RICHLAND -- It happens every year. Thousands of people submit their applications to their government to have their name changed.
That's what Reginald Kenneth Dwight did many years ago. You and I know him better as British singer and songwriter Elton John. It's also what Marion Robert Morrison decided to do to come more in line with that True Grit image he would later develop over the years of his career. You and I knew him better as American actor John Wayne.
Our names are perhaps the most significant part of our identity. They help to tell the story of who we are.
My name is "David." That helps me to know that I am "beloved" to God (the Hebrew meaning of David).
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Often times, people received new names throughout the Bible. It was an indication that God was at work in significant ways in their lives. Abraham (Abram), Sarah (Sarai), Israel (Jacob) and Paul (Saul) come to mind as the most famous name changes besides Peter (Simon).
So what do name changes have to do with Easter?
Paul once said, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17). Resurrection changes us! We become new people in Jesus Christ. And with our new identity as believers and followers of Jesus, there comes a new name. This is what John promised was to come in his vision recorded in Revelation: "Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To those who are victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give each of them a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it." (Revelation 2:17).
Finding our new self, and with it new self-worth, is a prize Jesus paid for dearly. Your life and mine are a sacred gift on loan from heaven. Purchased back out of the slavery of sin and death (justification), we are being refurbished and fully restored (sanctification) into Christ-like people.
Resurrection is all about change. A change of address ("Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things" Colossians 3:2); a change of name ("No longer will they call you Deserted. ... but you will be called Hephzibah ... for the LORD will take delight in you." Isaiah 62:4); a change in our very character ("and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:24).
This Easter, remember that Jesus wants you to find your true self; your God-designed, Heaven-directed self. This is the "big story" behind resurrection! Many of life's maladies and hurts hamper us from embracing Heaven's vision of who we are (positionally) and who we can become (conditionally) through the power of Jesus Christ's love and forgiveness. New hope, new beginnings, new life.
D.J. Butler summarized God's work so well through his 1987 song I Will Change Your Name:
I will change your name
You shall no longer be called
Lonely or afraid
I will change your name
Your new name shall be
Faithfulness, friend of God
One who seeks my face.
May the God who deeply loves you and significantly values your life come and give you a precious white stone -- and with it a name that reminds you every day you arise that you belong to God and are his beloved child!
* The Rev. David Parker is the Lead Pastor at Central United Protestant Church in Richland.
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