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Aug 20th: The Power of a Name, with Rev. Kally Elliott.

Posted: Sun, Aug 20, 2023
The Power of a Name with Rev. Kally Elliott. Series: One Thing A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Isaiah 43:1-2, Matthew 3:13-17. Rev. Kally Elliott discusses how knowing we are God’s beloved children, named and claimed by love, allows us to overcome fear and love others with abandon.

A Part of the Series:

Rev. Kally Elliott


The Power of a Name with Rev. Kally Elliott. Series: One Thing A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Isaiah 43:1-2, Matthew 3:13-17.

Rev. Kally Elliott discusses how knowing we are God’s beloved children, named and claimed by love, allows us to overcome fear and love others with abandon.


The first scripture comes from the book of Isaiah chapter 43, verses one and two. But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, oh Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel, do not fear, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you, when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

And then from the Gospels, from Matthew, chapter three, verses 13 through 17.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him, John would have prevented him saying, I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me. But Jesus answered him, Let it be so now for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness, then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him, and he saw God’s Spirit descending like a dove, and alighting on him. And a voice from the heavens said, This is my son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.

So there seems to be this trend amongst those becoming grandparents, to try to convince new the new child to call them something other than grandmother or grandfather, a friend of mine posted on social media that he assumed to become a grandfather and he asked what name would best suit him pops or grumps? I commented that my kids call my own father pops, but that perhaps grumps would have been more appropriate. Sorry, dad. When I was pregnant with my first child, my mom decided she too wanted a more interesting name than grandma. I had called her mother Gigi and my dad’s mother, regular grandma. To this day, I still feel kind of bad about that name for regular grandma. She was great.

Our family tossed around some ideas for names and as my mom’s name is Kathy, my husband suggested g k for grandma Kathy, I’m not sure my mom was thrilled with this name, but she went with it. And when my son was born, we began calling her g k so that he would pick it up and that g k would be her name. But then we all learned something. Grandparents take note. You don’t get to choose your name. You get a name when it pops out of the mouth of your first grandchild and it is almost never the name you thought it would be. When my son was a toddler, we would read these books by Sonia Boynton to him. One of them was titled pajama time. In which there was this phrase that we sing with great gusto, every gusto every time we read it. The phrase goes like this. Everybody’s wearing them for dancing to night. Jama, JAMA, JAMA, Jama P J. My mom, grandma Kathy, GK soon became PJ for pajama time. And she went with it because it was her name, a gift from her beloved firstborn grandson spoken by one who was just getting to know her, but whose eyes lit up every time he saw her who jumped with excitement anytime she visited. He loved her because she was his his PJ. And to this day my kids all call her PJ she is there. PJ names are important. They tell you who you are, and whose you are.

Do not fear for I have redeemed you I have called you by name. You are mine. That’s the prophet Isaiah, writing a letter 2600 years ago to a community of people living in exile, miles from their home defeated, their beloved city burnt to the ground, their very existence in danger. They weren’t even sure who they were any longer.

But now thus says the Lord, to not fear. I have called you by name. You are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you. And when you walk through fire you shall not be burned. Water, symbols, fire, water and fire symbols of everything that can threaten symbols of chaos and destructiveness and death itself. Do not be afraid. The Prophet says, I have called you by name, you are mine.

This summer, each preacher has answered the question, what is the one thing we need to be able to live creatively courageously and compassionately in these challenging times? The other day, I heard someone say, you know, we are in the midst of a civil war. And I thought, She’s not wrong. She’s not wrong. We like the people to whom Isaiah was writing have forgotten who we are. We collectively we are people we vow people.

One of my sons Spencer graduated from high school in June. And to mark this transition, we held a party and much of our family travelled hours to be in Bend, to celebrate with and show our son how much he is loved. Like many of your families, my family is a microcosm of our country. I have relatives at each point along the political spectrum. And it’s not easy to have them all in one room at one time.

But during the party, with everyone gathered together in our kitchen, I invited Spencer to look around the room at each person that was there for him. And remember, they came not for the free beer or the Texas smoked ribs, though those were definitely a big draw. They came some traveling from far away because they love him.

Through eyes brimming with tears, I told him, Spencer, remember how loved you are? More than anything I want you to know, deep down, you are so very loved by God and all of us. You belong to God and to us, as we belong to you. Knowing this, trusting this is what will get you through the many, many hard things life will deal you. So this is my one, maybe two things. I believe we all need to be able to live creatively, courageously and compassionately in these challenging times. We need to know who we are and who’s we are. This is why in the Presbyterian Church, we baptize infants, because we want a child to know that from the time they are infants. I mean, heck, before they’re even born, they are loved and they belong. Baptism for those in the Presbyterian tradition is about recognizing and trusting that God names us and claims us as God’s own beloved child, before we can ever make a choice to love God.

Baptism is about knowing who we are, and who’s we are. So when I baptize a child, I say the whole name of the child. So take my son, Spencer, Steven Elliot, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This is who you are. And then Spencer, Steven Elliot, you are a child of God, you belong to Jesus Christ forever. This is who’s you are.

It’s a public naming. But there’s more to it. Because during a baptism, those who are gathered to witness make promises to love and nurture and teach the child that they belong to God throughout the child’s life, that they are marked with Jesus Christ forever. In baptism, we become family. We don’t always get along, nor do we always like each other, that’s for sure. But we promise to travel to each other’s graduation parties, to put aside our troublesome political leanings and show love for one another, because we belong to each other and to God, one of the theological documents of the Presbyterian Church states, when we are baptized, we are made one with Christ with one another. In Christ, barriers of race, status and gender.

are overcome. We are called to seek reconciliation in the church and the world in Jesus’s name.

Friends, we are called to seek reconciliation that doesn’t even seem possible in these challenging times does it? When he was about 30 years old Jesus of Nazareth was baptized. We don’t hear much about Jesus’s childhood just one story, where in his early teens, his parents left him behind in the temple and had to come back to get him.

Jesus’s story his ministry begins the day he walks out of Nazareth, away from his father’s carpenter shop, his mother’s home, and walks a few miles out into the countryside to hear an itinerant preacher named John. Now to the modern year, John is kind of odd, scary, even like one of those fire and brimstone preachers, his message is strong. Repent, devote yourself to God, walk into the river and let the waters wash away the old person rise from the waters a new.

But I wonder, though, is how did this story get into the New Testament? Because Jesus had yet to call any disciples who might have actually witnessed it. As far as we know, the only other witness to this was John the Baptist himself. But he didn’t have time to pass along the story as he will be imprisoned and executed by King Herod in the very near future. So I wonder, I just wonder if the story of Jesus’s baptism is in three of the Gospels. Because for Jesus, it was the day he was given a name and told to whom he belonged. I kind of imagined the scene where at some point, one of the disciples asked Him, you know, hey, Jesus, how did this ministry thing all begin for you? And Jesus replying? Well, I don’t know. I mean, I had been searching, asking questions, wondering who I was, what I was made for, you know, the questions that young adults ask, heck, the questions older adults ask. And I found myself being drawn to what John was teaching so so I decided to listen a while and then kind of just decided it was time time to figure out who I was what I was about. So I walked into those waters. And as John pulled me back up, I, I heard my name, I heard my name, you are my son, my beloved. And You I am well pleased.

It became the day Jesus knew who he was. And the day he decided what to do next. The day he learned who he was, and who’s he was my son, my child, the beloved.

Now, I don’t remember my baptism. I don’t have a story about a profound religious experience when the heavens opened up and a dove descended and, and this voice calls out this is my daughter in her in her I am well pleased. I doubt many of us do.

I do have story after story about how the community of faith has shown up for me, loving me when I needed it most praying for me and encouraging me. I do have story after story of how the community of faith has reminded me who I am and who’s I am.

In his book credo, William Sloane coffin writes, What is faith? Faith is being grasped by the power of love. The story of Jesus begins on the day he has grasped by the power of love the day he knows who he is and who’s he’s is. The day when in Isaias unforgettable image, he knows deeply in his soul, that he has nothing to fear, not even death itself, because God has called him by name, the beloved son, because he belongs to God.

And it is this love this love that routes him and frees him also to, to love with abandon to live out his life loving all of those he encountered. That’s why I think people followed Jesus. Fishermen, tax collectors, poor sinners, even a Pharisee or two because it gave them a new name, Child of God You belong to me forever and gripped by the power of God’s love. They sat at tables together. They walked dusty miles side by side they laughed and messed up and bickered and forgave and kept going. gripped by the power of God’s love. They were no longer bound by fear of the other. gripped by the power of love the other, they found shared the same name, Child of God, God’s beloved, gripped by the power of God’s love. They became kin, siblings, friends. diagnosing the world’s ills Mother Teresa said, The problem in the world is that we have forgotten, we belong to each other.

This is why I want my children to know their own beloved Agnes, their own belonging, who they are and who’s they are. This is why I hope you know your own belovedness who you are, and who’s. It’s not just a self HELP mantra to repeat to yourself when your jeans fit too tightly or your past up for the promotion. Knowing who you are and who’s you are is powerful. Knowing that you are gripped by love. You don’t have to fear the other.

But you can love them with abandon. Knowing you are gripped by love, you can help heal the world.

Do not fear. I have called you by name. You are mine. You are my son, my daughter, my child. in You I am well pleased. Amen.

Related Ministries:

Online and Television Services, A Spacious Christianity
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