Narrator: Imagine walking into a coffee shop and ordering a drink. The cashier says, “Can I have your name for the order?” And you say, “Big-nosed fifth-born child of Jupiter.” While that would be hard to write on a coffee cup, that’s exactly what the Roman name ” Quintus Julius Nasica” means.
One quality that separates humans from animals, and one we might take for granted, is that we give each other unique names. These names are eventually filled with meaning and our experiences of the person. Names have to be at least as old as language. One of the oldest records of a name given in writing was found on clay tablets in Samaria that date back between 3200 and 3100 BC.
Our names have power. Think about how frustrating it can be for someone you meet and enjoy to forget your name, not to mention if they do it repeatedly or call you by the wrong name. Human behavior expert Dale Carnegie said it best, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” A study using F MRI, found that when people hear their own name, their brain has greater activation than hearing other peoples’ names. If you call out “John” in a crowd a dozen people will turn around and look at you.
Ancient Romans used a characteristic of the individual as part of their name. For example, Nasica which means big nose would be added to their “tria nomina” or three names. Quintus Julius Nasica: big-nosed, fifth-born child of Jupiter.
But names get filled with our experience of that person’s identity. In the Bible people’s names are changed when they experience a new calling and purpose in their life. Jesus re-named Simon, as Peter. God makes a huge promise to Abram that radically changes the direction of his life. And his name becomes Abraham. This happens in modern times too. Kanye changed his name to Ye. And Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali when he became a Muslim. And Enis Kanter is changing his name to Enis Freedom. And Prince changed his name to “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” after a dispute with his record label. If you’re named after someone famous, there can be pressure to live up to the meaning behind the name.
Joshua Rock: Hi, my name is Joshuaua Rock.
Yvette Rock: My name is Yvette Rock and I live in the city of Detroit. I’m a wife and a mother of five lovely children.
Joshua Rock: So we have five children: Arise is 17.
Yvette Rock: Cedar is 15
Joshua Rock: Light is 13.
Yvette Rock: Temple is 12.
Joshua Rock: And our brand new baby Chosen is eight months old. We were thinking about a name and a group came to our church and sang a song called “Arise, my love.”
And when they sang it, eventually Yvette and I both stood up and sang along with them.
Yvette Rock: I remember putting my hand on my belly when they sang, “Arise, My Love.” And it really spoke to me. And it was like, we looked at each other like “arise?” I felt like we both, you know, felt the confirmation,
Narrator: Names bring to mind memories and our long history of a relationship with a person. Names are attached with our experience of that person’s identity, even if they are the names of people we’ve never met: Michael Jordan, Mother Teresa. It might be a lot of pressure to go to school today if you’re named Albert Einstein.
Joshua Rock: Arise is very well-named. Definitely matches her name. A person with a lot of creativity, a lot of get up and go. The kind of person that someday I wouldn’t be surprised if other people are named Arise because of her.
Yvette Rock: I think there is something beautiful also about being named after somebody, not just for the sake of being named, but like, there’s just like a legacy that goes on there. Also something beautiful about that.
Narrator: When you first meet someone, all you know about them is their name. And that’s the start of your relationship with them.
But over time, as we get to know that person, their true identity fills the name with meaning. Over time as this person has revealed to us, their name is filled with the meaning of who they really are. This can be so powerful that even years after they are gone, we can hear their name and suddenly be flooded with images and experiences we’ve had of the person behind the name.
God calls us by name because he desires to be in relationship with us. He knows us and wants us to know him.
Yvette Rock: God has a special place in his heart for naming people and changing names and so forth, too. Also talk about whether they might know it at the time or not, it’s like speaking it into the future. Like this is who you’re going to be.
Narrator: In the old Testament. God meets Moses in a burning bush and reveals his name. Moses asks, “Who shall I tell them has sent me?” And God replies, “tell them I AM WHO AM sent you.” God gave his name, but when we use the name of God, do we really know who it is we’re talking about?