Tag Archives: Shakespeare

The Secret To God’s Name

“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare wrote. That probably sums up what most of us can quote from the great playwright. Still, it’s a great question.

What’s in your name?

Growing up we owned a beautiful Dalmatian dog whom my dad affectionately named “Rahab.” It was an unusual name that hearkens back to a story in the book of Joshua about a woman who was most likely a prostitute. Despite her shady past, she conspired with the Israelites to conquer her home city of Jericho in Canaan, giving them their initial foothold in the Promised Land. The meaning of Rahab’s name probably wouldn’t be very popular among most women today, seeing that it means “wide.”

Insert joke here.

(awkward silence)

Actually, I know better than that…

Nevertheless, every person’s name has a meaning hiding behind it. For example, my name “Michael” means “one who is like God.” My wife Kelley’s name means “bright-headed” and “warrior”, which is entirely appropriate because she’s bright and she definitely a warrior.

In the English language, every person’s name is classified as a noun. If you’re a little rusty on your grammar, a noun is a person, place, or thing.

But God doesn’t fit so neatly into this category.

When God sent Moses to deliver the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, Moses asked a sensible question.

“When I tell the people of Israel that the God of our fathers has sent me, and they ask me ‘What is his name?’ What should I say?”

It’s a fair question. And you know what God said?

“I am who I am.”

I can imagine the consternation on Moses’ face. “Ummm, God, I really was listening…but could you repeat yourself?”

“I am who I am.”

Huh?

Moses was probably expecting a noun, like Levi or Elimelech, but instead, God answered with a verb. “I am” is the translation of Yahweh or Jehovah.

I can imagine that when Moses returned to Egypt, his conversation with his fellow Israelites went something like this:

“Who did you say sent you?”

“I am.”

“I am who?”

“I am.”

“You?”

“No…him. ‘I am’ him.”

Sounds like the old Abbott and Costello routine “Who’s on first?”

Over time, the Hebrew name Yahweh became so revered that people in Bible times weren’t allowed to say it. They used the name Adonai instead. Even when reading the torah out loud and Yahweh’s name appeared in the text, they said Adonai in its place.

But think about it: God’s name—“I am”—is a verb, not a boring noun. And what verb describes him? The “to be” verb: I am. You are. He is. She is. They are. It’s the most common, most flexible verb in every language. Any other verb would limit his power and capabilities. He isn’t defined by what he does, he’s defined by who he is.

The verb is where the action is. From a grammatical perspective, the “to be” verb is considered present and active.

He’s present in even the ordinary details of our lives. Our ever-present help in times of trouble.

He’s an active God, and not passive. Always working. Always moving. Always doing something, even when we can’t see him. He doesn’t react to our poor choices because he knows what we’re going to do ahead of time–and he’s already prepared for it.

He isn’t the God of the past, he’s the God of the now. The same, yesterday, today, and forever. The “I am” for anything and everything you need.

God is.

And he’s the great “I am” for you.

Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado. In his spare time he works as a freelance writer.

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All the World’s a . . . Dance: The Trinity and You

By Eugene C. Scott

“Country road take me home. . .,” John Denver warbled from the CD player as our Jeep jolted down the lonely miles of country roads in the Canyon Lands of Utah. “. . . to a place where I belong,” John sang in complete incongruity to how out-of-place we were among the soaring rock formations and sinking canyons breaking the pastel expanse of the desert. We had not seen a home in hours and the last time we did it was a meager, wind-bitten outpost set against this glorious wilderness.

As we pounded out the miles, I wondered why more of us don’t call these wild places home? I remembered I had once dreamed of living alone in a teepee in the wilderness.  Like me, so many of us romanticize rugged individualism and the wilderness in songs, paintings, and books. And many of us yearn for the singular beauty of the desert or an isolated mountain.

Yet the majority of us sink our roots nearer to communities than canyons. Why is it only the hardy hermit or crazy coot can live out in barren places? Certainly the harshness of wilderness life plays a role. That there is no hot, running water, not to mention no Quickie Mart, may indeed be an ingredient. But there were no Quickie Marts for most of human history and even back then folks chose to gather in communities rather than brave the solitude of their vast and wild world. So ease of life cannot be the major factor in why we gather rather than scatter.

I tried variations of my lone wolf in the wilderness dream before coming to the conclusion that not only did I like people but I also needed them.

God is the cause of our need for community. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image in our likeness. . .’” (Genesis 1:26) This simple sentence contains as much information about human life as a DNA strand. For centuries theologians and philosophers have held those words under their microscopes mining them for meaning. Most have concluded being created in God’s likeness means we derive our personhood, emotions, intellect, will, etc. from God. In other words, all the attributes God shines we reflect–albeit in a severely smoky mirror. We are who we are because God is Who He is!

Thus we come to the words “us” and “our” in that ancient sentence. Here is our first introduction to God as three-in-one. Trinity may be one of the toughest concepts about God to understand. I’ve heard various attempts to describe God’s three-in-oneness. The simple chicken egg, they say, is made of three distinct parts: the shell, the whites, and the yoke, but there is only one egg. Others focus us on complex chemicals to see how God can be three-in-one. H2O can be a solid, a liquid, or a gas, and still be water. Today modern molecular biology informs us that every whole is made up of millions of other wholes. In essence models of Trinity are all around us.

An older and better metaphor for understanding God as Trinity can be seen in the Greek word perichoresis. It means to dance: peri = around and choresis = dance. For thousands of years the ancient Greek Orthodox Church pictured the Trinity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a holy and sacred dance.

Eugene H. Peterson, in his book “Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places,” describes it this way: “Imagine a folk dance, a round dance, with three partners in each set. The music starts up and the partners holding hands begin moving in a circle. . . . The tempo increases, the partners move more swiftly . . . swinging and twirling, embracing and releasing. . . . But there is no confusion, every movement is cleanly coordinated in precise rhythms . . . as each person maintains his or her own identity.”

Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage.” But it may be more true that all the world’s a dance and Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the caller. There is nothing we do without “dancing” with God and others in relationship.

How are we created in God’s image? God is in relationship and we too were created to be in relationship. Our human need for community is not just an analogy of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; it is one of the attributes of God we reflect. Just like God is love and God is just, God is community. The Father exists in relationship with the Son and the Holy Spirit. The great darkness and pain of God the Son on the cross was the breaking of that community for the first time in history. The great victory of the resurrection was the healing of that Holy Community and the mending of the tear in our human relationships with God and one another.

We need to live near other people and be intimate with one another because God created us in their image–the image of Community. Our need for one another is God designed. Therefore, those hermits hacking out a life in the wilds of our world are bucking God’s plan. And John Denver’s longing for home was planted in his heart by God. I love and need the solitude of a desert horizon or mountain vista. I hear God’s voice and see God’s strength in the barren places. But I feel God’s warm arms and know God’s forgiving love and healing touch best when standing among my God ordained community of family and friends.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church. More info go to tnc3.org.

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