Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Monday Reflection - Graham Lunn

Graham Lunn, a first year MTh student and ordinand of the Diocese of Oxford, gave this homily at Evening Prayer on Monday, the feast of the Chair of St Peter.

Today’s Feast of the Chair of St Peter at Antioch is, as you will understand, not one normally associated with Northern Irish evangelicalism, nor indeed Wycliffe Hall, so I am relatively new to its celebration. As such, I don’t feel it my place to pontificate on the nature of the Chair in question, its plush upholstery or lack thereof, how comfortable Peter found it and so on; rather I’d like to share some thoughts on names.

Tangential, one might think. I do not. Some words from Acts:

"Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch."

It was at Antioch that our first-century brothers and sisters in the faith, our fellow-travellers on the Way, were first known as Christians. It seems that this was initially a term of derision, of scorn, of reproach. But Jesus’ followers, adhering closely to their Master’s example, delighted in turning the word’s usage upside-down, embracing it, and being glad to be associated with the Christ in such a manner, rejoicing indeed in being mocked as he was before them. As Peter himself wrote:

"If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye;… if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf."

Names; names play a hugely important part in the Scriptures. As Dr Jarick so helpfully reminded us a few Sundays ago, the message of the great Hebrew prophets could almost be summed up in just their name. Our Lord Himself was given a name that speaks of His mission. His disciple Simon was given a new name, one that pointed towards the mission he was to fulfil on the Lord’s behalf.

Names speak of purpose, they give meaning. To name something or someone also tells of a relationship, creating a difference that draws together. I met a man in the Half Moon public house yesterday evening, for example, who had named his wheely zimmerframe thing Henrietta.

More seriously, we have all been given names. In our baptism, not only did the priest speak our name, but God Himself called us by that name, and will ever call us by that name. Indeed, it is only by God’s speaking of our name that we have life, and any hope of the life to come and the vision of His Glory.

Let us therefore use this Lent as a time to create space in which we can hear the Lord speak our name. Let us hear Jesus plead for us to the Father, and by the Spirit receive the name He gives us. Let us use the devotions we are blessed to have laid on for us, let us attend to the increase of our love for the Lord in His Sacrament. And having done this, may we hear the mission given to us, and act upon it, that we may be Christians not in name only, but also in fact.