Monthly newsletter

Dear Friends,


Like me, I am sure you were shocked and distressed at the loss of life that took place amongst the Muslim communities in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15th as they gathered for prayer.  The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern,  moved quickly to speak for the whole nation  in condemning this atrocity, and Parliament quickly changed the gun laws in response to these shootings ( USA, please take note!)


I was struck by the Prime Minister’s statement that she would never say the name of the right-wing terrorist who carried out these attacks in public. She refused to give him the notoriety, the publicity that he craved. However, she said that the names of his victims would live on in the collective memory of the nation, and they would be honoured.


Our names are a central part of our identity. As a young secondary school teacher, working with hundreds of young people every week, I soon learned the value of learning names quickly, for encouragement, support—or discipline!  Using a person’s name establishes a relationship between two people.


Your parents chose your name for you. Do you like it, or have you changed it?  Perhaps you are named after a relative, or a film star, or a favourite singer of the time when you came into the world. Some people are named after a footballer, or a member of the royal family. There are lots of Williams and Harrys around!


Names are of great significance in Scripture, and sometimes they are changed. Abram becomes Abraham, Naomi, the mother -in -law of Ruth, becomes  Marawhen her husband and sons die (“because the Lord has dealt bitterly with me”).  Simon becomes Peter (“ the rock on which I will build my church”), Saul becomes Paul.


Names are also given because of their meaning. Sarah laughed when she was told that she would have a child in her old age; her son Isaac’s name means ‘laughing one’. Jacob was the second of the twins born to Rebekah; Jacob means ‘he who follows after’. The daughter of Pharaoh gave Moses his name; it means ‘taken out of the water’.


One of the distinctive aspects of the Christian faith is that it is about a loving relationship between God and his people. We are known, and accepted, and loved for who we are. God knows us by name.  Jesus, as he taught his disciples for the last time, said, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.  (John 10:27)   As we approach Easter and reflect on what God has done for us in Christ, I pray that the power of the Easter message may strengthen our faith in the God who knows us by name, loves, us, a defeated death so that we can be set free.


Every blessing,