Genesis 2:19-20, 3:20
We were created to give names.
Adam was the first namer.
Adam named his wife Eve--the mother of all living.
Later, Terah named his son Abram, but God called him Abraham--Father of a multitude.
Abraham named his son Isaac--laughter--to remind himself of how ridiculous and unexpected God's favor can be.
Isaac's son Jacob was called deceiver for stealing his brother's blessing--and was renamed Israel--May God Prevail. Jacob struggled with God and lived to tell the tale.
Jacob named his favored son Joseph--he adds--and watched as God, over and over again, added favor and blessing through him.
There was Judah--praise.
Somewhere along the line, we have lost the art of naming.
In America, our names don't mean much--unless we are Kennedys or Hiltons or Kardashians or Jolie-Pitts
But for the most part, we are Smiths and Watsons and Browns and maybe there was a time when all those names meant something and underneath years of forgetfulness, there is a rich tapestry of meaning.
In India, your name defines you.
When I went to India, the people looked the same. And yet, by name and birth, people are organized into an intricate caste system that determines what they can do in life.
His real last name is Hasmi, like his father.
His father digs graves, so Arbaz will too. Or at least he is meant to, according to tradition.
The caste system says that Arbaz and all the other Hasmi's and Kamble's and Bhupathi's and Sanjay's can never be anything but ragpickers, street sweepers, trash collectors, and servants. It's not just that they don't have the opportunity. It's not just that they don't have the finances. It's not just that culture says no.
The caste system says that members of the lower caste don't have the capacity to learn or to become something higher.
And so generations of bright lights have been squelched by names.
But something is happening in India--and that something is Jesus.
While the upper classes ignore him, Jesus is making himself known among the gravediggers.
The one of whom it was written--"His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace"--took another name.
And because he did, Arbaz Gravedigger has become so much more.
He was called Jesus--Jehovah Saves.
Saves from the grave...
Saves from the caste system...
Saves us from our name...
And He was called Emmanuel--God with us.
He laid aside the glory of heaven to bestow value and glory on us.
He was called another name--Second Adam.
Mankind got a new namer.
So Simon became Peter--the rock.
Saul became Paul.
A rabble of fisherman, tax collectors, zealots, Pharisees, and prostitutes became the church-- "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession"--I Peter 2:9
Since then, generations of people have shed their impossibilities to take on a new name in Christ.
A slave trader took a new name--hymn writer.
Skeptics are now called apologists.
What's more, God with us gave us new names in Him so that we can be about the business of renaming.
When we went to India, we told Arbaz what God already knew.
He wasn't born for the grave. He was born Arbaz, Son of the One True King.
Arbaz took a lot of new names on our visit day.
When he goes back to his village, he will be known as...
Nobody is going to remember his old name. By going to visit him, by simply giving him the opportunity to see and do something different, everybody else will see him as God sees him--special.
What's more, Arbaz will believe it. He might not feel so special when he sleeps outside under a tree every night with his twelve siblings. But he alone, among all his siblings, peers, and community, has seen and done the unthinkable. He has seen more of the world than anyone he knows.
He is Arbaz Dreamer. His mind will be full of wonderful ideas and possibilities.
Brothers and sisters, how will you spend 2015?
My only resolution this year is to be a namer--to carry on the work of Jehovah Saves--God with us.
I'm going to take every opportunity to remind those with whom I live in relationship of their true identity in the Lord Jesus--the Second Namer.
We lost our identity in Eden and Satan is still trying to steal our name away--but Jesus came to do what the first Adam couldn't.
We are back on the road to Paradise.
Let's live like citizens of a better Kingdom and call people what they really are. It might mean getting ankle deep in a Mumbai slum or hiking a mountain to hold brown hands. It might be as simple as a timely word to a hurting friend or an understanding look to a struggling student.
Pour worth and value into every relationship in your life--and watch as lives blossom into eternal beauty in the One whose name you wear.
Happy New Year!