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“A New Name”

January 16, 2011

Isaiah 49:1-7 John 1:29-42 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

In 1988 I graduated from Ohio Northern University with a degree in electrical engineering. In the fall of that year
I was hired and began working for the American Gas Association Laboratories in Cleveland, Ohio. Several years
later our laboratory and our Canadian counterpart, the Canadian Gas Association, merged their laboratories and
engineering functions so that they each shared test data with the other and watched over the business on their side
of the border instead of duplicating the cost and complexity for their customers. The new joint business was
renamed the International Approvals Services – A Joint Venture of A.G.A. Laboratories and CGA Approvals,
Inc. Before long, this name was seen as cumbersome and was shortened to just International Approvals Services.
Things went along fine for a while and then our entire company, on both sides of the border, was sold to a
competitor, the Canadian Standards Association and our name was changed, again, to International Approvals
Services – A Division of CSA. Finally, just about the time I left to start another job, our parent company simply
merged our operation with theirs and the company began using the name CSA International.

The story of my employer is not unique. There are many other companies that have been through similar stories.
Brown Telephone Company became United Utilities, which became United Telecommunications, which became
United Telecom, which became Sprint, which became Sprint-Nextel. As individuals, we do it too. In many
cultures, especially ours, it is common for a woman to change her name when she is married. Increasingly, both
the man and the woman can change their names. Likewise, it is common for these same folks to change their
names when they are divorced.

So why all the name changing? What do corporations and individuals hope to accomplish by changing the name
on the front of a building that stays the same on the inside? As common as it sometimes seems, changing names
is not something that we do very often whether it is corporations or individuals. Our intent in changing names is
to show outwardly, that something significant has changed inwardly. I am not going to discuss why our culture
encourages women to change their names more often than men but generally speaking we change names after a
wedding to symbolize that we are beginning a new life, a life that is now intricately intertwined with that of
another. Corporations change their names to show the public that something is significantly different in their
organization because of a dramatic restructuring or merger or an all-out sale. Generally we do not change names
on the outside when the inside is the same, but instead, a changed name is a symbol of some other dramatic
inward change.

In Isaiah 49:1-7, we hear God proclaim that he will send his Messiah to restore his people, to bring back the
children of Israel that have been lost, to call the Gentiles to repentance and to carry salvation to the ends of the
earth. God intends to make a significant change…
Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations:
Before I was born the LORD called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.
He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver.
He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.”
But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all.
Yet what is due me is in the LORD’s hand, and my reward is with my God.”
And now the LORD says— he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and
gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength—
he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
This is what the LORD says— the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel—
to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers:
“Kings will see you and stand up, princes will see and bow down,
because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

With the coming of Jesus, the world is changing. John the Baptist had been given the mission to proclaim the
coming of the Messiah but as Jesus is baptized and begins his ministry on earth, John recognizes that his ministry
has now changed in a substantive way… (John 1:29-42)
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of
the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was
before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be
revealed to Israel.”
Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And
I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the
Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this
is God’s Chosen One.”
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look,
the Lamb of God!”
When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following
and asked, “What do you want?”
They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”
So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed
Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah”
(that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when
translated, is Peter).

John recognizes that Jesus’ baptism and ministry signifies a major change in the way that God is doing business
on the earth. Because he was given the mission to proclaim the coming of the Messiah, and because he
recognizes that God’s Messiah has now arrived, he sends his followers to follow Jesus instead of him. One of
these men, Andrew, recognizes this profound change, recognizes that after centuries of waiting God has finally
sent his messiah, and he brings his brother, Simon, to meet Jesus. It is at this point that Simon’s life changes
forever and he doesn’t even know it yet.

As Simon arrives, Jesus is already aware of who he is. Instead of hearing Andrew introduce Simon to Jesus,
Jesus introduces Simon to himself. Jesus acknowledges that this son of John had carried the name of Simon
throughout his life, but tells him that he will now be known as Cephas, which in English, is Peter. All of his life,
this man has been known as Simon, which means “he has heard,” but now his name is changing and would now
be Cephas, or in Greek, Petros, which means “rock.” John the Baptist recognized that the world has changed and
now Peter, because his name has changed, suspects that something about himself is about to change.

We will not recount all of the events of Peter’s life today, but instead we simply note that the day he met Jesus
marked a time when Peter’s life began to be profoundly changed. In our time together today we should also
notice that Peter’s life is not the only one that changed on the day he met Jesus. (1 Corinthians 1:1-9)
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together
with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been
enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— 6 God thus confirming our testimony
about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus
Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord
Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul reminds us that all of God’s people are changed when we meet Jesus and choose to follow him. We are
sanctified, set apart as holy; we are renewed in the image and likeness of God. We are called to be God’s holy
people, we have been filled with God’s grace and we have been enriched, through Christ, in our speech, in our
knowledge and in every other way. We have been given every spiritual gift and we are given the strength to stand
firm against all the weapons of our enemy so that we will be blameless when we stand before Christ on the Day
of Judgment.

When God called Abram to follow him in Genesis 17, his name, which means ‘exalted father,’ was changed to
Abraham, which means father of many, or father of nations. Likewise his wife’s name, Sarai, whose name meant,
‘princess,’ was changed to Sarah, meaning ‘mother of nations.’ Later, God changes the name of Jacob, which
means ‘one who grasps the heel,’ ‘supplanter,’ or one who takes the place of another. Instead of Jacob, his name
now becomes Israel, which means ‘one who wrestles with God.’ In each case, God changes the name of people
who were being used by him and whose lives were being transformed by him.

Today we remember that Peter was not the last or the only person whose life was changed and whose name was
changed but, in fact, it happens to every follower of Jesus Christ. As we choose to follow Jesus and as we accept
him as our lord and master we too are given a new name, Christ-ian. For those of us who grew up in the church
we accept that name as commonplace and, to our regret, we forget how big a deal that really is. When we build
our social circles around Christian friends and spend all of our time among Christians we lose the impact of what
it means to have a new name.

Corporations do not spend the time and the money to change all of their signs and their letterhead and business
cards and everything else for no reason. Corporations change their names to tell the world that something has
changed and that inside the buildings that we see on the street, a transformation is happening. When people take
vows before God and choose to be married, it is common for many to change their names as a symbol that they
are beginning a new life that they will live together.

The message for today is that we have a new name.

When we accept Christ and choose to follow him we too take on a new name. We take on the name of Jesus and
call ourselves “Christian.” At that moment we are transformed. We become a new creation. At that moment we
are sanctified and set apart as holy. At that moment we are renewed in the image and likeness of God. At that
moment we are called to be God’s holy people, we are enriched, through Christ, in our speech, in our knowledge
and in every other way. At that moment we filled with god’s grace, we are given every spiritual gift and we are
given the strength to stand firm against all the weapons of our enemy so that we will be blameless when we stand
before Christ on the Day of Judgment. We are not blameless because we are suddenly able to live a perfect life,
because we cannot. We are blameless because Jesus Christ has taken upon himself, all of the wrong that we ever
did so that on Judgment Day God will find no fault with us.

Today we remember that we have a new name, not any ordinary name but the name of the most extraordinary
person who has ever lived. As we take on the name of Jesus Christ and as we call ourselves “Christian,” and
when we do that we tell the world that everything about us is different.

We have been transformed.

We are a new creation.

That’s why we have… a new name.


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