Thursday, January 6, 2011

What's Your Name?

Ever since I was awakened to the fact that I carry on my great-grandmother's spiritual mantle, I have been struggling to try and understand the implications of God's gift. I confess that many times I have questioned God and His so called "gift" which has felt more like a curse. This feeling has been especially heightened in our search for a new church home. I am constantly being reminded that I am a woman as many a pastor politely explains that God created men and woman in His image but has not called women to leadership. I am also very aware that I have the double whammy of being not just a woman but an African-American woman. Now you understand why I at times question God's wisdom. However, my husband and I have been attending a very small and loving church in Charlton, MA. where there does not seem to be an issue about gender or race. We were welcomed with open arms the very first Sunday that we visited. And in a week I will be preaching to this congregation. The text is Psalm 150 which is the celebration par excellence of the greatness of God! In preparing for the sermon I was overwhelmed with its words and the magnitude of who God is. Then it struck me! This magnificent God has created me to do exactly what I am doing. He ignores what others see on the outside because He looks on the inside and grants me the power of His Spirit to carry out His mission to the world. In coming to this realization my spirit was soaring and God reinforced His message to my heart through His word. In Genesis 17, God speaks to Abram and Sarai about what He is about to do in their lives after their failed attempt to push God's agenda through Ishmael. What is interesting is God gave them both a new name and an equal blessing. God said to Abram, "No longer will you be called Abram; (which means "exalted Father" italics mine) your new name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you fruitful; I will make nations of you and kings will come from you." (Genesis 17:5-6) An almost identical blessing rests on Sarai. "As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai (which means "princess"italics mine), her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so she will be the mother of nations; kings and peoples will come from her." (Genesis 17:15-16) Gender issues weren't a concern to God. Equally powerful was God's word through the story in John 4 of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman. Here the race issue is addressed as there was racial hatred towards the Samaritans by the Jews. When Jesus requests a drink of water from the Samaritan woman she is shocked He asks her. She reminds Him as well as herself of her racial identity. But like God the Father, Jesus overlooks the issue and tells her in essence that the water she gives will quench physical thirst but He wants her to have so much more. "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water... Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:10; 14b) In other words, if she really internalized the magnitude of encountering the living God, she would  truly experience transforming power and life. Indeed the meaning behind the word "welling up" is a vigorous action, a leaping up to the abundant life Jesus declares in John 10:10. And so if I really internalize the gifts that God has given me I will truly be transformed and allow His living water to well up within me and overflow with abundance. I am humbled and grateful to God for challenging me to break free from mediocrity. God has given me a new name which is reflected in the gifts that I share with the body. I will accept it and walk in it.
All Glory to God!
Pastor Sheree

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