Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Rev. Debra Jene Collum
To fully participate in this sermon have a name tag and a marker ready.
Parts of this sermon are taken from Seasons of the Spirit by Woodlake Press. I highly recommend this resource as a peace, justice and gospel focused worship and bible study curriculum.
People of God we gather again; in this sacred space, in this sacred moment.
Just for a time leave daily concerns aside, for here we recall the stories of faith, here we see God moving amongst us, here we are known by name, here we remember whose we are.
...here we are known by name, here we remember whose we are.
You have each been given a name tag and a marker. In small letters on the name tag toward the top write your name.
You are here. You. All of you. Every molecule of you is here.
We tend to be in all sorts of places in our minds. Yoga instructors call this: Monkey Brain. Jumping from one branch to the next. Jumping from one thought to another.
But no matter where we are in our mind, our bodies are always in one place at one time. the great HERE. This is the centering work of a practice like Yoga or Tai Chi. Being fully present in the Great HERE. And it is hard.
So sit quietly for just a moment looking at your name, recognizing that you YOU are here. You Beloved of God are Here.
We come here, to church to be reminded that God knows our name, but we live most of our lives there...in other places, doing other things, playing a host of roles.
We might even be known by different names in different settings and roles: someone in the family calls us “sis” or “daddy.” Someone at work uses our professional title. Old friends use our nicknames.
I was very pleased recently when I stumbled on a site that explained the meaning of my last name. Collum. Keeper of doves. It was first claimed by a clergyman in northern Ireland. This is my birth name. After a divorce it is very complicated for a woman to decide what to call herself. So many factors play into this decision. Children, professional achievements, family history. I choose to return to my birth name. I remember the day in court when it was officially returned to me. Seeing my joy, the judge invited my witnesses and I to his chambers for a small party.
What about you? Does your name bring you delight? or joy? or meaning? If not your name, what about a nickname, or a name like grandma, grandpa, auntie, sweetie, beloved one.
Write a few of these on your name tag.
Is there a name you would like to change? A name you would like God to change in your life? In this passage of Scripture we usually associate with the name change that God gives to Abram and Sarai. To signify a new way of being in the world. The father and mother of a new nation. A nation that will bless the entire world.
But there is another new name introduced in this passage: the name for God. And God gives us this name as a gift.
Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty;[a] is how our english bibles translate El Shaddai in Hebrew. But El Shaddai is best translated as either: mountains or breasts. Or both. In Hebrew words that mean the same are often used intentionally to mean both/and. Unlike Western minds that need to differentiate between one thing or another, the Eastern mind can hold two things as equal. Even two things as seemingly different as mountains and breasts. But think of it: Mountains, particularly in a dry arid county, are like breasts the source of nurture or nourishment.
And this passage expands on this imagery wonderfully. The Hebrews when hearing this story would hear this: I am God, El Shaddai the one who nurtures and nourishes the universe. I am mother and father of all nations.
And I am giving you, my dear Hebrew people, Abraham and Sarah, a mother and father who will be exceedingly fruitful and whose offspring will form a great nation,
which could be, if you continue to rely on me, El Shaddai, for your nurture and nourishment, which could be, the great mother and father to nations throughout the world.
Unfortunately, we know the rest of the story. The could be a great mother and father, through which the whole world could be blest, didn’t actually happen.
Good thing we have a mother/father God in El Shaddai. A God of mountains and breasts.
I know that it is uncomfortable to speak of God as female. Or can be for some people. Especially in such, well, bodily ways.
But do you see why we need both? Male and female images of God? Otherwise God would only be God Almighty instead of God Nurturing One. Mountains and Breasts.
You see why we need both? Ok, I’ll stop using that word now.
But I want to direct your attention to the table this morning.
We will eat food today, sacred food. I know it is a tiny piece of gluten free cracker and a small dip of grape juice.
But it is food. Nurturing food. A holy sacrament of the ways God nurtures us.
A bread baker, a wine maker, a hostess, a host, God…
If we have so many different names that identity various parts of our lives, why wouldn’t God?
This Wednesday we will explore more deeply some of these names of God particularly around how we can use them in prayer to deepen our prayer lives.
Between now and then, I ask you to think deeply, carefully about the ways you name God. The ways you know God by name. The ways God comes to you in various names.
Maybe even do a little bible study if you are so inclined to find other names of God that might resonate with you.
Move to the Table:
INVITATION TO THE LORD'S SUPPER
(In the UMC we invite all to the table. There are no requirements or pre-requisites. We believe that God's grace works through the sacrament to bring salvation to any who venture to come to the table)
As mother and father of us all, God invites all to the table. Turns away no one. The Scriptures ask us these questions: Would a mother forget her nursing child, would a father give his child a stone for bread. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?
Come now to the table God, host and hostess has prepared for you. For your nurture and your nourishment.