What do our names mean?
Simon - He who hears
Jairo - Hebrew - Shines
Isaac - he will laugh - son of Abraham and Sarah
Peter - the rock
Jesus - from Joshua - God will help or save
Doesn’t stop there. Our surnames say something about us too. Mason worked with stone. Carpenter with wood etc. Or remember our love of genealogy? My paternal Grandmother's family - a member of the Wills family - can be traced back to Exeter.
We discover things about people in other ways - by their actions and ways of life.
We all have passions - things we will stand up and be counted for - things that matter intrinsically to us. Those of you who know me will know I can be evangelical about progressive rock music, PNE, films, malt - the list goes on.
When Jesus says (in Matthew 16:13-19) to his friends - 'Who do people say that I am?' He’s not asking about what his name means or where he comes from or even the things that people in the crowds are passionate about. He’s wanting to go a bit deeper. He’s been teaching and healing amongst many people for a while by this point - this question is therefore a bit of customer feedback - will the crowds back his vision of God and His coming Kingdom or not?
In a week of horrendous tragedy in Tunisia, Syria, France and of course in Charleston in the USA or when confronted by racial hatred on our own doorstep in Luton again this weekend many preachers, many people of faith and none will wonder what on earth you can say in response. Yet respond we must - because at the end of the day - who will we back? How will we each respond to the forces hatred, evil and division in our world?
Jesus’ question - 'Who do people say that I am?' is one of enormous vulnerability. What if people hadn’t got it? What if they had misunderstood? It’s a question of risk, rejection and heartache
His question isn’t just about identifying him with a place or a people - it’s about a bigger vision of love and life and God and His kingdom. He’s asking us on what we will wager our lives. It’s a question about who we are and who we wish to become with his love in us - guiding us.
St Peter, who the church remembers today got it - you are the Christ - the Son of the Living God. But I’m not sure he really know what he was saying. All I suspect he got, is what I get and you get - there is something going on in and with this Jesus that transforms my life and my world and somehow the hopes of all of us and our broken broken humanity are being healed and restored in Him.
We all, with Isaac as we baptise him today, need to answer Jesus’ question this week of all weeks - and on into the week after and the rest of our lives: who do you say that I am? - because how we answer it says much about us; how we respond says much about our vision for the world - saying yes to Jesus is saying yes to loving our neighbour, feeding the hungry, caring for the outcast, welcoming the stranger and ultimately standing with and in the love that God has for the world and against the forces of evil and hatred.
Like St Peter, I’m a work in progress. I get it wrong, I muck it up and I bet you do too. But Isaac’s parents and godparents know - we have to start somewhere - for him that’s today as he’s baptised. As he is - Isaac will through his parents and his Godparents begin saying his yes to Jesus and God’s vision of love for the world. A vision that the disciples saw and experienced and that St Peter named. The question is - will you?