April 26, 2015 – preached by Meridith Palmer
My girls and their friends love to play a game they call “Family”. They decide on who everyone will be until everyone has a role…mom, dad, older sister, younger sister and baby. They spend a lot of time figuring out everyone’s name. They sometimes ask me for advice on “good names”. They make their decisions, they play for awhile with those names and then they often “stop play” to change names in the middle. Names have become a very important part of the game.
Like all parents, Mike and I went through the same process when we found out we were having a baby. We still have the long list of names from 2006 when we were brainstorming. The list is full of names from movies, from songs and from family members. Hours before she was born, we finally decided on Clara Kathryn. Clara was my great grandmother’s name on my dad’s side and Kathryn is the name of my older sister. We had to go through the process again 2 years later. We went back to the list. There were still some good choices left…and then Mike heard the song, “Hey there Delilah” on the radio. The baby’s name was going to be Delilah…but a few hours before she entered the world, we shortened her name to Lyla. Her middle name is Rebecca after Mike’s mother. Deciding on a name is a monumental decision. It represents so much more than a name—it represents a future. When my girls were newborns, I felt as if I could see their future, or at least envision grand possibilities, simply by saying their names.
But somewhere along the line, that changed.
Their names seem to have lost some of their careful consideration … their loving treatment … their great reverence.
Here I am today realizing that I say their names as if it’s just a word, a way to get their attention, a way to let them know I am talking to one and not the other.
Clara, did you finish your homework?
Put your clothes in the laundry, Lyla.
Don’t forget your library books, Clara.
Its bedtime, Lyla.
I say those managerial things with their names attached to them each and every day—but do I take time to say their names with love, care, and concern?
Clara, you matter to me.
I love being with you, Lyla.
Recently, I read a story told by a minister. He said that a young man stopped him as he was getting in his car after church one Sunday. The pastor knew this young man had been going through a very tough time, making one poor choice after another. This young man, who had greatly disappointed his family, had one simple request. He asked, “Will you say my name in church next Sunday?”
At first the pastor didn’t understand why, but after some thought it was quite obvious. This young man didn’t want to be forgotten.
For me, one of the most meaningful parts of the Sunday Service at MCC is the Joys and Concerns. People lift up the names of others to celebrate their joys or to share a concern and ask for prayers. On some Sundays, we don’t share the specifics of the situation, we just call out the names of those we are thinking of. Just by speaking and hearing their name, they are remembered, thought of and prayed for.
There is an author who I love reading named Rachel Macy Stafford. Her writing focuses on letting go of distraction and making meaningful connections with loved ones. She writes that speaking someone’s name with love and care may be the most powerful ingredient for meaningful connection in our fast-paced, media-saturated, often impersonal world. She encourages us to
Speak his name.
Sing her name.
Whisper his name.
Cheer her name.
Pray his name.
Celebrate her name.
Say it with fondness.
Say it with tenderness.
Say it with reverence.
Say it with kindness.
Attach it to soul-building words like:
You are enough.
I believe in you.
I’ve been thinking about you.
All people have a natural need to be acknowledged. It is important for each individual to feel like they matter to those around them. In our covenant, we talk about our service to humanity. We often think of this service as the money and time that we give to those in need. We can also fulfill our covenant to humanity by acknowledging those around us and by recognizing each person for the unique and special person that they are.
Take the time to really think about the people in your life. Remember the time, thought, and care that went into choosing their name and then say their name with love and kindness. This one simple action holds the power to strengthen weak connections, let someone know that he or she is not forgotten, to let someone know they are loved.
Today, let us not forget. With one single word, we have the power to heal the past, pause the present, and illuminate the future.
Simply say it with love.