Psalm 92:1 (NRSV)
It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High
Biblically speaking, the name of a creature or a person is incredibly important, a conviction that the modern age tends to discount. Most ancient names were more than simple identifiers. They were often linguistic descriptions of the person or creature carrying that name. Hebrew prophets went so far as to name their children to embody aspects of their message, a practice probably considered beyond weird by most readers today and totally unfair to the child. But the very weirdness underscores the high value our faith tradition puts on giving names to things, receiving a name and honoring a name. We echo that valuation when we pray, baptize, share the communion elements, or preach in the name of Jesus. Our Hebrew brethren and sisters keep up the practice of refusing to spell out G*d's name to preserve its especially sacred character.
At Covenant Village, where Wanda and I have lived for the past two years, the importance of nametags has been receiving more emphasis as we talk among ourselves about the meaning of community. In our monthly newsletter for May, I've just shared my conviction that nametags and community are symbiotic. Wearing nametags is a practice I've long tolerated in church and at meetings, but always harbored the sense that it is a little childish. Nametags, I felt, are for children not adults. Maybe you've felt the same way. I've changed my mind for two compelling reasons. One has to do with memory loss, which affects a lot of us over 70, and gets worse as we age or develop systemic brain problems. Nametags are essential to put many of our residents more at ease when passing in the hallways or sitting together at dinner. It takes the awkwardness out of starting conversations when one can see and say a person's name instead of just "Hi." The second reason is theological. Nametags identify each of us as an individual to be respected and valued. We're persons, not just objects merged into the mass as a nonentity. Nametags reinforce the truth that each of us has been claimed as a child of G*d, someone worth dying for. Someone worth knowing. Put in biblical terms, every life, and therefore every name, is sacred.
I wear my nametag reverently and intentionally now. I'm learning that it is good to do some childish things for the common good and human holiness.
Eternal One, whose name is holy, and whose holiness has been shared with each of your creatures, we thank you for our names. We are grateful for the love that calls us by name, for eternity. In the name of Jesus, so be it. Amen.
Minister of Visitation for the First Church of Christ Congregational UCC in Glastonbury, Connecticut