with them. Maybe friend, coworker, admirer, cousin or student. My understanding of that idea in the ancient world was that there was a definition relationship if you knew someone’s name AND could call them by it. I think that this relationship is stronger when you can call someone by their name, but what is more important is when they can recgonize that and in turn call you by your name. So in that way it becomes much like a family, there is a special bond, a special relationship there.
In the Exodus narrative that we heard today we are again shown what Moses’ relationship was with God and with the Israelites that had been led out of Egypt. Moses had a discussion with God through prayer and asked that He go with them, that his presence go with them as they continued to journey through the wilderness. God responds, by saying that he will because Moses has found favor in his sight and that he knows his (that is Moses’) name. This seemed a little bizarre to me. Not the discussion, but an alleged reason of why God was going to be with Moses and the Israelites was because Moses had pleased the Lord in some way and that he knows his name? I mean, doesn’t God know everyone’s name? And shouldn’t there be more people who have found favor in God’s sight? I supposed that we could answer yes to all of the questions I just asked. But as bizarre as this conversation may be I think that we can understand the aforementioned situation in Exodus. Moses had been chosen by God, and has been a phenomenal leader for the Israelites. In addition, he has also been the mouthpiece of God, he has secured the Israelites more or less safe passage and through Moses the Hebrews have found assurance, forgiveness and mercy. It is Moses’ honesty, his righteousness and him being a heck of a good guy that God has smiled on him and showed him and his people favor. And as for the 2nd part of God’s statement, that he knows Moses’ name. We think now, well yeah man, of course he knew Moses’ name, He is God after all…. And I would say yes of course, millions of people on the earth and he still knows Moses name. He knows him through what Moses has done AND because of his potential of who he could be. Moses wasn’t just an Israelite. He was Moses, leader, prophet and friend of God. And I truly think that was amazing. God was able to call Moses by his name. He didn`t give him a pet name, or call him Israelite, boy or stinky. He called him Moses. And by calling him Moses he implies that he knows who Moses, from his mind to the depths of his heart.
And it is of course through this intimate relationship that God has with Moses that Moses is then able to ask for God to reveal himself, to show Moses who the deity truly is. And God agrees. This is truly phenomenal. A human sort of calls out God and he responds positively!! And Moses in this passage is allowed to see God`s back. He is not allowed to see his face because the ancients believed that one would be burnt up because one couldn`t handle the divine perfection of such a being. So God shields Moses so he doesn’t get burnt to a crisp, and then, as a cherry on top proclaims himself as Yahweh. Not as Lord, or King, but a more personal name. Now Moses has seen God and he knows his name. The relationship that started at the beginning of Exodus may have seemed one sided but it is clear now that both parties are on equal footing. They have intimate knowledge of each other and therefore are in a relationship.
I believe that this is encouragement to get to know people, get to know each other, and to better understand ourselves. I think that this passage can be said to be asking us to go further with members of our community. To not be afraid to ask tough questions, to not be afraid to ask for help and to not be intimidated into not sharing how you truly feel. Moses, a mere mortal had the courage to ask God to reveal to him who God truly was. And he did. So what is stopping us for asking others to be more forthright, to maybe come and try out church? Or even asking the IGA or Super C to donate goods for Christmas baskets or what have you. A quick sidebar, but a relevant one: I recently had teacher, Professor Kirkpatrick. From day one I truly was petrified of her. I was worried about getting questions wrong in class or ultimately not passing the class. Anyways I ended up doing quite well in that course, so I somehow mustered up the courage if she would write a reference letter to a scholarship committee and she agreed. What’s more, it was an amazing letter, she pulled me aside after class and called me a responsible young man. Now I know this isn’t the same as getting God to reveal itself. But the sentiment I believe is the same. I got to know Professor Kirkpatrick and I have truly benefitted from that class and from the experience and teaching that she gave. But ultimately I had to make that first step, and we all should try and make the first steps. We aren’t mind readers, and neither are our neighbors. Get to know names in your community, get to know the humans in our lives.
In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians we are again reminded of God’s relationship with us, His chosen people. As much as we are His chosen people, we have chosen Him as well. We were not forced or brainwashed to be Christians, it is something that comes from our hearts, from knowing ourselves. We choose to be in relationship with God. Not Zeus, Ares, or Mars. But with God. And we can rest assured that we do so because we have been given the Gospels so that we may come closer to God and know him. And I do truly believe with all my heart that God has intimate knowledge of each and every one of us. And of course it is because we have this relationship with the Divine that Paul writes that the Thessalonians have become imitators of him and of Christ. It is something that feels natural so we do it, we worship God the father, the son and the holy spirit. But it is not only because we believe we know God that we imitate him, it was in the acnietn world, and it is now a sign of respect, devotion and love that imitation occurs. In early modernity it was considered respectful and honorable to copy (or plagiarize) someone elses works because it showed you respected them.
I once worked at a scout camp in Rawdon, Quebec. There was a week where I was wearing a cape, acting goofy and spending a lot of time with the kids. And there was a kid from Mount Bruno who literally began copying everything I did. He wore the same color socks, and wore a cape just like mine. He even started ordering the same type of food from the snack bar. This was without a doubt one of the most touchijng experiences of my life to date. I had a few days with the kid and he wanted to model himself after me. To this die it gives me a warm sensation, it warms my heart and it almost brings a tear to my eye that we can have these effects on people. That we can become role models. And it was through this Scouter knowing me that he saw it fit to imitate me, to mimick me.
But, this is almost exactly what we do as Christians isn’t it We model ourselves and our lives after the life of Jesus Christ. And it is out of the deepest love, admiration and respect that we do this. We know Christ because he lives in us and we live in Him. It is for this reason that the apostle Paul wrote the Thessalonians and his other communities worshipped a living and true God. Because God can be seen as living up there in the sky, OR, we can accept the fact that God lives in each and every one of us, and this is why we call ourselves Christians…
The Reverend Francis Norton woke up Sunday morning and, realizing it was an exceptionally beautiful and sunny early spring day, decided he just had to play golf. So, he told the Associate Pastor that he was feeling sick and convinced him to say Mass for him that day. As soon as the Associate Pastor left the room, Father Norton headed out of town to a golf course about forty miles away. This way he knew he wouldn't accidentally meet anyone he knew from his parish. Setting up on the first tee, he was alone. After all, it was Sunday morning and everyone else was in church!At about this time, Saint Peter leaned over to the Lord while looking down from the heavens and exclaimed, "You're not going to let him get away with this, are you?" The Lord sighed, and said, "No, I guess not."
Just then Father Norton hit the ball and it shot straight towards the pin, dropping just short of it, rolled up and fell into the hole. IT WAS A 420-YARD HOLE IN ONE! St. Peter was astonished. He looked at the Lord and asked, "Why did you let him do that?" The Lord smiled and replied, "Who's he going to tell?"
Brothers and sisters, let us give thanks to God whom we have come to know through the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.