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What's Your Name?
August 29 and 30, 1998

LUKE 13:10-17

What was the name of the woman Jesus healed in the Scripture lesson read today? Do you recall hearing her name? No, she didn't have a name. She was nameless, except for what they probably called her. When she walked down the street, practically creeping, body bent, eyes attempting to lift up from the ground, evidently they didn't say, "Here comes Mary," or "Look, it's Elizabeth." They said, "Here comes the bent over woman, the cripple." The name they gave her was her life, her destiny, her whole sad fate.

Nowadays we try to be kinder and use names such as persons with disabilities, persons with special needs, hearing impaired. In Chrysalis, participants are divided into table groups, and each table chooses a name. At the Boys' Chrysalis last weekend, one of the tables invented the name, "Spiritually Challenged." Their logo was a cross on a wheelchair. However, at the end of the weekend, one of the boys said, "We are no longer spiritually challenged!" Amen.

When our youngest son, Craig, was three-years-old, his mother couldn't find him. She ran frantically across the street to the shopping center. There she saw a woman holding Craig by the hand. The woman asked, "Are you Mrs. Baker?" When she asked Craig his name, she thought he said, "Baby Baker," but actually he was saying, "Baby Pickle." When asked his name, he would say, "My name is Baby Pickle, but they call me Craig."

Rarely do we choose our names, and some names by which we are called are not kind. Names like Stupid, Fatso, Hunchback, Dysfunctional, Addict, Drunk, Dummy, Retard are names that hurt. The woman in the Bible story, the bent over woman, carried a burden, her deformity, the burden of being different, the burden of not looking like everyone else, the burden of not being able to do what everyone else did.

Even the religious leaders treated her with indifference. How upset they were when Jesus healed her, because he violated what they considered holy Sabbath laws. To them, she was less important than their precious rules, procedures, codes, laws.

But, then she met Jesus. Jesus called her over. Jesus didn't call her Bent or Crooked or Crippled. Jesus called her, "Woman," which was a common, polite name, like we might say, "Ma'am." Jesus laid his hands on her and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." Immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.

Then, Jesus changed her name. No longer is she called bent, disabled, crippled, or a victim. Jesus called her a "daughter of Abraham." Not Abraham Lincoln, but the Abraham who was the great, great, great (etc.) grandfather of Israel. Abraham, the one to whom, one starry night, a promise was given. God promised to make a great nation out of Abraham, a nation through which all the nations of the earth would be blessed. The woman is a daughter of Abraham, an heir to the blessings of God, and she is now called to be a blessing to the whole world. She is no longer a victim of cruel, limiting labeling. She is now part of God's plan of salvation for the whole world.

What's your name? What names have been given to you that hurt, names that define your identity, names that hold you back, names that form your relationships with other people, names like Fatty, Dumb, Addict, Bungler, Failure. Let me tell you, and let yourself hear me: Jesus changes your name!

Fred Craddock, one of the distinguished preachers of our day, tells of meeting a man one day in a restaurant.

"Preacher, I'll tell you a story. There was once a little boy who grew up sad. Life was tough because my mama had me but she had never been married. Do you know how a small Tennessee town treats people like that? Do you know the words they use to name kids that don't have no father?

"Well, we never went to church, nobody asked us. But for some reason or other, we went to church one night when they was having a revival. They had a big, tall preacher visiting to do the revival and he was all dressed in black. He had a thunderous voice that shook the little church.

"We sat toward the back, Mama and me. Well, that preacher got to preaching, about what I don't know, stalking up and down the aisle of that little church preaching. It was something.

"After the service, we were slipping out the back door when I felt that big preacher's hand on my shoulder. I was scared. He looked way down at me, looked me in the eye and said, 'Boy, who's you're Daddy?'

"I didn't have no Daddy. That's what I told him in trembling voice, 'I ain't got no Daddy.'

"'Oh yes you do,' boomed that big preacher, 'You're a child of the Kingdom, you have been bought with a price, you are a child of the King!'

"I was never the same after that. Preacher, for God's sake, preach that."

The man pulled his chair away from the table. He extended his hand and introduced himself. He was the legendary former governor of the state of Tennessee. Jesus changed his name-- from bastard to child of the King, to Governor.

What's your name? Let me tell you that your name is Child of the King! Jesus changes your name. Jody recalled a song. Denni found the words, but not the tune.

I will change your name!

You shall no longer be called wounded, outcast, lonely, or afraid.

I will change your name!

Your new name shall be confidence, joyfulness, overcoming one, faithfulness, friend of God, one who seeks my face.

What do you name other people? What do you call other people? Are you a blessing? Do you build other people up or tear them down?

Her name was Information, Please! That's what the little boy thought her name was, and she lived in a box which hung on the wall of his Pacific Northwest childhood home. He was mystified when his mother would go to the box, take down the receiver, hold it to her ear, and talk to the woman inside who was named Information, Please. Why, there was nothing she didn't know. She could tell people's numbers and the correct time.

One day while his mother was visiting a neighbor, the little boy accidentally whacked his finger with a hammer. The pain was terrible. He walked around the house sucking his throbbing finger, and noticed the telephone. He ran for the footstool, dragged it to the phone, unhooked the receiver, and said into the mouthpiece, "Information, Please." A click or two and a small clear voice spoke into his ear, "Information."

"I hurt my finger," he wailed into the phone.

"Isn't your mother home?" she asked.

"Nobody's home but me," he blubbered.

"Are you bleeding?"

"No, I hit my finger and it hurts."

"Can you open the icebox?" she asked.

He said he could.

"Then chip off a little piece of ice and hold it to your finger."

After that, he called Information, Please for everything. He asked her for help with his geography and she told him where Philadelphia was. She helped him with his math. She told him to feed fruits and nuts to the chipmunk he caught in the park. One day he asked her, "How do you spell fix?"

Then, there was the time Petey, their pet canary died. He called Information, Please and told her the sad story. He asked her, "Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to families, only to end up as a heap of feathers on the bottom of a cage?" She answered quietly, "Paul, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in." Somehow he felt better.

When he was nine years old, the family moved across the country to Boston. He often thought of Information, Please who lived in that old wooden box. As he grew into his teens, he appreciated how patient, understanding, and kind she was to spend time on a little boy.

A few years later, on his way to college, his plane put down in Seattle. He had about a half hour between planes, so he dialed his hometown operator and said, "Information, please." He heard the small, clear voice he knew so well answer, "Information." He said, "Could you please tell me how to spell fix?" There was a long pause, and then the soft spoken answer, "I guess your finger must have healed by now."

He laughed and said, "I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me." She said, "I wonder if you know how much your calls meant to me. I never had any children and I used to look forward to your calls."

Three months later he was back in Seattle and he called again. A different voice answered, "Information." He asked for Sally, which was her other name!

"Are you a friend?" the voice asked.

"Yes, a very old friend."

She said, "I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but Sally died five weeks ago."

Before he hung up, she said, "Wait a minute. Did you say your name was Paul?"


"Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called. Let me read it to you."

The note said, "Tell him I still say there are other worlds to sing in. He'll know what I mean."

Never underestimate the impact you have on others. You have been given a new name, and a mission. You have been called to be a blessing to the world, to be Information, Please to children, to the lost and lonely. You have been called to give love, support, encouragement, and new names to the people in your life.

What's your name?

© 1998 Douglas I. Norris